It’s easy to look at big cities and see the immediate faults and consequences of losing the civilized, White majority that once controlled them. The trash piled up on the curbs, the complaints of feces in the streets, murder rampant, the list goes on. These places, for a normal and sane person, are a no-go zone. Some of us have had romantic ideas about big city life ruthlessly squashed after the first visit and others of us have been forced by life to live in these hell-holes. We are all familiar with the phrase “Crush the Urbanite,” and the reason for it is pretty clear.
However, looking inward to our own communities can be much more uncomfortable. Peering into the curriculum being used to shape our children’s minds, reading the minutes from city council meetings at which they decide the new courses for our towns and seeing the apathy of our neighbors can be pretty discouraging. The members of our community, who should be stepping up to stop the decay of their home, instead choose to flee ever farther into suburbs or gated communities to price out the “undesirables.”
My hometown is a good example of this. The populated area consists of two sister cities. One is poor, densely populated and about 13% black. The other is older, more affluent and only about 2% black. I live in the latter town, although in the no man’s land in the convergence of the two. The older folks on my street look back fondly at a simpler time when they knew everybody in the neighborhood. They were always poor and their situation hasn’t changed much since those days, but they were happier days. Maybe it’s just nostalgia and can be brushed off in that way, but enough of them tell the same story about the town that it can’t just be a coincidence.
The town used to be smaller and quieter, more like Mayberry. People got along better and would get to know their neighbors well. There was a trust between neighbors, an understanding that the community would keep an eye out for each other. This started to change as the metropolitan area to the north grew. The overflow from the city caused our small town to boom. New suburbs popped up all over the town and a new opportunity presented itself to those willing to take it. With the new opportunity came the chance to move up and out, and the best and brightest seemed to take the chance. In their wake came the leftovers, the dredges, the foreign and the dysgenic. Landlords became less selective with their wider variety of homes to let out and the composition of the neighborhoods changed. The good folks that loved the town, and still do and who had the means to move, found themselves in enclaves farther south. They are keeping themselves well insulated from the rot.
The solid white majority in both towns has kept them functional, although the demographic differences are immediately seen in the public parks. In the second town, the parks are large, safe and pleasant to be in. The public pool is clean and well kept, an evening stroll wouldn’t be out of the question. However, in the first town, despite their best efforts to keep everything running business as usual, you can’t help but notice packs of blacks and Mexicans that roam about unchecked. Women have been harassed and assaulted. And, it only takes a peek at the arrest records available to the public to see the root of the problem.
It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that the decay doesn’t spread. Talk to your neighbors and create a real community. The better connected you and your neighbors are to each other, the stronger your bond will be with the town – and, the harder it becomes to destroy them. Your link to a better world starts at your front door.
Daniel Ess is a Tennessean, bah God.