By Rosetta Miller Perry
The problem of white flight, whites fleeing in droves whenever Blacks move into an area, isn’t a new one. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently said during a summit that “white Americans are still running from their non-white fellow citizens.” She talked at length about her experiences watching the white exodus from the South Side of Chicago during her childhood. “I want to remind white folks that y’all were running from us. And you’re still running,” she said as she made a comparison between white flight and the experiences of immigrant families who are trying to settle in American neighborhoods and being treated as something to that whites need to escape.
However, here in Nashville we’re getting the opposite syndrome, thanks to the impact of developers and rampant gentrification. What’s happening is whites are moving back into some neighborhoods they previously abandoned, even in the ghetto, and promptly trying to assert control. Suddenly, places they couldn’t wait to abandon decades ago are desired spots, and they not only want back in, but want power and control over the people.
The Tennessee Tribune is seeing this unfold before our eyes right in our own neighborhood. I live in one of Nashville’s oldest African-American districts, and have proudly resided there for 30 years. During this time no white person with any amount of money wanted to live next door to a Black lawyer, educator, medical doctor, dentist or minister even though they were not on that educational or had our social status.But now we’ve had a total turnaround in our own backyard. You couldn’t get these Black Folks to attend community meetings when a Black woman and Black Man was President and many citizens didn’t even bother to vote. But now they’re running to a white President in a 99% Black district, seeking her approval and considering her the salvation of the neighborhood.
Let no one mistake what I am saying here. Our community needs effective leadership period. She is really effective and I like that about her. We need good folks who aren’t corrupt or immoral, and who will put the needs of the community ahead of their own personal agenda. We’ve all seen what happens when greedy types who don’t care about anything except their pockets get in power and make a mockery out of community empowerment. The woman we’re talking about has thus far is a good and effective leader. I truly commend her for her leadership.
But what I find disturbing and disgusting is when Black people, good Black people, were President’s of District 2, there was a sizable portion of the community who wouldn’t listen to nor assist them nor attend community meetings. You couldn’t get these people involved in anything. It took the presence of a white woman to suddenly interest them in things happening in our own neighborhood. That’s a disgrace. It’s also a symptom of a much larger problem within our communities: there are simply too many of us who don’t have any degree of civic pride or sense of community involvement.
I spent my life in the Civil Rights Movement which emerged out of a need for collective action and uplift. It wasn’t that everyone thought the same or wanted to be alike. Its that we were all being treated the same way regardless of education, income, background, age, gender, whatever. If you were Black your opportunities for advancement were restricted, and your life controlled through a state-sanctioned code of conduct that was really nothing more than America’s version of apartheid, even though they preferred to call it segregation. Now that this no longer exists, there are some people who think that the struggle for equality no longer continues. They also don’t understand there’s even more of a need for Blacks to work together and try to help each other now. Because state sanctioned segregation no longer exists, some have inaccurately concluded racism doesn’t exist, that there’s no longer a need for Blacks to talk about political power, economic empowerment and educational opportunity.
If you look around and see just how few Blacks really have power in this city and country, especially Black men, then you’ll realize things are far from perfect. The absolutely last thing that needs to happen is for Blacks to just look the other way and lose control over those communities and neighborhoods where we still comprise a majority. You can bet whites who’ve moved out to the suburbs aren’t holding their hands out asking for more Blacks to join them, and they sure aren’t ready to let new Black arrivals run things.
Yet somehow, there are those in our midst who have no problems with newly relocated whites seizing power in our neighborhoods. That’s wrong and short-sighted, and those who don’t understand why it’s dangerous will be the same ones in a few years complaining about why things are the way they are. For anyone who thinks this is needless paranoia, remember if you don’t deal with a situation promptly, then you have to deal later with its consequences. If we don’t care as a community about Black advancement and opportunity, then we’ll just sit back and continue to say nothing while our communities find themselves without Black people in positions of power and leadership, it only takes its lead from the city noted for its continued history of racism in “no black men in senior level positions or few black men in government.
Yes, Racism is alive and well in Nashville, some folks are too damn dumb to realize it.