This is the worst building I’ve
ever lived in. A senior complex in the County of Kenosha, Wisconsin.
A thirty-something white woman
doesn’t wear a mask is the manager. Why start with that
description? Because in America, in the America all of America is
waking up to since the ascendance of Trump to the presidency, not
wearing a mask while the COVID-19 rages is to recognize someone who
possesses freedom. Some months back when I asked her why she didn’t
wear a mask she gave me her back, as she usually does. She can’t
face me. No. So as she gave me her back with her blond hair swing
behind her, she let me know she didn’t have to. She didn’t
have to wear a mask. No.
Opened in August 2020, this building
is an “investment.” The realty is the real estate
prominent in the Racine, Burlington, Salem, Kenosha housing market.
They offer market-rate and affordable apartments. Here, rent is based
on your income.
Older tenants in Kenosha County
tended to work at the old Chrysler or the Snap-On Incorporation—the
same workplace Trump visited after he become president. On the other
hand, I’m the only one out of academia. The only socialist. The
only Black woman activist. Socialist, did I say, with one too many
books and dreads. Long, non-styled dreads.
And did I say this is
Trump-all-the-way or Trump-in-spirit. What’s the difference?
Not much to me.
My income is fixed, social security.
The former Gov. Scott Walker took care of the pensions for some of us
who had much to lose. And we lost. I have cancer, and I’m in my
67th-year on an Earth that’s had enough of humanity. I’m
being asked to vacate my apartment by the end of August. There are
tenants, according to the notice, who are being disturbed by me. By
my presence? By my dreads, my appearance?
No. None of the tenants in my
immediate surroundings have complained. We have, however, complained
about the one woman who moved here in December 2019. At least two
nearby tenants complained about her before I did in March. But that’s
truth and truth gets in the way of a perfectly good game of
Discrimination isn’t far from
her mind, but she has to tread lightly. Hate can’t appear as
hate. Make it appear as if the struggle is and has always been about
white Americans keeping these Black people from destroying property,
from disturbing the lifestyle of white neighbors who recognize now,
after all this is Wisconsin, as in Wisconsin, let’s
It’s a matter of fact in this
neck of Wisconsin where white residents in predominantly white
buildings understand the rules—there’s a quote—not
on the books, but in reality. So some Black people must live among
the lilies of the fields. But these Blacks must understand they
aren’t truly believe themselves freed to be. They should recall
the days when the KKK kept things in check, when the rope, too, keep
things in check. Only, no, there aren’t any ropes or KKK but
rules and policies. Policies and rules. Notes and notices on doors of
predominantly the hand full of Blacks.
These Blacks are to think about the
old days of law and order. This isn’t Madison even where a good
number of liberals working for neoliberal organizations today used to
be activists before they were asked to clear the battlefield, move
out, so the criminal justice system, exerting and expanding it’s
reach and power, can herd the Blacks into shinny new prisons. The
rest will take note and calm down. Join their white brethren in those
neoliberal pursuits, chasing the money, for the cars, and homes, and
Did I mention becoming familiar with
“skunk weed”? What is that smell that wouldn’t
allow me to sleep in my bedroom?
Oh, skunk weed.
know and suspect the culprits, so I ask…
Has management been told?
turn. A new subject is introduced.
written on the real estate management here. That is, I’ve
referred to the local manager in “From Gaslighting to Ethnic
Cleansing: Small Predominately White Towns in the Midwest Play
As Well As the Big Cities and
Southern Towns,” published here at the Black
management! Present in the office maybe once a week. Maybe twice a
week. She does post notes. She loves posting notes. We are after all
seniors, many with great grandchildren… But, okay.
the smokers say they’ve received personal notices for talking
too loud or smoking too close to the building. White tenants received
notices, but, as I said, with only six or seven Black residents out
of 42, it’s been disproportionate among Black tenants.
should come as any surprise to anyone living in America.
older Black woman in a wheelchair makes too much noise! And the
traffic in her apartment. Traffic from nurses and family
members—well, that’s too much! I don’t have people
visiting me—during COVID-19, so the manager inferred that I
could know anyone! What people? You keep saying, “people
who know you.” What?
Black woman who is mobile—in her wheelchair—receives a
5-day notice. No hearsay—I saw it! Another middle class Black
woman living with her mother receives a notice—for a car that
she didn’t own.
never received a notice, but now it seems I’ve been disturbing
my neighbors. Or is it a matter of responding to the racist
harassment of a next door neighbor who uses her stereo and possibly a
gaming devise that reverberates, making the chair I sit on feel as if
I had a speaker underneath it, blasting a punk rock song, repeatedly.
My head aches from the pressure of the high frequency and my legs are
sometimes feel numb. And I suffer already from neuropathy. And
there’s more. Even more vile. Insidious. Pleasurable for this
lonely but no less racist woman. Since the COVID-19 lockdown didn’t
help her. I’ve written about the necessity to have an
alternative to police in response to someone possibly experiencing a
mental crisis in (“Can the Police Protect Black Americans?”).
can’t complain. But whites can complain about Blacks invading
their neighborhood or store or housing complex—daring to live
in an apartment on the other side of the living room wall.
do wonder if the management didn’t use this woman’s
crisis as a means of ridding the building of it’s greatest
threat? Because who wants an educated mass of tenants?
drove her to miscalculate the social milieu here in small town
Wisconsin. Young docile bodies move from the workplace to the home as
dependable clogs in the machine. Becoming ultimately dependable
full-time consumers in their senior years. They don’t, as we
say, rock the boat!
not just that the manager defends the lies of the white neighbor,
it’s that in doing so, she’s willing to lie with impunity
for the sake of holding up the banner of white supremacy. She doesn’t
need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the KKK, no. But her
indifference, heartlessness, is the manifestation of her willingness
to link her own personal narrative with that of white supremacy.
to her advantage, isn’t it? She may not care on bit about this
neighbor, but someone who wants to climb the corporate ladder
understands the rungs lifter her above the rank and file. And that
meant, first and foremost, rising to a position in which she takes
her place in maintaining the chokehold around the necks of Black
You think she’s attacking
you because your Black?
I didn’t say the neighbor was “attacking” me. Here
the effort to materialize the racist narrative she’s conceived?
The question references how her racist narrative belittles the
history of white supremacy, belittles the Black experience in the US,
and belittles my experience as a Black woman living in a building she
is supposed to be qualified to manage!
real estate management is only as good as the individuals it hires.
If that individual manager is willing to lie blatantly, willing to
proclaiming a white supremacist narrative in which Blacks are dirty,
loud, disruptive of the peace, then what are we to think of a real
I hear the response…?
never had a chance to live free of white supremacy here. It’s
built in the very structure, the foundation, the siding, ceilings,
We are not freeing you to do a
damn thing. No freedom for you, whoever you think you are!
never change. Ethnic cleansing never changes. It just dresses well.
Works in shiny new buildings. Has a shiny new state-of-the-art phone
that does it all. Makes them feel even more empowered when it rings
and they put it to their ear.
the look of the inhumane. The absence of compassion. Understanding.
Neither can play a role in capitalism. And she wants to be a
capitalist. They all do. She wants to see the money flow for her
management teammates, for the realty. So she can’t recognize my
humanity. Capitalism won’t allow for such a breach in protocol.
It’s not good for business. And business comes first. And last.
manager mirrors, in the end, the movement of capitalism in that she
doesn’t want to know of the damage she causes in other’s
lives. She looks away, fashionably, so as to speak in the false speak
of the happy. Hi! Good morning! Lovely day!
of self is to think of the business, the goal of growth. Ever more
growth. Is there ever an understanding of what this growth is in
relation to what is lost in the world when one partners up with the
always the danger that she’ll slip and be human long enough to
recognize my humanity.
She doesn’t care where I
The Fair Housing Act, passed in
1968. President Lyndon Johnson signs it. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. has
been assassinated, of course. Always a sacrifice of Black bodies to
And now it’s George Floyd.
“This moment is also about
housing. Because housing is health. Housing is life,” says
Caroll Fife, Director of the Alliance of Californians for Community
Someone suggested I contact Fair
Housing. Contact the Equal Rights Division, contact, contact, file a
complaint and wait. And wait. Then the decision. It’s like
waiting to see if the police will be charged and serve time. Or will
they hear. Acquittal. You’ve been acquitted!
certainly don’t have a lifetime to wait on something from
institutions that, as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor showed in her study of
the history of a profitable liaison between the real estate and the
banking industry, my complaint won’t matter. So many such
complaints are meant to fall under the radar so real change,
effective change, transformative change, never happens! After all,
who established the bar? To prove discrimination and racism in this
country requires you give up your first born.
I don’t have a first born!
discrimination was not going to end on an individual level,”
writes Taylor about about the way in which these complaints of
discrimination ended up failing to weed out “the deeply
ingrained and institutional nature of housing discrimination.”
other words, it started as a broken system and it still is a broken
system. I don’t have faith in a system in which I have to spin
the wheel and hope for the best! That’s not a system that cares
one bit about me or anyone. It’s about the maintenance of the
system as it is—as it’s broken!
accountability demanded of real estate agencies or managements. There
isn’t any recourse to fairness!
radically different is necessary. How many Americans are facing
evictions with no income? How many seniors, mothers with children,
college students? How many will end up homeless? Or on someone’s
couch, as I was several times in my life—and I had a doctorate!
Some people have family they can move in on and the move is
relatively cheap, a few beers and some pizzas. And the new location
has a spare bedroom.
there’s a reality that is endemic of the last fifty years, and
many of us find ourselves with family—in theory.
then where is the safety net when we encounter the likes of managers
for whom the capitalist model is god?
more tolerance of the truly intolerable! Housing for all. Decency and
affordable housing for all! And what that revolutionary change would
mean depends on what the marginalized majority (not “minority,”
as in minority races) decide. In other words, the gathering of the
majority of the world putting forth their narrative of struggle will
ultimately defeat the profiteering ideology of white supremacy.
it! Join it!
is housing’s moment!