Addressing a schism in the Black community

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Nashville is an upcoming, model city dubbed the ‘It City,’ and the nation as a whole is watching. While some factions seem to be benefiting financially, it is undeniably apparent that African Americans and other people of color are not as whole benefactors of this progressive, economical spiral occurring daily.

Gentrification is a factor that cannot be denied. It is a defining manifestation in the future of this city as well as other prominent cities in this nation. Whether one views it as an unwanted menace, uprooting the indigenous people of this city and relegating them to surrounding affordable areas or counties or a necessary outcome of a futuristic and viable community—it is a contentious discussion.

Making everyone happy may not be possible, but a more concerted effort should be applied by at least trying to pacify as many parties as possible. Residents in many predominate Black communities are not united in what they expect or want from the expeditious growth in Nashville that is not slowing down anytime soon.

There appear to be many factors affecting the way African Americans view what they feel is in the best interests of the community in which they may reside. These views are for the most part based on the social and economic standing of individual residents.

More often than not, one’s view is dictated on one’s personal status and the pending possibility of advancement and upward mobility. Therefore, you have a schism of progressive successful Black professionals who have invested in homes and want their property value to rise, increasing their equity and property values.

This will make them comparable to affluent surrounding areas. Then there are Black homeowners equally defiant in raising property taxes, which makes it harder for them to continue to keep or own their homes. This is especially prevalent with elderly, retired homeowners on a fixed income.

This obvious manifestation of economic disparities among segments of African American communities is a major factor possibly affecting their ability to come together and collectively unite as one in what they want for their distinctive areas.

This is further exacerbated by lending and financial institutions as conspirators in promoting segregation by literally deciding where Blacks can live based on the bank’s lending policies or practices. Thus, we have economically segregated areas and communities where exclusively White dominated areas have higher property values and added amenities than their Black counterparts.

Distribution of wealth and equity also plays a pertinent part in the inequities affecting Black communities causing conflict of interest in what different factions of Blacks expect for their perspective communities. More affluent African American communities want their property values to be more in line with White affluent areas because they feel their homes are comparable in appearance and value if not better. Then again, you have Blacks in some communities just barely able to maintain their homes because of limited income, making it difficult to maintain or keep with rising property values. These are real and valid concerns that must be addressed and tackled. Unfortunately, these apparent differences are pertinent issues keeping the Black community from acting in one accord in the best interests of what their communities need.

Is it possible to give different Black communities what they want, including financial aid and support to develop their own homes and communities, despite overriding precedence by outside developers and investors? Surely there exists some intervention to help make it possible for elderly and struggling indigenous homeowners to maintain their homes?

As it stands now, we find many African American homeowners half-heartedly supporting developmental progress in their communities (gentrification) to improve their property values or those wavering toward a continuation of the status quo to keep their property taxes down. We all know developmental progress is inevitable, so you will have winners and losers. Winners are bound to eventually get a substantial increase in their home values, and losers are likely to be forced to sell and relocate. Is there a common ground to be found?