Race and Your Community
I live in Charlotte North Carolina; I just purchased a home in a community called Ballantyne. This community is on what we consider the south side of Charlotte. In February of this year, members of my community were told that there was going to be a public housing development built on a seven acre lot that has been vacant for many years. An emergency community meeting was called; several of my neighbors packed the room, all wanting information about what and where Charlotte’s next public housing development could be built.
Many were concerned, especially those living close to the lot that is said to be the land used for the housing development. If Charlotte’s Housing Authority and a local developer are successful in getting their way the development will provide housing for 100 people who fall below Charlotte’s average income. This idea caused more chaos in an evening meeting that I’ve experienced in a life time. Based on the information that I gathered before my departure, the primary concern was because the development would be built within feet of the Ballantyne Country Club.
Is it me or is the influence of race stronger for the population that’s greater because of numbers on this side of town? After this meeting I began to notice the difference in me and them. Even had a mother approach me in the grocery store in attempt to apologize for some of my neighbor’s behavior. I simply expressed my appreciation for her concern and carried on with what I was doing before her approach. When asked the question do the members of my community look like me, I immediately want to respond by saying why yes they do; we all have one head, two arms, two hands, two legs and two feet.
However, I am beginning to look a little closer at myself and the difference between me and my neighbors. When I am looked at by many, it can be a little confusing; I have the hair of an American Indian, the eyes, which have sometimes been referred to as those of an Asian, the lips, ears and nose of a Caucasian, and the breast, hips, thighs and legs of an African American. My skin, well it’s a mixture of all the fore mentioned, my grandmother use to say my complexion was olive, now that’s one of few things that I begged to differ with her on, because I’m everything but, a shade of green.
So now you’re probably wondering, “What am I? ” I will tell you what I am not, and that is confused. On many occasions, I have always been one who selected other when it came to completing this section of an application; not because I was or am trying to be difficult, it’s just that there are no slots for an Asian, African, Caucasian, Indian girl to pick from, so I write it all out. Now, do my neighbors look like me? The answer is No, there are only a very few who look like me, and more than likely, those that do, we are related in some form or fashion.
However, my community is one that is diverse; we have individuals from all walks of life, and from all over the world. There is a great mixture of race and cultures in my neighborhood. Some time ago the neighborhood that I live in was made up predominantly of white Americans. As time has progressed and America has made drastic changes in cultural acceptance our community has become one that is diverse. The leaders in my community treat people like me, and others with a great deal of respect. I have never experienced a problem personally or know of any other neighbors who have mentioned any problems with community leaders.
The indifferences that I witnessed were those of others in the area when the mentioning of a low-income housing development was discussed amongst many, to the point where a meeting was called and the topic was discussed openly with all the residents of this area. Although many had previously been accused of making negative comments about the development, when the formal meeting was called, those with the problems were respectful of the officiators of the meeting, as they are residents in our community too.
With this being said, the community leaders do not treat any of the people of my community different, they show us all the same amount of respect. They make me feel welcomed whenever I participate in any events, and on many occasions, they’ve made me feel needed when it comes to our children at the community center. When I mentioned to my neighbor, the assignment that I had to write about, she and I came inside and answered many of these questions together. Ann, is white and has been a member of this neighborhood since its creation, in fact, the neighborhood was named after her grandfather and his brothers.
She has mentioned to me that she remembers when the neighborhood was all white, no others races or cultures for miles. She states that she enjoys the neighborhood now because she is able to experience more with the variety of people here. She has even mentioned that she feels safer here now than ever before, not that the area has ever had a major problem with crime, or any other problems, but she states that she knows that if anything goes on or wrong that we are less likely to feel like it was a crime against our neighborhood because of color, creed or culture.
When I asked Ann how did she feel about our community leaders, she sniggled, and said; “Guess one of them does make me feel some kind of way, I’ve been married to him for 22 years! ” My dear friend Ann has helped me with the answer to the question, “How do leaders of your community treat people who are like you? ” In giving my answer I have to say with the upmost respect. They make me more than proud to be a part of this beautiful community. Other members of my community have never shown me any reason that I should be concerned with them or how well they treat others that may live outside of our community.
However, as mentioned several times throughout this paper, the meeting about the housing development for low income families caused concern. They argued that they didn’t want this development in our area as it would decrease property value, because multi-family dwellings are in designated areas and not near the country club or golf course. They also mentioned that this would cause overcrowding in the public schools; which is certainly not an issue, as many of the children in this area attend private schools.
They mentioned that there were not enough sidewalks and public transportation is limited. When I mentioned that this project would indeed cause a change in our community, but it would be good to have people of all income levels in the area, all other sides of town have these housing projects, so it’s only fair that the south side of Charlotte begin to pull a little weight. This was not liked nor accepted by a few, there were even some hecklers that mentioned that I allow them to live in my backyard.
For the first time, in my history of living in this area, I experienced what some may consider racism or stereotyping. Although, it was not directed towards me, I still felt the pain that so many others in these type situations may have felt or are feeling. The question, do your text or work manuals contain information by or about people like me? Caused me to really stop and think. I have never really paid attention to who wrote the manuals for my development. Honestly, the way it is written I can not decipher the person or people’s race that put the manual, pamphlets, or leaflets together.
However, there were many important factors that went into deciding where I wanted to live; for example the schools, the development is close to where I work, it is close to downtown, it is appealing to the suburban lifestyle, the recreation opportunities for me as well as my children, and our development is close to the airport. In my opinion, anyone that moved here for these reasons is just like me. Fortunately, there are no concepts of the manuals or texts that relate specifically to race. The local media in Charlotte NC represents all people.
I am not an individual who watches the news frequently as I prefer not to because it seems that there is always some sort of chaos, turmoil, or other stories that don’t always have an ending that leaves one in a peaceful state of mind. On the occasions, that I have taken the time to read or watch the local news channel I am proud to say that both are operated in a manner that appears diverse. While writing this paper I specifically stopped and watched the local news channel and it seems as though the anchor men and women are individuals that portray themselves in a manner that make it impossible to tell their cultural backgrounds.
I assume it is this way so that they don’t appear bias or as individuals leaning in one way or another to a specific ethnicity or race. One of the main similarities between me and the community leaders is the fact that they are also neighbors. These individuals’ names are known in all households in this area. They have taken the time to make themselves seen and to let all the residents in this community know that they are readily available to assist with any matter, be it big or small.
One of the main things that made me pick this particular development is when I wanted to see the inside of a model home that was not available, the community leader that I spoke of previously, was called and came to take me on a tour of her own home, which was the exact model that I wanted to see. After the walk-thru she took the time to sit down and encourage me as to why living in this neighborhood would be an excellent choice for me and my children. Although, I’d lost my husband tragically in an automobile accident, I knew that I’d be making the right choice picking this particular area.
The only difference between me and the rest of the community leaders is the fact that we are individual people, we all have our own likes as well as our own dislikes. There is only one thing that makes me different from my community’s leaders, and the majority of my neighbors is that I am a widow. Yet, I have this in common with a few of the elderly residents in my area. When speaking of minority groups in my area, the first thought that comes to mind is the number of women who live here, then other races, and ethnicities. I have to admit I am not concerned about there being a lack of representation for any minority in this area.
As stated in the opening paragraph the only inequity that concerned me was when developers wanted to build public housing in this area the out lash of some of the individuals that live in this area. However, the issue has since been resolved, the conclusion: “People who are in favor of the Ballantyne Crossing complex say there’s a need for affordable housing for people who work in Ballantyne, who want to live there as well. ” (Warren Cooksey representative of the Balllantyne area on the Charlotte City Council-WCNC News 36).