Staying in the Black community or leaving

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Predominantly Black communities differ vastly according to the economic differences enacted to deliberately keep them separated and from becoming unified. There are not many things more powerful and alluring than the strength, beauty and power of Black people coming together as one, knowing their greatness and potential. This closeness was once a major unifying attribute of Black communities.

Economically successful Blacks are now gravitating to once predominately White middle and upper-class neighborhoods because of the amenities these communities offer. Blacks moving in these neighborhoods feel they get a better investment because their homes are valued more and they feel safer with neighbors more vested in keeping their neighborhood up to par. This is not to say there are not as many homes just as good and even better in some predominately Black communities, but they are unjustly penalized and their property values are much lower than their White counterparts in other zip codes.

You find some Blacks who feel that Blacks moving to predominately White communities are sell outs and ‘wannabes.’ But that is not necessarily the truth when you see the type of homes and the amenities associated with some of these predominately White communities (better stores, better schools, high end homes, higher home values, more police protection, higher requirements for keeping up the neighborhood, community health care facilities, sidewalks, walking trails, bike lanes, etc.). You must understand home ownership is the most important investment you will ever make and you want the best for your money.

Most Blacks would prefer to stay in a predominately Black neighborhood. But many of these neighborhoods are undervalued, deteriorating, and lacking the amenities offer by predominantly White communities. Many Black disadvantaged neighborhoods have also become unsafe and are often havens for crime. This is not to say there are not some disadvantaged neighborhoods where the properties are well kept. They are staunch advocates for community renewal programs to update their communities. These communities are also devoid of gentrification, which drives older residents out. These are the Black communities calling for us to put in the work and stay, fighting to better our communities, demanding equity in our neighborhoods.

Historically Black communities are known for producing young adults who know their history of greatness—a rich history of kings, queens, warriors, philosophers, inventors and profound innovators and motivators. These are Black communities inundated with intelligent, conscientious ‘fruit’ with high self-esteem and self-love, making them viable candidates to love others and make this a better world.

There is a sadness in knowing that powers of oppression exist, continuing to present barriers and stifle opportunities that economically, socially, and politically keep Black communities at odds with each other. Our oppressors exacerbate the classism of Blacks, keeping us from celebrating our commonalities and strengths and coming together as a whole.

There are those who contend that there is a growing number of middle- and upper-class Blacks who have bought into the myth that lower class Blacks are lazy and lack the drive, morality and motivation to better themselves. They contend that these Blacks are envious of other Blacks doing better. You cannot dismiss the fact that better opportunities and safe, decent living communities are very important factors determining one’s outlook and outcome. One’s mindset should determine one’s destiny, regardless of living situations. Nothing is set in stone.

When you have people living in disadvantaged, impoverished neighborhoods where they are treated like dogs, why should society be surprised at being bitten? As Blacks, we must demand better neighborhoods as well as act as better surrogate fathers and mothers to the children in disadvantaged neighborhoods looking to us for guidance. While it is great to live in a nice, safe neighborhood, those subjected to impoverished, disadvantaged neighborhoods must work harder not to let their environment define them.

No one should have to apologize for wanting to live in a nice, safe neighborhood where everyone works to maintain and grow the value of their homes and businesses. Too often (some say by design), there are impoverished communities where crime flourishes. Residents may allow their neighborhoods to go neglected and be in disarray because of a sense of hopelessness.

The adults in these communities should be the greatest source reinforcing positive attributes, teaching the children to have high self-esteem and to love themselves and others. The village concept of treating each child like your own once worked for Black communities. Unfortunately, existing factors now prohibit its practice.

But in all honesty, Black youngsters exposed to nice, safe neighborhoods are at an advantage and should do better for the most part. Regretfully, when you are given so much more than others you may become judgmental, insensitive and apathetic to those less fortunate. There should be a sensitivity and empathy when judging people. Everyone didn’t grow up like you, especially if you have been privileged to better living conditions.

Banks and lending institutions are, historically, discriminatory institutions determining where people can live—especially Blacks and people of color. Elimination of discriminatory laws and the advancement of more upwardly bound, educated Blacks has catapulted our community into having more say in where we can live. And who wouldn’t want to live in a safe and nurtured neighborhood where property values (our biggest investments) are guarded?

The fight for equity and equality will better set the playing field for better neighborhoods, jobs, and opportunities bringing us all closer together and eliminating so many problems associated with poverty, such as crime. Can you imagine if every child could live in a nice, safe and nurtured neighborhood, given the gift of exposure to a litany of educational venues and opportunities?