Wednesday, June 24, 2015

America's Turtles all the Way Down

Editor’s Note:  I wrote this post last week and had intended to post it on Friday (give or take).  Then the shooting in South Carolina happened.  I decided I should hold off, trying to decide if I can say something that adds to the conversation.  I decided an anonymous blog post on that topic didn’t feel right.  Truth is though, I also think that this is a very relevant piece in the wake of this tragedy.

I’ve started and abandoned a dozen different attempts at a post on affordable housing.  I couldn’t even hone in on why I was abandoning these attempts until finally I figured it out.  I work relatively hard to make my writing[1] narrative.  I like to write in the form of telling a story.  I can’t make it work on this one.  What I have is a series of disjointed thoughts and incomplete ideas.  None of which tell a complete story.  Nearly all of the pre-eminent blogs in HoCo have tackled the issue to some level in a manner that fits their blogs.  I am in awe of there abilities and a little envious. I still want to add to the dialogue and so I tried to pick up one thread in my disjointed hodgepodge of ideas.  The thread came to me after reading this.

I will do a quick summary but I am asking, nearly begging, for you to click on the link and read the article.  The title says a lot of what you need to know “How Section 8 became a racial slur.”  It’s really a discussion on two things.  The first is historical contextualization of American housing policy and racism.  The second is a little bit of a look into coded language.  This is the piece I want to explore a little and put into a HoCo context.  We in HoCo (certainly in Columbia) seem to think we have done a pretty good job on the whole race equality thing but have a ways to go in class equity.  Any attempt to separate them into two separate issues is dangerous.  I do not believe that they are the same but we must understand that race and class issues are forever linked in America and housing, as explained through this article, is the perfect place to understand that.

I am now going to talk in first person, partially so as to not sound accusatory but also you should understand that I do not think I am alone in this, in fact I may believe that I am the exact opposite of alone.  When I say “section 8” or “subsidized housing” the image I have of the residents are black (or maybe other people of color).  When I say “full spectrum housing” or “work force housing” or otherwise talk about housing for teachers and police officers etc. the image in my head is of white residents. 

It is not that I don’t believe that our affordable housing fights are partially about how many poor(er) people we think are acceptable in given neighborhoods. However, I just don’t think we do our community any favors by ignoring the fact that we are also talking about how many people of color we think are acceptable in our neighborhoods. 

While I completely grasp the desire to keep these two difficult conversations separate, they simply are not separate conversations.  And truth be told, it is very clear here but this is, after all, America.  With but a few exceptions, race is a component of the context/history of every public conversation/debate.  I wish I could attribute this but I can’t remember who I heard it from and couldn’t find it with the googler.  “You can feel free to accuse me of playing the race card, but take an honest look at our deck – race is on every card.”  Or just to prove how much of a nerd I really am, consider this America’s “Turtles all the way down.”

[1] Specifically in this blog but in my writing in general

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