With an urban renaissance raging and white gentrifiers flocking to previously scorned sections of the Chocolate City, the stakes are rising every day, presenting an added challenge to what W.E.B. Dubois called the "Talented Tenth" of black Americans: We not only have to invest in the inner city, but we can't let white people beat us to it.
Sometimes it felt like the '60s had never happened there. The first people my parents tried to buy from pulled out of the deal, due to pressure from neighbors. Finally settled into a rental, we got harassing phone calls. One time a band of teenagers chased my cousin, screaming "The KKK's gonna get you, nigger!" Most painful for a little kid were those steely glares that seemed constantly to demand, "What are you doing here?" At age 9, I tried to contort myself to appear smaller, hoping that no one would notice me and be offended.
Today's robust market in urban housing is shaking up the system. Communities are playing a game of racial and socioeconomic musical chairs. Black neighborhoods are turning whiter. Poor neighborhoods are turning richer, some suburban areas turning poorer. But the shake- up may lead to nothing more than a shake-out, with the same old winners and losers.
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.