Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hidden biases???

I live in a relatively affluent suburb of Washington D.C. named Bowie, MD.
Am I the only one who finds the following offensive?


An article today in our local paper, the Bowie Blade, provides details of a plan to tear down an aging mostly vacant shopping center and replace it with a new retail center and possibly a "residential component". The developers went before the city council to detail their plans. The developer said that the redevelopment would be in two phases. Phase 1 will be the retail component and phase 2 would be the residential component. A councilwoman asked what kind of residential is being planned. The answer was "Apartments or condos, what the market will bear". The councilwoman then stated the following: the community doesn't want apartments, but they would consider senior housing.
Oh really! I'm part of the community but don't remember being asked what I preferred. Anyway, even if true, it reflects an ugly bigotry. Mostly classism but probably some racism in there too. Basically its saying that we want to keep the riff raff out. Older folks in apartments are fine. But we don't want any young adults in their 20's just starting out, single moms , plumbers, electricians, cosmetologists or retail clerks to live among us. And if that means having a disproportionate effect upon minorities, well thats just an accident. After all we're a progressive community and would never intentionally discriminate. Well not quite. We just are more clever about our discrimination. If "preserving our property values" ends up having a discriminatory effect, thats unfortunate. But its not discrimination. And we're not bigots.

You know what? I'd prefer apartments. I hate the idea of "senior housing". I don't think its even legal. We've got plenty of it already.
If you actually believe in diversity, you should be willing to accept diverse people in your midst. And that means people who make less money. And we shouldn't let folks get away with code word discrimination.

2 comments:

AM Kingsfield said...

Amen!

MarkEC said...

We have that problem in Howard county also, to the point that many people who are really needed to work around here cannot afford to live here. There are talks about affordable housing developments, but I haven't seen anything less than $600K being built nearby. It is all about preserving property values, and hence tax base for the county.. less free lunches at school, etc.. I have heard folks concerned about their kids grades as possibly impacting these property values! You and AM say it well.. we should embrace the diversity. :-)