What People Don’t Understand About [insert oppressed city here]: Part 1

In the summer of 1978 my dad was 13. He was spending the summer with his cousins in Baltimore and was out one afternoon riding his bike around the neighborhood. He was stopped by police officers and asked to show an ID. A 13 year old, on a bike, asked to show identification.

Why is Baltimore burning you ask? If you only look as deep as the death of Freddie Gray, you’re not looking deep enough.

As protestors line the streets of Baltimore, ill-informed observers criticize the tactics and actions taken by angry, Black citizens. The assumption that the death of Freddie Gray and the actions of police are the main causes of unrest is false. Any conversation or solution that does not address or acknowledge the effects of decades of systemic racism is short sighted and destined to fail.

The reality is that for years, White flight and the suburbanization of jobs plus housing discrimination has created inescapable, impoverished segregated inner-cities.

This is called spatial mismatch.
Source: The Atlantic

Spatial mismatch occurs when jobs and industry move away from inner-cities and into the suburbs and de-facto segregation prevents African Americans from moving to where new jobs exist. As businesses and jobs leave, cities loose tax revenue. Simultaneously, inner-city residents struggle to find work and the demand for city resources increases.

Now let’s be clear, this is not a random, left-wing theory. Spatial mismatch is a proven cause of inner-city poverty. Legal and extra-legal tactics such as racial covenants, racial zoning, violence, preemptive purchases and discrimination by realtors, banks, and lenders excluded and continue to exclude African Americans from White suburbs.

Policies that attempt to improve the lives of inner-city Black, but do not address spatial mismatch only further reinforce segregation and discriminatory housing.

(If you still need proof, empirical studies are provided below).

In “The Making of Ferguson”, Richard Rothstein explores the history of housing discrimination in St. Louis. He describes the history of White flight, the suburbanization of jobs, and the formal and informal tools that segregated African Americans in underserved and neglected communities. Rothstein argues that the events that led up to the murder of Michael Brown are not simply the result of a bad police officer, but implications of structural issues largely rooted in spatial mismatch.

People who do not understand the history and modern reality of racism cannot make intelligent comments and informed assertions. When people lack context, we end up having conversations like these:

To me, this image is particularly infuriating. To use this picture to demonstrate how I, as an oppressed person, should behave and honor my ancestors is only to further exercise your White privilege.

For a White “ally” to instruct the oppressed on how they should respond and act is a prime example of where White privilege and ignorance meet. People who condemn rioting and anger and call for patience and respectability ignore and dismiss the historical and systemic racism that presses down on the throat of Black America.

How dare you tell me to “be patient”?

Here is a quick list of reasons as to why Black Americans should not “be patient”:

  1. Nationally, Black Americans experience unemployment twice as high as White Americans. In places like Washington, DC and Wisconsin, the Black unemployment rate is FIVE times higher.
  2. Studies show that when employment opportunities moved from cities to the suburbs, African Americans are unable to “follow” the jobs. This IS about race. The same studies also show that poor Whites are able to move to the suburbs to become employed, but poor Blacks who attempted to relocate face extreme housing discrimination.
  3. Policy makers don’t like to talk about spatial mismatch. The reality is addressing segregated inner-cities threatens to disrupt the comfortable suburban neighborhoods that mainstream America has come to cherish.
  4. The cost of ignorance and White complacency has been the livelihoods of millions of Black Americans trapped by high walls of discrimination in forgotten opportunity void deserts.
Thirteen year old Black boys should not be afraid to ride their bikes.

So hell no, I will not be patient.

Stay tuned for part 2…

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