Reality Check: Extinguishing the American Dream
by Leonard Benton
I am, for a short while longer, a home owner. With opportunity comes reward but there are consequences. One of those is a move which left me with a choice: sell my home or rent it out. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
But what I learned while house hunting in my new city is what set me to writing this. I don’t have an economic background and this is not a “shock and awe” piece but it was eye opening for me, and might be for you too.
In my search for a home, I looked at every website that listed homes for sale and rent. I was interested in a single family home in a good neighborhood. Nothing dramatic, nothing overstated, just a simple desire to find a decent place for my family.
I decided to rent because I needed to be in my new location for work in a short time and purchasing a home is a bit trickier than renting. In the process, I think I found part of the reason for urban blight. It was there all along but now I faced its reality and absorbed at least some of the lesson.
Why are inner cities and certain community’s traps for the lower income brackets? There is a color line and it is as much a cage as anything else one can imagine. It’s a prison built of a network of roads and lack of development, low income jobs, and lack of opportunity.
I saw an armed guard at a grocery store. I ate breakfast at a chain restaurant but observed the other customers, who were polite and offered a smile, still looking at me and my wife as if we were a bit crazy. I enjoyed my meal, the chain lived up to the name and quality of the brand but nonetheless I was an interloper. You see, I am white. And my wife and I were in a part of town where whites don’t go unless they have no choice.
We found the cage, you see; that area that every city has if you look where poverty binds people with bands stronger than steel. I knew such places existed. I just never internalized it before and while I know I did not create such places, I still felt shame. I did not feel it as a white person. I don’t blame myself or the color of someone’s skin though that is a real consideration for these areas.
I blame America. I blame the system of economics that create such places where the American Dream becomes a nightmare.
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