Why are Integrated Neighborhoods good for America? I have chosen to live in the predominantly Black community and I am pleased to share my experience.
Over the years, I have lived amongst many people, at least fifty different nationalities. It was time for me to choose to live amidst the African American Community and I debated about this over a period of one year, and It is a new experience, and I am cherishing it.
I was even elected as a Neighborhood Commissioner by default, as I voted in myself for the vacant seat, but I yielded to another person due to my health at that time. My zip code is 20032, ward 8 of Washington, DC.
My idea of America is shaped by the vision of our founding fathers, President Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, President Obama, and the Quran. I am committed to building a cohesive America where each one of the 323 million of us feels secure about his/her faith, race, ethnicity, cultural, political and sexual orientation. The pledge of one nation under God with liberty and Justice for all resonates with me.
Most of the conflicts and phobias cloud us, and one way to get out of it is to know each other. The Quran’s wisdom in 49:13 is central to my research and activism. God says that he has deliberately created us into different communities, nations, races, and by extension different religions. Each one of us is unique with our own thumbprint, eyeprint, DNA, tastebuds, clothes buds, and philosophical buds. Then HE says, that uniqueness is likely to create conflicts, and the best ones among you are those who learn about each other. As we learn to respect the otherness of the other (my definition of Pluralism) and accept the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. Much of this you will find in the book American Muslim Agenda available at Amazon, Google, and the bookstores.
Knowing each other is not a noble idea, or a God-pleasing act, it is the right thing to do; to live freely without fears, after all, our land is the land of the brave and the free.
How do we learn about each other and bust the myths if we don’t live as neighbors?
There was a time in the eighties in Dallas, Texas, my hometown when white folks were running away from their neighborhoods to escape from the African American ‘invasion’ of their communities. My question to them was, and remains, how far and how long will you keep running?
Each one of us seeks freedom and wants to live without fear, but what do we do instead? We double down on our neuroses. White folks run away from neighborhoods when blacks make the entry, and the black people give up on living with all others and go back to their flock where they are comfortable. The apprehensions never end. This is not good for anyone or America’s future.
We keep piling myths upon myths about the other deepening the chasm between each other. The only way to dissipate fears is to know each other first-hand. Knowledge leads to understanding, and understanding to acceptance of each other.
I wanted to experience being around people of different faiths, races, and cultures, the only community I was not around was the black community, now that I live here, I feel home. I am comfortable with everyone around me. Personally, this is an achievement for me to live with all of God’s creation. You feel the fullness and genuine spirituality of being one with all. I am thankful to my friend for offering me this place to live.
Spirituality is not wearing long robes or colorful clothes or reciting the name of God and placing yourselves up above others. You cannot be an authentic spiritual person if you think you are better than others or have achieved spirituality, Any attempt to separate yourselves from the ‘crowds’ is arrogance. Spirituality and arrogance are inversely proportional to each other, i.e., the lesser the arrogance, the greater the spirituality in you and vice-versa.
Imagine a child raised with ill will towards Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Jews, Arabs, Chinese, Somalis or others. I have closely monitored the results with Indian kids raised to hate Pakistani kids and vice-versa. The idiotic parents poison their kids without realizing the damage they do to their children.
When that child grows up to be an adult and has to work with the other who is not to be trusted and stayed away from, then you can guess the anguish that person endures. when he/she actually works with them. There is an unwanted battle he/she is encountering on a daily basis causing him distress to work with “those” people.
As an owner of the business, do you welcome these inner battles between employees, don’t they cut down the productiveness of your firm?
You would want an employee who gets along with all and focuses on delivering quality products and services to your customers. You also want him/her to go home with no baggage from work and give 100% of himself or herself to the family. A happy person is productive for his/her family, your firm and the nation.
Besides the individuals, even the City Governments are struggling with the issue of discrimination. They need to see the goodness that comes to all with integrated societies.
Way back around 2005, I was on the government relations committee at the board of Greater Dallas Home Builder’s Association. We were appalled with the attitude of the Planning and Zoning Committees members of the City of Plano; they were opposed to zoning-in apartments in the town as they wanted to keep the people with low income (Black people) out of the city. Our question was where the people who work at 7/11 should live? Near their workplace or way out someplace in Garland and further draining their income on transportation? Finally, they listened, and affordable apartments were zoned into the cityscape.
Grand Homes flagship community at Bent Tree Hills in North Dallas took over an abandoned neighborhood due to protests by the rich folks for building low-income (meaning Black) housing next door. I was assigned to turn things around and appealed to the humble beginnings of each one of us, and it worked, most of them realized that everyone needs a break. It went on to become a profitable community for those who believed in doing the right thing.
In 1985, I faced the wrath of homeowners in Rowlett, Texas. My homeowner friends became foes overnight because we contracted to build a new Ryland home to Jim & Mike, a gay couple in the Peninsula neighborhood in Rowlett, Texas. Eventually, the acceptance came through education, and it always works, and they all came back and resumed the friendship.
Over the years, I have learned never to push people into boxes. Regretfully, I have used the dehumanizing terms like right-wingers and other words with red body parts as most people do, I repent and as a part of repentance, I will continue to build relationships with those who differ with others in creating a cohesive America that is good for all Americans without exception. Mother Teresa is in my life on a daily basis, she said, if you want to make peace with your enemies, go talk with them. To that, I add, gossiping among friends won’t change the equation unless you talk with the ones you have problems with.
Now, I am enjoying my life with the Black community. There is not a single non-Black person on the busses I have been riding. I walk in into the Senior living centers; again, I am the only one. In the Greenline Metro, all the white folks get off at the Navy Yard, and only me and my black friends are left on the train towards Congress Heights. I shop at Giants, and I am the only one. Each one of my neighbors has made me feel one of them, and I feel home with them. Living with almost all communities, I do not feel any difference living here, not a bit. I have taken several pictures in the bus – a black father holding his baby girl close, a black mother telling her son to behave, husband looking surprised when he could not calm his baby, but calmed by the mother in a jiffy. I see the sameness in the grocery stores. It takes time to know people, and prejudice instilled by parents, friends, clergy, and politicians is the only thing that messes with you. I thank my parents for raising us with a bias towards none.
Take a look at the Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, white, black and brown and other community’s full-time day schools, what are we doing to our children? How are they going to learn about each other, how comfortable are they with different children? Public Schools offer the necessary interactions with different people. I hope private schools recruit children from different faiths, races, ethnicities, and cultures, so our children would be comfortable when they go to work with them as adults with the least tensions. We have to take the responsiblity to shape America, that we want.
Integrated living produces secure societies, and you don’t have to run from place to place in search of security. Would you raise your children free from prejudices? Your children have at least 70 years to live, why do you want to poison them? Let them be free from your racial, ethnic, religious, economic and cultural prejudices, let them live without fear.
The Center for Pluralism conducts workshops to turn your employees to give 100% of their heart, mind, and soul not only to the place of work but to their family as well making them productive employees.
Dr. Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. His new book, the “American Muslim Agenda” is about everything you wanted to know about Muslims. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kindle. Mike is a public speaker, author, interfaith wedding officiant, a newsmaker and the executive director of the Center for Pluralism in Washington, DC. More about him in three formats at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikeghouse/