race and space

Changing Little Habits

“It’s the most dangerous neighborhood in the city.” “They don’t have good schools.” “There’s always trash when you go through there.” And, of course, the ever-popular refrain from people in upperclasses: “I would never live there.” All of these statements are offered as in-depth analysis for marginalized communities, and usually by people who live outside them. Therefore, the residents suffer discrimination on at least three levels, and local governments are doing little to alleviate such stress.
First and foremost, people in upperclasses live in places where they choose to live, while more and more people are living where they can afford to live. Would residents of disadvantaged communities prefer to have grocery stores, banks, and daily library hours? Of course, but said residents understand that those amenities cost money, and many are unable to live in the areas designated as worthwhile by developers because of the jobs that they are allowed to hold.
Speaking of which, people with means are constantly telling the underprivileged that they should mingle around networking to improve their job prospects. What the prosperous fail to mention is that because of socioeconomic segregation, all the prosperous people live near, work with and/or socialize with each other, meaning that networking could be as easy as going to the grocery store for a wealthy person. For people with multiple jobs and scant resources, going to where the wealthy are requires monumental effort, especially if they do not have cars. Also, many decision-makers intentionally place themselves away from those who rely on their decisions to avoid emotional responsibility.
Finally, marginalized people are dehumanized by people who refuse to spend time with them. If rich people actually spent time in underserved communities, they would see the same attributes that exist in upperclass communities. Parents genuinely wish to take care of their children, but are forced to deal with both the stress of parenting and the oppression that makes it almost impossible to parent, such as working multiple jobs and rising costs of living. Couples have high expectations for their lives together, but deal with the humiliation of only being able to live what their meager incomes can afford. More than anything, the isolation of impoverished communities gives outsiders the permission necessary to discount such constituents.
If local governments, nonprofits, and private entities are serious about uplifting the masses, they must expose themselves to the conditions of the deprived communities. Middle and upperclass communities follow the lead of the people who keep them in such classes, so officials, executive directors, fundraisers — and public transportation planners — need to actively engage themselves with the parts of humanity they ignore. If leaders are considered creative, they must stretch their imagination to include the realities that exist for everyone, not just their fellow leaders.
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