Black Suburbia?

In my neighborhood in Pittsburgh they have started to build all these new shitty cookie cutter houses. They all look just about the same and they are built quick and easy and don’t look as though they weren’t built to last. I, as well as many other people, thought they looked ugly and was disappointed by their appearance, but I never thought about them more nor did I think about what the people who lived in them thought of them.

I was talking to someone who has been in and around this area for a while and we were both complaining about this. They just aren’t as nice as the old houses and it’s disappointing to see them taking over like a suburban landscape encroaching on our city houses. We were frustrated with how this neighborhood was being gentrified and destroyed and talked about other neighborhoods that were experiencing similar plight.

The old houses just have so much character, we argued, and they are built to last while the new ones are just built to be made quick, easy and cheaply with their shitty vinyl siding and lack of many bricks. We lamented that more people weren’t fixing houses up and hoped people could save up the houses before they were torn down by the city to make more cookie cutter houses.

I was walking around the neighborhood with Curls and we walked through one of the developments on the top of the hill. It was eerie. There was hardly anyone walking around at first it was just an empty development. I mentioned to Curls that at times like these I ask myself did the apocalypse or the resurrection happen and we just haven’t figured it out yet? I mentioned that the place looks just like some of the planned communities in State College, suburbia, dead and lifeless.

We rounded the corner and started to see people. We continued walking and started to approach a group of black women drinking outside in their front yard/porch area. One of the women was caught by us being there and started watching us. As we got closer she asked how we liked it, with a large smile on her face. Curls had a camera so she asked if we were taking pictures of this area. She had a big proud smile on the whole time.

What I hadn’t realized was that this area had been housing projects. While I don’t know much about them I certainly don’t expect them to have been nice. Now they have little two stories houses, grass, clean streets and a nice neighborhood. She loved the cookie cutter houses we had been talking about, she loved the vinyl siding, she loved houses being clean and how well kept the place was. She was proud to live in a nice neighborhood proud to be able to show off her neighborhood, especially to the white visitors.

While not sure what to say at first we said we were from just down the hill and had wanted to see what it looked like at the top. While we weren’t taking pictures we did certainly like the place. We quickly started feeling like assholes, having just talked about how horrible the place was, we were confronted with how the residents felt of it.

Since this encounter I have a much different view of these houses and instead appreciate them for what they are, not lamenting them for what they aren’t. Yes the don’t have as much character, but they also aren’t falling apart. And they aren’t owned by a slumlord who doesn’t care about them. These houses are bettering peoples lives and making the community look better than it was before and I like them.


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