The game was rigged from the beginning. It was made to support white suburbia and to have people of color at the bottom of the food chain. Learning about redlining in Mr. Day’s Ethnic Studies class strongly reinforced this.
Redlining was segregating when segregation was supposed to be “over”. Redlining was what the banks would use to classify an area fit to live in or not. The neighborhoods were preemptively expected to lose property value, and value in general, when more people of color inhabited the area. So when the government didn’t put any money or time in the neighborhood, it became “the hood”.
This upset me so deeply, it seeped into my mind even outside of school. We had an assignment where we could check neighborhoods that were affected by redlining. I chose my old Oakland neighborhood on International Boulevard. I noticed that when I checked the neighborhood that I went to middle school in, there was definitely a difference. I was in the red, they were in the green. Then my eyes widened and I understood why there was such a difference between myself and my peers in Claremont Middle School. They were a gated community, they all knew each other and were born to know each other. Where I lived, we stayed inside, and only got to play out on the sidewalk if someone was watching. Seeing how my classmates in Claremont behaved versus how I was taught to be was an apples and oranges comparison — I was miles ahead of them in attentiveness simply because of the environment I was forced to grow up in.
When I went back to Rockridge to hang out with my friends from middle school earlier this year, my thoughts were clouded and I became teary eyed at the thought of how segregated it still is due to redlining. I noticed that although redlining may not be in action now, the effects of it are still ongoing and though the neighborhood may not intentionally be segregated, it was. I felt out of place when we started walking up to the hills of Claremont. I saw white picket fences and lawns like the ones in movies. I saw gardens that were well kept and trees, some with lemons on them. If I didn’t have friends who lived near there I would have never experienced such privilege. Seeing folks walking out of their houses, I never once saw an ounce of melanin. I was saddened and upset. However, I felt as though my sadness wouldn’t be shared with the rest of the group, so I kept it to myself and left for home without saying a word.
We live in a society that is evolving to be better, I do believe this. But to evolve to become the best environment for everyone, we need to grow together. There is always one person with the fixed mindset who doesn’t let the tangle of generational issues unravel. Don’t be the beavers, creating a dam on the river of flourishment and improvement.