Remarks from UAA 2018: Review of The One Way Street of Integration: Fair Housing and the Pursuit of Racial Justice in American Cities by Edward G. Goetz

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.

Coda:

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.”[1]

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.[2]  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.[3]  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.[4]” 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.[5] 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?[6] 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.[7]  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.

 

Conclusion

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. 

 

Thank you.

 

[1] 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.

[2] 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

[3] “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.

[4] 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. 

[5] Ibid.

[6] 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.

[7] 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. 

 

Remarks from Penn US Housing Policy: The Future of What Works Symposium

On Friday, September 15, I was invited to chair a panel on housing preservation at the Penn US Housing Policy Symposium. It was an intense and informative day, with economists, planners, sociologists, and policymakers presenting new research on existing housing policy.  The papers will eventually appear in a special issue of Housing Policy Debate.  Below are my remarks to the group, about housing preservation as social justice.

"Housing Preservation as Social Justice"

 

Thank you and good afternoon. I am excited to chair this panel on housing preservation, as it receives less attention in both housing research and policy agendas that prioritize production.  As a public housing researcher, I perhaps valorize the quest to preserve multiple amounts and types of affordable housing.  Public housing, in particular acts, as Amy L. Howard says, as “more than shelter,” and I believe the social and political use of housing is just as valuable a metric for preservation as is its utilitarian value of accommodation. My work in Atlanta shows that public housing tenant associations created a vast number of political opportunities for low income black women to mobilize and control resources in the city. However, in the struggle for affordable housing preservation, these tenant associations were not preserved, and a vital component of both neighborhood stability and community development was excised, even as the number of replacement units satisfied the market demand.   

 

Thus, I frame this session on two types of preservation from a justice and equity perspective: That is, how are the burdens and benefits of affordable housing and historic preservation distributed among the population?  Further, how can these two forms of preservation advance more equitable outcomes for marginalized populations? And, what to do when these two aspects – affordable housing preservation and the preservation of historical spaces in the city – are in tension with one another?

 

Racial and Economic Justice

 

According to the National Housing Preservation Database, in 2016 there were 5.5M units of subsidized affordable housing in the United States. Yet by 2021- just over three years from now – 1/5, or 1.1 M units are at risk of loss due to expiring housing subsidies. The loss of this affordable housing, particularly if replaced by market-rate housing, is a loss for the economic, racial, and social diversity of our neighborhoods.  As Lens and Reina state in their 2016 article, Section 8 subsidies (the second most used form of affordable housing subsidies) are expiring in neighborhoods with increasing opportunity for social mobility for its residents.  As Reina and Begley note, these opt-outs are more likely in high opportunity/higher priced areas than in neighborhoods with lower price appreciation. The disproportionate burden of housing subsidy expiration on the low-income, nonwhite, single-parent household, vis-à-vis its exclusion from high opportunity areas, is thus a racially, economically, and socially unjust outcome that must be accounted for by more targeted preservation tactics and policies.  Drs. Kate Howell, Elizabeth Mueller, and Barbara Brown Wilson’s paper on local context and planning in Washington, Chicago, and Austin provide a useful framework for this sort of targeted preservation. 

 

Stephanie Ryberg-Webster and panelist’s Kelly Kinahan’s work on the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit program in legacy cities shows using this instrument preserves historical spaces, increases local property values, and preserves the quantity of affordable housing units in the neighborhood.  Continuing in this line of inquiry, Dr. Kinahan’s paper will explore the neighborhood effects of this economic development tool – that is, the effects of the tax credit program on a neighborhood’s racial, socioeconomic, and housing market characteristics.  This paper is useful for understanding the tensions (or lack thereof) between historical and affordable housing preservation on neighborhood composition and outcomes.    

 

Environmental Justice

Yet affordable housing preservation is not just threatened by strong, profit-maximizing, real estate interests, declining real wages and job stability, and national apathy toward the plight of the poor and working-class, but by a much more intense and urgent threat: climate change.  Harris County and Miami-Dade County – two areas currently under water from two category five hurricanes that occurred within the last two weeks – are both among the top 10 counties in the country with the most affordable housing subsidies, totaling over 100,000 units.  Based on the actions of the New Orleans and Galveston Housing Authorities following Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, the loss of affordable housing due to natural disasters will not necessarily ensure a 1-1 replacement during recovery and rebuilding efforts.  The disproportionate impact of natural disasters on and disparate responses to affordable housing dwellers suggests that class inequality is maintained and reinforced through the changing climate. Thus, affordable housing policy must also shift to preserve adaptable and resilient housing units. 

 

With these just aims and outcomes in mind, I turn it over to our next panel, “Two Kinds of Preservation”

A Note on the Gentrification Syllabus

Recently I posted a syllabus co-created with a student for their independent study.  One of the documentaries we viewed was FLAG WARS, which I found to be an interesting examination of a predominantly white, LGBTQ group of homeowners and realtors that gentrified a predominantly Black neighborhood in Columbus, OH.  The documentary deftly illustrates some of the earlier waves of gentrification led by the LGBTQ community, particularly how this community created physical spaces/neighborhoods through gentrification.   Yet I found the documentary problematic in a number of ways.  The first was the homophobic language used by long term residents.  It wasn't necessary to the narrative, even if it did capture the realism and tensions of the time.  I am not a film studies scholar, so I won't delve into the merits of preserving hateful language (the comments in question are made on a resident's porch, as they talk with neighbors, and are not used to drive any antagonisms between the residents and gentrifiers), but I certainly didn't think I would show it in my seminar course, as there are other means to study LGBTQ gentrification.  The second was this false parallel the gentrifiers (and by extension, the documentarian) made with these long-term Black residents.  The white LGBTQ residents felt rightfully excluded from other (white) neighborhoods in Columbus, and saw the old homes in this depopulating Black neighborhood as a place to create their own space.  The social and political production of space is my reason for being, and so I truly empathized/identified with this community.  Nonetheless, these residents started to feel themselves and soon went from "we feel excluded and need a space" to "we, like these Black residents, have been discriminated against and because we have disposable income/access to capital to 'improve' the neighborhood, we deserve this space." There are no mentions of Black neighborhood formation via exclusion, the role of white supremacy in the housing market, and only one explicit mention of Black dispossession and disinvestment (via access to capital).  And of course, the documentary hinges on "queer people are white and affluent" "black people are straight and poor" binaries.  David Epstein's piece (which nudged me to write this note) does a wonderful job breaking down my last point.  

http://www.academia.edu/12280751/The_Trouble_with_Flag_Wars_Rethinking_Sexuality_in_Critical_Urban_Theory

So if you must teach FLAG WARS, please do so with critical caution. 

Metropolitics Article on Black Urban Dislocation and the Movement for Black Lives

I wrote this before and after the election.  It was helpful for me to muddle through some of this contemporary strife while still working on this historical narrative of black political action in the marginalized spaces of Atlanta's public housing.  The benefits of public scholarship.  

My acknowledgements were cut because the editors let me generously exceed my word limit by 1200, but huge shout-out to Laura Wolf-Powers, Gretchen Susi, and John Mollenkopf for their excellent comments and editing.  Thanks also to Laura for asking me to write something to begin with, it was very generative for me.

 

Challenging the Legacy of Spatial Domination

This week I am reading about space, community, and power in post-Reconstruction Atlanta.  One of the cases I explore in my book, Deviants in Divergent Spaces: The Radical Politics of Atlanta's Public Housing, is the case of University Homes, the first federally-financed public housing development for African-Americans in the United States.  Prior to this federal intervention into the local housing market, black families lived in substandard housing in low-lying, underdeveloped areas throughout five of the city's wards.  The war did not end well for Atlanta, and the city's motto Resurgens (Latin for Rising Again), speaks to this embattled history of a Phoenix-like city emerging from the smoldering ashes left in General Sherman's wake.  There were housing shortages for black and white residents, yet whites did not (and still, do not) face the spatial limitations blacks encountered in the city.  Codified restrictions in housing deeds legally prohibited blacks from leasing, purchasing, or dwelling in homes all-white neighborhoods, even to those who saved or earned enough money to purchase housing at fair market value.

Blacks were corralled into the most flood-prone and disease-ridden areas of Atlanta, in housing that whites constructed solely to exploit the restricted housing market for black residents. These homes were sold at higher than average rents without the minimum necessities of glass-paned windows, and doors and ceilings that do not require one to stoop (1).  Thus, whites were able to spatially inscribe the (social, economic, political) racial power dynamics of post-Reconstruction Atlanta into the city's built environment.  The public sector was also an active shaper of this spatial domination and difference in the city.  As the city developed, black areas were ignored and/or considered as only spaces for the city's externalities such as landfills and other waste depositories. These development decisions translate into lower property values for housing in these majority-black neighborhoods.  Here again, large black communities with codified political disparities (2), were also situated in spatially marginalized areas compared to white communities. This spatial domination manifests into economic exploitation. Blacks were excluded from entering the fair housing market as a result of restrictive covenants, and their property values are lowered through the city's spatially marginalizing development practices. The property values of white homeowners are thereby artificially inflated, as the premium of white property values is achieved by the spatial domination of white political powers over black communities.  

Spatial domination of poor black communities and other vulnerable groups by now black and white political powers continues into the 21st century.  The demolition of the public housing - a space that once symbolized the federal government's intervention into local actors spatial domination of black communities - is not just the demolition of affordable shelter, but also the demolition of political opportunity through the developments' spatial positioning.  The interests of poor black residents who dominated the public housing population were visible both in the built environment of the city and also the city's political environment.  These densely populated, spatially concentrated developments of poor black residents were a large and loyal voting bloc (polling stations were often located in public housing developments) whose influence and visibility was weakened following their dispersal under the demolition and voucherizing of Atlanta's public housing policy.  The dismantling of public housing in Atlanta was executed under the direction of a black public housing director, a black mayor, and a majority-black city council.  The maintenance and privileging of public facilities, such as public housing, public schools, and public libraries, over privately-owned and managed facilities, is a necessary intervention to challenge the spatial-political domination of the city's most marginalized groups.  

 

(1) Dorsey, Allison.  2004.  To Build Our Lives Together: Community Formation in Black Atlanta, 1875-1906.  Athens: The University of Georgia Press

(2) The State of Georgia - a Democratic state at the time - had restricted participation in Democratic Primaries to white voters only, in an attempt to limit the political strength of the emancipated, Black Republicans in the state, thereby limiting black political power.  This restriction continued until the Georgia Supreme Court ruled on the King v Chambers case in 1946 that challenged the constitutionality of an all-white primary.