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.


Anonymous said...

Very exciting.

You say that some development is occuring from the outside in - is the city, or some other party, doing anything to incent development from the inside out? In other words, microenterprise and other forms of helping low-income families to start businesses, buy homes, etc.?

I might be totally wrong, but part of me is worried about the impacts of having outsiders come in to develop these areas. Is there any sort of displacement that goes on?

Larry James said...

Anonymous, by "outside in" I meant that the new devvelopment begins outside the inner city--usually in undeveloped land still in Dallas, and then spreads into the more blighted and already developed areas. I didn't have in mind who was actually doing the work. Though, it is true that much of the new and easier development is being done by companies not located in the inner city of South Dallas.

Displacement and gentrification is a huge problem. This makes the work of inner city CDCs very important. These groups need support in terms of policy and funding from our city and state.

Micro enterprise is working in Dallas. The Dallas PLAN group began as an arm of the Graamen Bank. I believe they are still up and running. We hosted a loan group here in one of our buildings for some time.

Paul said...

That is good news. Keep us informed.

Anonymous said...

Larry, can you tell us more about the credit union you have?

Larry James said...

Yes, I'll post on this in the next few days. Thanks for asking.