Meg and I have been spending big chunks of time, multiple hours in a row, talking about our vision for what our experiences living in the inner city will tangibly produce, particularly in this space, 53206.org. I came across something in a book on communication I was reading this morning that helped me think a little more clearly about how we can approach our vision and clarify our purpose a little.
Here is the framework used in this particular book: what we want to accomplish, why we want to do that, and what the end result will be.
What we want to accomplish?
I’m only guessing Meg would agree with this statement, but I would say of the three areas this is potentially the most challenging for us to simplify. We have multiple different angles we want to attack the problem, but we haven’t really talked about the problem. The main problem we see is that people do not think critically about where they live and the resulting, many times unknown to them, role they play in social injustice/inequity. We want to fix that problem. There is a spectrum approaches or methods to change. It is almost like you can get there through a couple of different channels but you need at least some of each of these three. You need to see the inner city (or any minority neighborhood) as good, not bad. You need to see people’s actions as a result of their circumstances (approaching novel situations with empathy), and you have to grow in understanding how social injustice is perpetuated by segregation and all of us play a role in moving toward or away from segregation. So what do we want to accomplish, we want our readers to feel like moving into the inner city or any more diverse neighborhood as not only accessible but a legitimate way of enacting social change.
Why do we want to do that?
Our motivation for creating this site and the content housed within it is threefold. The first solidify in our own minds our personal beliefs and thoughts, which are shaped by our experiences. In many ways being a pretty rich white family in a poor all black neighborhood is like living in a fog. It’s easy to see the things right in front of you but because so few other people have a similar shared experienced what might be common to most people aren’t so common for us. We will watch these Youtube videos of people that live on sailboats or live on small farms and I feel more of a connection with their life experiences than I do with someone I might work with that lives in a suburb. The second is to provide an account of what we have experienced for the people in our lives that are close to us, but don’t totally understand why we continue to choose to live where we do. This account is meant to show the beauty of the inner city and highlight the positives, while reframing the negatives through empathy. We have the privilege of being able to do this regularly, almost effortlessly. I can walk out my front door and show you a dozen instances of urban beauty while simultaneously showing you a dozen instances of where empathy can be used to reframe something the average white suburban man or woman would find distasteful or irritating. That reframing allows us to then showcase injustice or inequity. Because all of our actions are shaped by our circumstances and experiences, when a poor black person does something we don’t like, we have to ask ourselves what role did I play as a rich white person that contributed to the person responding how they did. The third motivation for producing content on this site is to make those connections of injustice. We have a much higher focus on geographical location than other social justice authors, because that has been our experience, and we are mostly concerned with providing insights that are brought on by our own experiences. There are many others that can give you specific information about the mistreatment of African Americans throughout the history of our country and how that mistreatment is playing out today. Our personal experiences are centered around the injustice that is created and perpetuated when whites with resources segregate themselves from minorities that don’t have the same level of resources. The results of this segregation are terrifying and heartbreaking and in many ways are just as bad or worse as named and forced segregation that took place decades ago. In particular, almost no one stops and thinks about where they live and how that simple choice creates pockets of people with resources and pockets of people without. Righting social injustice is almost never on a home buyers list of priorities. In fact, paint color and hardwood flooring are more important to young home buyers than fixing hundreds of years of societal oppression. That’s kind of fucked up, and we want to do something about it.
What do we want the results to look like?
This is a tough one. It’s easy to set a goal like number of comments or clicks or amount of traffic on the website. We want those things. What we want more, though, is to create an atmosphere where growth and progress is made in these areas:
We want the reader to think positively about the inner city.
We want the reader to see previously conceived negative thoughts about the inner city as confirmation that injustice exists. We want them to think, this isn’t a bad area and me previously thinking a place was bad is actually based on my biases and what societal systemic racism has taught me about a neighborhood.
We want the reader to consider what role they are playing in perpetuating or ending racial or socio-economic segregation.
We want a critical mass of readers to think differently about where they live, meaning righting social injustice is a legitimate factor when choosing a place to live.
We want to create a movement where people forego their white privilege and fight social injustice by relocating to places that allow them to do so.
We want to support that movement through the content we provide and be an encouragement as a family that has a wealth of experience in living in an area where it is easy to fight for social change.
We fully understand that almost no one is going to up and move into the ghetto, so setting a goal around that seems foolish. What we do expect to see is growth in the above areas. We do expect to see people like us reconsidering where they live and how the choice of where to live inadvertently negatively effects the people we segregate ourselves from. We expect people to grow in empathy after engaging in our content and we expect movement in the idea that we are all (Meg and I included) a part of our racism problem and need to choose to be a part of the racial reconciliation solution.