Let’s keep race, class in public conversation

I was delighted to read The News article, “Improving life, block by block, in Buffalo neighborhoods,” but was surprised to find no mention of the social and racial dynamics in gentrifying communities.

For example, how did residents react to a 27-year-old educated white woman spearheading a block club? How were the Burmese immigrants and Hispanic families involved? What is the representation of the block club compared with the population of Whitney Place? How has property value been affected since the professional Boston and California couples moved in? These questions often go unasked but they are critical to understanding the challenges Buffalo is facing as neighborhood demographics start to shift.

These are questions The News isn’t asking often enough, given the city’s history. In a map that went viral last month, called the Racial Dot Map, where a blue dot represents a white person and a green dot represents a black person, Buffalo’s racial divide is thrown into relief. Main Street cuts across like an invisible wall, splitting the heart of the city in two: blue dots to the west, green to the east.

Having grown up in Buffalo, I’ve heard it said that segregation masquerades as regionalism here. But with Black Rock booming and bustling, and Whitney Place banding together, it’s important to keep race and class in the public conversation. In this city these factors have lasting implications, like which streets don’t get plowed after a snowstorm, which schools face threats of closing and which regions get developed and when. It’s inspiring to see communities organizing in Buffalo, and I hope they can serve as models for further discussion and informed social change.

Marina Blitshteyn