September 23, 2015 § 2 Comments
Sometimes I’m shocked by segregation, in that it still exists. It exists in Canada. Don’t believe me? Look at East Vancouver, the North Side of Winnipeg, the Jane-Finch corridor in Toronto, or Saint-Michel in Montreal. But, in the US it is even more shocking. Boston was the most racist place I’ve ever seen, the casual racism of Bostonians towards black people, the comments on BostonGlobe.com. Or the fact that people told me that The Point, an immigrant neighbourhood of Salem, MA, was a place where “you can get shot.” Or the simple fact that residential segregation was very obvious in and around Boston. Unless you take public transit (as in the bus or the subway), you could live your entire life in Boston without noticing people of colour there.
Down here in Alabama, though, it’s not a simple question of race, class is also central to residential segregation. I live in a small city (so small, in fact, that my neighbourhood in Montreal is about the same size as this city in terms of population). I live in a neighbourhood that is comfortably middle-class, veering towards upper-middle class the closer you get to the university. But, in the midst of this, there are a few blocks that look like something you’d expect to see in the 1920s in a Southern city. These images below are from one of these streets, a block behind my house. These houses are essentially a version of a shotgun house. The block behind me is about 70% black, 30% white. It is also full of abandoned houses, empty lots, and lots with the ruins of homes. The street itself is about a car-width wide, and where I come from, would be called a back alley.
What is perhaps most shocking to me is how an apartment complex (which my neighbours all eye suspiciously) ensures this segregation with fencing designed to keep the riff raff out. To me, the very clear segregation of this block is shocking. Almost as surprising and shocking this block is in the midst of my neighbourhood. For example, the final photo is of the next block over from this street.
I think that housing is an example, as you say, of segregation. And socio-economic status is a prime example. But, as a teacher, I hope that education is the key to ending poverty, segregation and outward racism. I think we all have some, I don’t know what word to use, inherent racism maybe? That, in my case, comes from hearing and modeling by my family at an early age. And my family has always been socially liberal. My parents would be horrified if I said they had instilled racism in us. But they would never have moved into a black area either.
I agree, education helps. But, only to a degree. One of my neighbours claims she is a liberal, supports Bernie Sanders, etc., but is also very quick to inform me of all the problems black people cause in my neighbourhood (not that I’ve seen any evidence to support her claims). But. She is just an example, on the whole, I think education and exposure are important. I have talked to a few people on this block I wrote about here, I walk my dog along it in the morning. And what I find most interesting is that the people there, both white and black, harbour no real animosity towards anyone, including on a class basis.