Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Lattes and Liquor Bottles

To quote Bob Roberts, the times are a-changin’---back.

I mentioned in last Tuesday’s post a brief history of the decline of Woodlawn and how the demographics in my little hoody hoo are changing.

In short, the white people have called—apparently they want their neighborhoods back.

In my earlier post I alluded how class and race are often a potent mix in Chicago and the outlying suburbs. People don’t want to talk about the elephant in the room but it’s there and it isn’t going away.

The Chicago Sun Times did an excellent article on how race or the perception of the racial demographic of a neighborhood affects the value of a home. While the revelation wasn’t jaw dropping to me, other people were simply amazed.

To be frank, one of the reasons I moved to the south side from the north side because I was tired of being “the exception.”

No matter when or how it’s phrased it has been my experience that somewhere along the line you’ll be praised for how articulate you are and how you’re such as asset to the neighborhood.

That’s modern version of saying that you’re a credit to your race.

Like those individuals had never seen a black woman tend to a flower garden before.

Kids, that weighs on a sister after awhile.

I knew that there are other middle class blacks just like me---I wasn’t a once in a lifetime occurrence. I got tired of being damned with faint praise. I got tired of people raving aobut my facilitation of a near riotous C.A.P.S. meeting yet not recognizing me on the street in non business attire.

But most of all I got tired of some people assuming that the whole of the black race was no good.

Granted, the Jenkins’ Boys are in full effect but they, not the rest of us, are the exception and not the rule.

So I set off for parts unknown. I set off to live in a black neighborhood

Plus it would be easier to sneak into barbeques in the park as Uncle Roscoe’s and Aunt Wanda’s long lost niece.

It also didn’t hurt that the prices south of Madison Street are more affordable.

Well fast forward a couple of years and look what we got; Woodlawn edging toward the precipice of full blown gentrification.

Why am I bringing this up? Why am I flipping the elephant on its head?

The old condo rumor mill is all a twitter with the news that we might be getting our first white neighbor in the association.

Lord Jesus.

While it’s good to hear that one of the foreclosed upon units will be sold to an actual resident owner, I’m kinda torn on this one.

Not only did I want to live in a black neighborhood but I envisioned improving the neighborhood---reinventing it into an upwardly mobile hip happening place; just simply one that’s populated by black people.

Apparently there’s some type of negative stereotype that too many black people can decrease the appearance and property value of a neighborhood.

I don’t know how and why such bullshit got started but it could start to explain the disparity in the home values of Avalon Park and Portage Park.

But I think people are building a bridge and getting over themselves as the homes in Jackson Park Highlands are better than those crap McMansions in Lincoln Park.

The great thing about the Highlands is that it’s an all black neighborhood with historic mansions and rich people.

It’s my dream neighborhood.

I walked through there one day to take a look at my uber house with the wrap around porch and was greeted with looks that could freeze water.

With some of the Highlanders it’s not an issue of color but rather of familiarity. If they don’t know you and you’re not an invited guest, you’re gonna get the stink eye.

I can’t say I blame them as I look at people I don’t know meandering through my neighborhood the same way. If you don’t have a legitimate purpose or a destination---gets to steppin’

Naturally some will think that the positive changes that will start to be seen in the hood may be a direct effect of the changing demographic.

I welcome my new neighbors but it makes me wonder what our home values would have been with the improvements to the neighborhood with the current demographic?

When I bought my first place in Uptown the neighborhood was going through similar changes.

Now the old hood has blown up and home prices have skyrocketed.

Perhaps I’ve become a good indicator of if a neighborhood will increase in value. Perhaps from now on we’ll call it the Woody factor.

Who knew?

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