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Friday, July 1, 2011

Societal Shifts - Elderly Residents Worry About Neighborhood Changing Colors

Thugs are destroying middle class neighborhoods.
This scenario is playing out in cities and suburbs around the country. Older established white neighborhoods are gradually attracting more black residents. These societal shifts cause elderly residents to worry about their neighborhoods changing color. 

Throughout my lifetime, I've seen the same results of transition in a number of neighborhoods around Cleveland. My mother's parents came to this country from Hungary. My grandfather opened a butcher store in the Buckeye Road neighborhood, where they lived. He thrived. Eventually, he moved to a larger home closer to the lake.

When my grandparents lived in the Buckeye Road neighborhood, their yard was impeccable, they kept their house painted, they had pride in their community. Businesses thrived and life was good for these predominantly Hungarian immigrants. Then, the change started. 

Thirty years ago, when the Buckeye road neighborhood was part of my sales territory for an office products company, I saw the blight, the destruction, the filth and the violence.

For my job, we had to call in to the office three times a day. There were no cell phones back then. In the Buckeye Road neighborhood, TELEPHONE meant urinal. You were afraid to touch the phone. Drug needles would be spread around the inside of the phone booth. You feared for your life just being there. And in the last 30 years, it's only gotten worse.

The homes are trashed, the yards are a mess. Thirty years ago, my aunt, who still lived down there and had converted the butcher store into a rummage store, found two dead bodies in her yard at different times. It sure wasn't the same when my grandfather was the well-respected butcher on the corner. 

I grew up in Euclid, OH - a suburb east of Cleveland. Euclid was a community that was about 95% white in the 50's. 60's, 70's and 80's. Most of the homes are modest bungalows where families raised their children. Euclid was booming during the 1950's. Elementary schools and junior high schools were built. Playgrounds sprung up around the elementary schools; they had pools, ball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts and plenty of swings and slides on asphalt.

About twenty years ago, black families that were striving for a better way of life from the inner city where they grew up began moving into Euclid. Most of them were just like the residents that were already there - they had some education, had a decent job and they had kids they wanted to raise in a decent school system. They came for the dream of the middle class.

However, as blacks moved in, it caused a white flight. Older residents who had paid off their homes, left the homes and turned them into rental properties. Section 8 residents moved in - and brought their criminal baggage with them. Not all Section 8 residents are criminals, but there are a large portion of people that learned illegal survival techniques in the rough neighborhoods where they came from, and those survival skills are still active in their lifestyles.

Another group of people that has moved into this middle class city are the thugs.

I don't have exact statistics, but a friend of mine and I were speculating - just for the sake of conversation - that a third of the residents want to do the right thing, a third are messing everything up and a third are the old white people that have lived in their homes for 40 years or more.

Those that are doing the right thing take care of their yards, they paint their houses, they put out trash in cans and bags - not 34 pieces of furniture piled six feet high each week. Their kids are well behaved and there is usually a strong father figure in the picture. It's a different story with so many of the Section 8 residents.

Their yards have grass that is 18 inches high. They only cut it after the city threatens to fine them. Their homes are loud. It's not uncommon to see the police there every couple months or more often. Their children are unsupervised and have no respect for their elders and they're blatantly racist. The kids are looking for trouble.

Then, there are the thugs. They have brought the worst of the inner city with them. They rent or buy homes and set up shop. Streams of cars come and go. Children run around, but no one is watching them or playing with them. The lights are on into the wee hours of the morning and the music is always pumping, either from the house or from the cars rattled by too much bass.

My high school friend Jim told me a story about his elderly Slovenian neighbor. Across the street from Jim and this lady, a house full of thugs set up shop. The elderly lady waved Jim over the other day and said, "Jimmy, I have to tell yoo sumting. I watch that house. I stay up until midnight in my living room, watching that house out of my front window. Cars. Oh, the cars. They come. They go. And the people have packages. Yes, they carry packages. I think sumting is very bad over there. Jimmy, could you keep an eye on them?" She's scared, and doesn't want to go. She's spent her whole life in that home and now thugs are disturbing her sunset years.

Jim, always one to be a practical joker, bought a DEA hat (Drug Enforcement Association). One night while business was booming across the street, Jim put on his hat and paid the general store a visit. When he walked up wearing the hat, everyone in the front yard scattered. Tires screeched as cars sped away. He didn't even have to say anything.

I told Jim he needs to be careful. With those packages come pistols and other weapons of human destruction. Courage can't stop a bullet. And the thugs have no regard or remorse about putting down a problem.

Thugs and unruly Section 8 residents have caused the police budget to triple over the last 20 years in Euclid. This will be the second year in a row that Euclid cannot afford to put on a fireworks display, a tradition that was started in the 1950's.

The E. 185th St. Festival had to be canceled, permanently, because thugs, gangs and unsupervised kids tore up the street, robbed the vendors, fought for no sensible reason, and scared off the families with money who wanted a nice time. There's another 50 year tradition down the drain.

My other friend named Jim, lives in the E 185th St. area. He's been there for 28 years. His insulting, irreverent, racist neighbor's children are driving him out. He's been looking for a home for two years.

What can these elderly white people do? They were married, bought their little home, raised kids, cared for grandchildren, and some even have great grandchildren. All of their memories are there in that neighborhood - and they are good memories. Now, their peace and tranquility is threatened by society's future prison inmates.

It's scenarios like this that make long-time residents grumble the N-word under their breath in the coffee shops and restaurants. Yet, if they complain, they're racist. In America, we've been brainwashed that only white people can be racist. Well, it works both ways. And I've seen it in action.

I really don't care what color a person is. But I do care about the color of their character. Is it adding to the texture of the community or creating a cancerous sore in the middle of the painting?

The thugs and the low end of the Section 8 crowd only take. They don't add to the community. They create greater burdens on police, fire and rescue. They use the emergency room at the hospital for headaches, coughs and toothaches - even though there is no dentist working in an emergency room.

It's a shame that the people who worked all their lives to make a wholesome community a home, have to live through seeing it destroyed by people with no integrity, character or morals.

I don't know what the solution is. I can only think that parents need to take more responsibility and stop blaming the system and the government for not giving them enough.

Take. Take. Take. Give something for once. Contribute. Clean up a park. Volunteer. Tell your kid to unload his pockets at the drug store and put that stuff back - stealing is wrong. Clean up after yourself. Do all the really insane things I was taught when I was growing up. For shit sake, they worked. And they will continue to work if someone would just apply them.

Meanwhile, these societal shifts are causing elderly residents to worry about their neighborhoods changing color. It's a shame. And it doesn't help to relieve any racial tensions in society. It only makes them worse.

Related articles:
Living In A Black Neighborhood Takes Some Adjusting
How To Make Money In A Black Neighborhood
How To Make Friends In A Black Neighborhood When You're White
Are Black People Afraid Of White People?
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