The One Way Street of Integration: Fair Housing and the Pursuit of Racial Justice in American Cities by Edward G. Goetz
Good afternoon, and thank you. I am very honored to be here, invited by David, speaking about Ed, and in conversation with J. Rosie and Casey. With that said, I’m just going to jump right in. The title of my remarks are:
“Women and Children First: Gendering the Conflict between Community Development and Fair Housing”
This book makes me think about a number of things. When thinking about fair housing and racial justice, I think about the citybuilding and the suburbanization projects, and the heavy role of the State in normalizing these projects. How the former centers this industrious white Christian male and the latter a nuclear heteronormative white family – two related groups the State implicitly or explicitly is interested in preserving. When I think of the tensions between community development and fair housing, I think of escape, I think of fear, I think of trauma, and I think of place. I think of mobility versus containment. To be circumscribed in your home versus that of your subdivision. I think of these themes as they emerged in my own research of women who lived between cities and suburbs (or the unincorporated interstitial), between single-family houses and publicly-subsidized apartments. These women articulated their different experiences living between public and private housing, cities and suburbs, developments and subdivisions through the context of safety, memory, freedom, and peace. They understood the freedom of walking down a subdivision street without street harassment and violent crime, while also understanding the isolation and fear that can come from living in a disconnected space of ‘opportunity’.
But when I think of women, I also think of children, and the recent wave of State violence incurred by Black children in these school districts and subdivisions of “opportunity,” and of the ongoing wave of State violence that structures urban school districts and communities. These violences differ across boys and girls, gay, straight, lesbian, and transgender, and its important we understand this distribution of violence for these vulnerable populations when thinking through the tensions of the fair housing debate.
I note these emotions, in lieu of a term like justice, because we know justice means different things to different people. Racial justice, in particular, is mobilized and organized with and by Black women and children, yet the frameworks in which we analyze and measure progress are decidedly shaped by men and their experiences. Their data dominate the program evaluations. Their data dominate the mobility studies. And their police brutality cases, school-to-prison pipeline statistics, and false imprisonment causes structure much of the political spectacle in the Black liberation project. So I want re-orient to a more inclusive form of racial justice, if we still want to use that term.
So I want to briefly discuss 1) what “Racial justice” means for women and children and 2) how tensions between community development and the integration imperative within the spatial stations of fair housing emerge differently for women and children, and I think necessitate a different view of how we address them.
Returning to those citybuilding and suburbanization projects, I hold them up next to Zenzele Isoke’s homemaking project. In her study of Black queer women organizing in Newark she states: “Homemaking is also a critical form of spatial praxis. It involves reconfiguring a hostile and deeply racialized landscape. Homemaking requires re-spatializing social capital, that is reconstructing and reconfiguring relationships of trust, positive reciprocity, cooperation, and care within and between black people and Newark’s political imaginary. It means finding ways to creatively confront and transform extant structures of domination including processes of racialization and heteropatriarchy that undergird contemporary urban neoliberalism.”
I like this as an organizing logic towards spatial justice, which the book takes up briefly as a means of understanding the fair housing/community development racial justice tensions. This idea of spatial equity. To me, it’s a bit more than political incorporation in the city or social integration in the suburbs. Its more than economic opportunity, it’s a much more radical approach to the production of space and the making of place. It’s a refusal to engage the
“actually existing”, a shift towards creating and sustaining what my friend Ashon Crawley calls, the “possible otherwise”. We know from Cedric Robinson about how and why we engage in this refusal to uphold the Black radical tradition. So let us re-orient justice to account for homemaking as Black feminist radical spatial praxis.
Patricia Hill Collins: Gender, Black Feminism, and Black Political Economy
In 2000, Patricia Hill Collins urged us both to center Black women in our analyses and to evaluate outcomes intersectionally; one way to do this was by de-normalizing the family – specifically the Black family as a unit of analysis. Centering the experiences of Black women – even better centering the experiences of poor, queer, disabled women – would challenge, for example, the views of work as a public male domain and family as a private, female haven.
I want to investigate the public/private divide because for single Black women with children or other dependents, these divisions only multiply the burdens of racial difference and raciality. That math doesn’t sound right, but it is. Crenshaw’s analysis of the General Motors case shows us that Black women face greater discrimination in the “public” workplace (while getting paid less) than Black men and are more likely to apply for mortgages for Black men. They also face high rates of “private” domestic violence: African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white women, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races. So we need to think of a justice that accounts not just for the justice outside of the home, but justice inside as well.
So when I think about those spatial stations of fair housing – preventing further segregation (of black households), opening up new spaces (for Black households), and dismantling ghettos (of black households) – I see Black women and children as the pioneers of these spaces. Interacting at school, waiting for the bus, walking through the neighborhood, going to the grocery store. All mundane things, but this is how you integrate the neighborhood, right? Its not just buying a house, its socializing, its spending money at CVS, its voting, you know, existing? So yeah, theoretically, the man goes out to work, and comes home, but the women and children, they integrate. In the single-parent household, you know, you do both. So when the women are gone, the children are out. And I don’t need to tell you how white people feel about unattended Black children. Spoiler alert: Tamir Rice.
Keisha-Khan Perry centers poor, Black women in Salvador, Brazil’s struggles for land rights in Black neighborhoods. She shows how their unique experiences – taking buses from outlying areas into the city for work, school, shopping, leisure – were eroding the little consumer power they had with their “less than” wages. So these women organized a bus fare increase protest, and it united women doing work around housing, around land, around education – who all relied on these buses to do this work. So there was no public/private divide here – this wasn’t just about work, or just about community. It was both. It succeeded, because it had this wider coalition, because it intentionally was situated within these intersectional oppressions.
So I use these three frameworks from Collins, Perry, and Isoke to begin to understand broader definition of racial justice – in the context of affirmatively furthering fair housing as integration or fair housing as community development. In centering Black womens experiences and analyzing the outcomes intersectionally, we discover that what we are looking for is a different type of justice – one that is inclusive of race, class, gender, ability, sexuality, and an ability to upend those heterosexist racist patriarchies that structure our communities. It is a return to the social – to the liberation of all.
The first spatial station is opening up communities with Section 8/HCV
So I want to talk about children and Section 8. Really I want to talk about the perception of Section 8, because the people involved are not using housing choice vouchers. Two children of note are Dajerria Becton (15) and Tatiana Rhodes (19), of the north Dallas suburb Craig Ranch. This suburb falls under the McKinney, TX police department, where an officer, Eric Casebolt, grabbed Becton by her braids and slammed her to ground, half-naked (and thus, unarmed, for those who care) while she was leaving a pool party and then waving a loaded gun to another group of half-naked (and again, unarmed, for those who care) children who attempted to aid Becton. This State violence was triggered by local residents, one of whom stated “Some were jumping our fence. The security guard was accosted when he tried to stop the beginnings of this mob scene. Some residents who live around the park/pool area tried to come out and settle things down,” he added. “This was a very dangerous situation for the officers AND the teens/residents not involved.” Earlier, two residents told Rhodes, who was hosting the party: “This lady was saying racial slurs to some friends that came to the cookout. She was saying such things as ‘black effer’ and ‘that’s why you live in Section 8 homes.” One neighbor said “go back to your Section 8 home,” Rhodes said, referring to a form of federal housing assistance for low-income people. So these women and children were doing to hard work of integration, of moving to opportunity in the suburbs, and they are isolated, singled-out, exposed to violence – both State and individual – with little to no recourse. Becton’s case was forgotten, Rhodes was hardly even mentioned, yet there will be no protests and organizing around the police officer (who did resign) and the failed response of the State for these two women. These “interpersonal differences” as racism experienced by Black women and children from white women and children are often categorized as, is always chalked up as the cost of the integration imperative. What are the impacts of this cost?
Preventing further segregation with replacement housing
Im writing about the Olympics in Atlanta and the demolition and replacement of public housing in what was essentially the demonstration program of HOPE VI. And there is the obligatory table for replacement housing – this distribution of household needs and the city’s maximum suggested distance from the house to minimize the burden of housing demolition and relocation. There is access to public transportation, access to grocery and drug stores and medical facilities (but surprisingly, not quality schools…). So there is this implicit assumption that these burdens will be distributed throughout the household – right – like, mom goes to grocer, child to school, grandparent to medical facility. But we know that in single-parent households – and even in many dual-parent households – we have just one person doing this work. And in these Black public housing communities, we may have a few people doing this work for several households, right? We all read Carol Stack, we know the survival strategy set up. So this is not an evenly distributed burden that has this discrete, additive impact to the household. This is, as Ange-Marie Hancock said in 2007 – a multiplicative effect that is only discovered through this intersectional paradigm right? We don’t say – how does this impact a poor household – we say, how does this effect a household that shares domestic duties with another household, and is/are led by one queer, disabled woman? Lets think about what opportunity looks like for her and hers? Whether dismantling, replacing, or constructing anew, we have to think about housing justice for this woman and those who depend on her.
The third spatial station is dismantling existing ghettos with HOPE VI
I’ve been reading and writing a lot generally on HOPE VI. This $6B program that really accomplishes all of the things that Ed talks about in the spatial stations – dismantle by demolition, opening up by sending up to what, 50-60% of your community into other communities (allegedly ones with minimal poverty), and then preventing further segregation with the mixed-income imperative. Again, better in theory than in practice. But Brigitte Neary’s 2011 case study of the Phyllis Goins public housing development in Spartanburg, SC, the author applies a (black) feminist lens to their critique of the outcomes of HOPE VI. In centering the 25 women interviewed as the arbiters of what made the program a “success” or “failure,” Neary observed that the definitions of success were out of sync between the Spartanburg Housing Authority (SHA) and the interviewed tenants. Further, Neary found that increases in length of residence in public housing translated to a circumscribed (both spatially and experientially) understanding of the private rental housing market, and that these poor housing choices exacerbated the problems of poverty that made living in public housing so difficult (Neary 2011). Neary’s work is valuable in understanding how centering black women in the planning and administration processes, particularly in the planning and evaluation of urban programs and policies, can help improve successful outcomes for both the city and the residents. But also, it shatters the false narrative of the public/private divide – these women, as a result of their private housing choices, were publicly marginalized in the housing rental market. Overall, the women felt uncertain, isolated, not in control, and anxious about their future. Many people would claim this feeling of powerlessness is unjust. However, a consistent theme across the interviews is that tenants had “worry over expressing their concerns to the SHA or the landlord and inviting negative consequences” (Neary 2011, p. 531). And this worry, is rooted in the very real lived experiences of public housing tenants that had been locked in a battle against a profit-seeking housing authority management structure that had been in place since the 1980s. Right, the shift to streamline housing authority management, minimize waste, new Federalism, all the things that really turned housing authority management against the tenants.
My conclusion will be brief. I could just be glib and say listen to Black women, but its more than listening. You need to center. You need to understand these lived experiences of the most vulnerable so we can create just solutions for the widest populations. We need to understand the tensions within the tensions, the issues of justice for those who live “at the intersection.” This is not easy work, this is not fun work, and this is not always the work that will lead up to the happy solution where we all want the same things at the same time. But the work is necessary – Ed talks about the roots of these tensions as existing before the Fair Housing Act was even signed 50 years ago. And these tensions appear ongoing because we refuse to engage with them at the level of the most vulnerable. Until we do, we will grapple with this problem for the next 50 years.
 Isoke, Zenzele. 2011. “The Politics of Homemaking: Black Feminist Transformations of the Cityscape.” Transforming Anthropology: Journal of the Association of Black Anthropologists 19, no. 2: 117-130.
 Collins, Patricia Hill. 2000. “Gender, Black Feminism, and Black Political Economy” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 568: 41-53
 “Domestic Violence Communities of Color” Women of Color Network Facts & Stats Collection. National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. http://www.doj.state.or.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/women_of_color_network_facts_domestic_violence_2006.pdf.
 Philip, Abby. 2015. “’Go Back to Your Section 8 Home’: Texas Pool Party Host Describes Racially Charged Dispute with Neighbor.” The Washington Post. June 8, 2015.
 Hancock, Ange-Marie. 2007. “When Multiplication Doesn’t Equal Quick Addition: Examining Intersectionality as a Research Paradigm.” Perspectives on Politics 5, no. 1: 63-79.
 Neary, Brigitte. 2011. “Black Women Coping with HOPE VI In Spartanburg, SC” Journal for African American Studies 15, 542-540.
See also: Crawley, Ashon. 2016. BlackPentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility. New York: Fordham Press.