This morning, our president-elect said some ugly things about my neighborhood. I am represented in Congress by John Lewis, and Donald Trump told anyone on Twitter that Lewis’ district, which is also my district, was run-down and crime ridden.
If you know me at all, you know that I love my neighborhood with the fiercest kind of love, and that I do not tolerate people saying ugly things about it, ESPECIALLY when they have not been here and are using words like “run-down” and “crime-ridden” to insinuate some things about my neighbors who are primarily black and working class.
If you really think these things about where I live, please, come to my house. I will make you coffee and we will get in my minivan and go for a tour. I will tell you about how kind and good and patient my neighbors are ― how the same day we left our house door wide open all day, my neighbor fed our dog and watched our house so we wouldn’t lose anything we cared about. That same week, someone white and rich and afraid asked me why I lived in the ghetto. I will get the principals in the area to give you a tour of their schools. You will see the stars in their eyes as they talk about all the beautiful potential every single one of the kids in their schools has. You will hear the dreams that these men and women have for their schools and communities. If you show any interest at all these leaders will show you their detailed plans for getting their students everything they need to live into their God given potential. We might need more coffee.
If you want to, you will see all of these gorgeous, generous, patient and caring parts of my neighborhood. You can see the hard work, care and integrity they live their lives with, and the ways this care has impacted where I live.
But my neighbors don’t need you to see them. They don’t need strangers coming in to tour for them to believe in the beauty of this place I live. They already know. They know their dignity and worth, they know the potential of their children. They extend that dignity, worth, and possibility of potential to anyone who moves here. They extended it to my family and it is a beautiful gift. We don’t need a white majority to suddenly decide our community is worthwhile. What we need, is for the systems that control the resources that come into this community to give us a fair shake. We need equity, and we need fair policies that protect the people who live in these spaces. We need a president who can see us as people, and not use where we live as a throwaway pawn in a smear campaign of a civil rights hero.
The president-elect’s projection on my community has actual consequences. With that tweet, the president-elect is letting people with power and privilege know that policies that benefit my school, my neighborhood, my hospitals, and my public library are a waste of money. Tweets like that help governing bodies decide that policies that protect my neighbors from predatory real estate agents, or predatory charter schools aren’t necessary or beneficial because it is all run down and crime ridden over here anyway. They let people know that the unfair practices that John Lewis is consistently against are just under cutting already people who are all criminals anyway. At the same time, they are demanding John Lewis come fix the problems, those words are insinuating that there is no flourishing to be had.
This is the way the president-elect has consistently talked about black neighborhoods. Using words like “inner city” and “crime ridden” to mean wastelands that need white people to come in and fix them. But we don’t need upper middle class white people to come in and fix our neighborhood. This neighborhood was beautiful and vibrant before I moved in. It would be without me. We don’t need your fix president-elect, and John Lewis already knows that.
We don’t need you to come in and fix us. We aren’t torn down and crime ridden, if that is what you believe stay away. But if you are wondering of the beauty of the place I call home, and the potential it could live up to if the laws and principalities of this country were equitable, then come over friends. My coffee pot is on. Let me show you all the things my neighbors have taught me.