Friday, March 10, 2006
Race and Development
Institutional racism robs our cities of power.
On Monday of this week, I listened as District 8 City Councilman James L. Fantroy reported that over the past very few years over 7,000 new homes have been built in Dallas' "Southern Sector" with more on the way!
He went on to tell me in a private meeting that as soon as lots are developed, they sell and homes mushroom from the ground.
Rooftops convert to retail opportunities.
Retail opportunities mean new business development, jobs and accessibility of goods and services for, in this case, historically underserved communities.
City Manager, Mary Suhm chimed in that in the case of the "Southern Sector" here in Dallas, redevelopment of the inner city is occurring from the outside in.
In other words, development around the edges of our southern inner city neighborhoods is going to impose health and new vitality on some of our most challenged and impoverished communities.
That is all good, good news.
For years institutional racism propped up delaying tactics that effectively blocked investment to the south here in Dallas. Our political, financial and legal systems assumed that low-income people, especially black folks, made bad investment partners; that African American neighborhoods were simply too risky for developers; and that such neighborhoods were simply "lost causes."
Underneath it all was the unspoken sentiment that "those people" didn't need or desire and simply wouldn't support what the rest of the community took for granted.
Experience in Dallas today is revealing what a narrow and wrong-headed notion all of that was!
Sadly, African American individuals and predominately African American neighborhoods are held to a higher standard or test than are other areas of our city when it comes to investment potential--one more proof of the racism that we still must overcome.
The same is true for neighborhoods with majority Latino populations.
Justice is served in a delightful manner when forward thinking developers, venture capital partners and lenders break through the folly of our past behaviors, ignorance and fear to enjoy great reward and amazing success by responding to real and growing market forces in traditionally neglected communities.
We have a long way to go, but thankfully, the tide is turning, or so it seems to me.