Monday, April 08, 2013

Neighborhood Defense, Ghetto Style

There are apparently strategies a neighborhood can follow, other than by being really expensive (although affluence plays a roll), to defend itself against, for want of a better word, “diversification”.  I live in such a neighborhood, yet still have only a weak idea how this actually works.

Much more obvious, however, is how minority neighborhoods defend themselves from gentrification.  Crime and “bad schools” are usually sufficient to keep White people away.  But this excellent article from Education Next, discussing the “cultural differences” between minority and White parents, inadvertently reveals a more direct method:  overt racial hostility:

The reaction of the principal in a gentrifying neighborhood’s school to the arrival of more-demanding parents largely determined whether the white, upper-middle-class families stayed at the school in spite of the yelling and other incidents, or left. Those school leaders skilled at bridging gentrification’s cultural divide were able to retain the newcomers. They assured the white parents that they were welcomed and valued members of the school community, even as they continued to hold the respect of the families who had long been part of the school. This took political savvy, and perhaps a special talent for code switching. It was easier to do in schools with a diverse nonwhite population, and in neighborhoods that were further along in the gentrification process, where the battle over who it belongs to isn’t as raw. Interviewees described those school leaders who were unable to meet the needs and expectations of both groups of parents quite negatively and identified the principals as the ultimate reason for their departure.

At Timothy’s school, for example, all of the white families I interviewed rated the teachers “very good,” “great,” or “excellent,” so the principal, Dr. Fox, had a solid starting point for retaining the new families. But the parents described Dr. Fox as exacerbating the cultural tensions, tensions stemming mostly from different expectations about lunch and recess, with his “race baiting” and by “bad-mouthing some parents in the neighborhood to other parents.” He reportedly said things like, “Oh these nouveau riche parents want to come in and take over, remember how our neighborhood used to be before all these nouveau riche people showed up?’” One parent described him as “acting like Al Sharpton.” Another said he fostered an “us-against-them environment,” and he allegedly sent “horrible, stupid, hostile, mean, petty, threatening” e-mails to two of the white parents at the school, accusing them of “trying to bring down a strong black man.”

Parents complained that Dr. Fox tried to turn any criticism about the school into a racial issue. Shawn described him as “thwarting every attack by saying, ‘It’s these white people, they’re racist, they want private school, they want this, they want that, they want to make this school into a cooperative,’ things that make no sense at all.” But if his goal was to drive away the white families, his tactics were effective. As Shawn concludes, “If you say enough of it, and people want to believe you, they’ll believe you. So, eventually, we all just sort of left, in fear and in shame. Having to take my daughter out of the school, it hugely undermines what I’m trying to teach her about race relations. It’s really weird; it’s a weird situation.”

Ask yourselves, if a majority White school were to greet incoming Black families like this, how fast do you think the USDOJ would be on them like a ton of bricks?  My bet:  pretty fast.

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