When I was growing up, my pops used to call our home his castle, and he made sure my brother and I knew he was the only king.
For many Americans the idea of your home being a safe haven remains sacrosanct.
Studies show that people's homes are their largest investments over the course of their lives. They are a source of credit and the sole inheritance that most people have to leave to their children. For more proof about the central role that homes play in our society, consider the fact that so many Americans are willing to struggle and penny-pinch to maintain the mortgages on homes that are no longer worth half of their original value.
They are essentially paying double what they should be paying, and yet many of them haven't even considered just walking away from the home and getting a cheaper apartment. The connection to their homes and the social status they confer is too great.
But, that connection isn't always benign. My father's comments about his castle were usually a precursor to him laying down the law in a medieval fashion, and some folks today will do anything to protect their safe haven.
For certain homeowners that means the latest in security, and keeping abreast of all the trends in re-modeling. For others, there is a darker design. Those folks believe that the best defense is a good offense, and they think that most cost-effective way to protect their homes, and their home values, is to keep undesirables at bay.
The people in this article are accused of living by that creed.
Well, actually they're accused of keeping black folks out of their neighborhood, but that's pretty much the same thing as keeping out the undesirables.
After all, it's a proven fact that black neighborhoods with similarsized homes, and lower crime rates, still have property values substantially less than comparable white neighborhoods. The Chicago Sun Times did a whole series of articles on the issue a few years back.
These folks have taken that old ditty about colorism to heart in big way.
If you white, you all right
If you brown, hang around
If you black, get back Jack
I respect the desire to want your neighborhoods to remain safe. And I understand that you have to remain vigilant about who is moving into your neighborhood and what they are doing when they get there. I remember my mom calling the city on our neighbors when they put wrecked cars in their driveway, or had cars up on blocks. Hell, not too long ago I thought about calling the cops on one of my neighbors because I was convinced they were running some sort of prostitution ring, or something just as unsavory. I'm not trying to pretend that I don't understand the desire to protect home values.
But, when you label people as undesirables simply because of the color of their skin, with no regard for their actual actions, then there is a problem. When a real estate agent feels comfortable warning black folks off your neighborhood and then welcoming white couples, there is an even bigger problem. You've gone from protecting your home values to engaging in systemic racism and discrimination, and that by definition makes you a racist. (Yes, if you engage in racist acts you're a racist. It doesn't matter if you didn't really mean it, or if you like black folks, or if you have a black wife. You're still a racist. Racist.)
What's shocking are all of the justifications from the homeowners in the story and how they feel like it's perfectly reasonable to discriminate against large groups of people based on skin color. I wonder if they would apply that same logic if they were the groups being discriminated against? Some how, I doubt it.
The thing is, while this group's particular situation is unique, the racism they practiced is not. It's that hidden, systemic bias that everybody knows exists, but for some reason only minorities are willing to acknowledge. It's the racism found in studies where folks with black names don't get called back for jobs, or when the New York police stop and frisk way, WAY more black and Latinos despite higher drug use rates among whites.
This is the kind of racism that's difficult to prove even when you lay out the facts because far too many people agree with the actions of the racist. They believe blacks drive down home values and increase crime. They believe black folks and Latinos are the drug users. In their hearts, far too many people in this country believe the stereotypes they criticize in public because it's no longer fashionable to be a racist. They hide their true feelings and present a false front in the world secure in the reality that it's unlikely that anyone will ever penetrate their disguise.
That mask is their real safe haven.