I went to take a series of Home Ownership classes from my local Home Headquarters, a division of HUD. These consist of five two-hour classes about topics like your finances, your credit reports, ID theft, finding a real estate agent, finding an inspector, appraiser, lawyer, getting a mortgage and the home closing.
Since I am retired I am taking the morning series. They also offer the classes in the evening. These classes are for people with lower incomes and, sadly, the majority of participants are still people who do not classify themselves as Caucasians. But this has allowed me to be included in some interesting discussions.
One discussion has nothing to do with real estate. It was about the census. Several people said that they returned their forms but someone still came to their door and insisted that they be interviewed. They complied but they were not happy. What they were most upset about were some of the category titles for describing race. They were astonished to see “Negro” still listed, for example. I said that I remembered hearing in a news story that some people asked for that descriptor. The consensus was that it was wrong, that it seemed racist and outdated.
Then we started talking about all the new development projects in the city, all the new lofts and apartments, all for people who make enough money to invest in an expensive property. We talked, in other words, about the issue of “regentrification.” This topic got little response since these properties are so beyond the reach of all of us in the group that I don’t think we have even considered living downtown. Besides, our downtown is a work in progress. There are few or no services like grocery stores. There are no longer any department stores. Bars and restaurants abound. But we may care someday.
Shirley Sherrod never once came up in all of this discussion but it was nice to hear two or three points of view rather than the single point of view I usually get in my suburban neighborhood. Maybe we do need a national dialogue about racism, but I’m not sure all can be healed with talk. We should be way beyond these racial and ethnic divides, but we are not. All the hidden emotion, often anger, makes it difficult to want to approach the subject. The emotion is on every side.