No One Knows the Answer

Every constituent has an opinion when shaping a neighborhood, which is the way it should be among an informed population that participates in society. Some people want the neighborhood to change, some people need the area to change, and some wish there would be no effort to change. Those resistant to metamorphosis in upper middle class communities have enjoyed the most leverage within local governments, while others have watched their close-knit fabrics tear under the strain of displacement. To “ease the process,” some developers–and local governments–like to find members of the targeted community to sponsor unwanted development. This tactic will always be unsuccessful in distressed communities because it requires assimilation to the dominant narrative, which has obviously failed in the distressed community.

First, resolving any existing problems in impoverished communities calls upon resources that most existing residents do not have; otherwise, there would be no issues and any external standards would have already been met. Most who live in such areas are working class, and even though they have the skills to “fix up their homes,” they seldom have the opportunity or the money for materials. Ironically, most of them spend their work and spare time helping others enjoy nice homes but are rarely able to enjoy their own–and may face sharp consequences for not adhering to neighborhood standards or have their communities labeled as “blight.” Fellow residents know this, and using them to spread a message of home maintenance foists the responsibility onto the shoulders of one least able to carry it.

Also, putting someone who shares in a marginalized situation and asking that person to fix it further denigrates the situation and those in it. Such behavior in fact defeats the purpose of engagement. The dominant narrative has benefited from exposure and investment, so those who have the experience of degradation can only use their limited podium to attempt to create positive change that might reverse the alienation felt by forgotten constituents. There are select few who are able to rise above the circumstances of their origins, and that is largely the fault of the dominant narrative. Decision-makers would benefit from listening to those offering an opinion from inside and offering the same autonomy to all constituents, because everyone has something to say but nobody alone has the answers to all the problems.

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