I didn’t know what to expect, but it definitely wasn’t houses like mine.
We were doing voter registration, and were sent to an area of town I was unfamiliar with. It was an area in West Dayton. Dayton – like Cincinnati – has become a de facto segregated city. It’s very easy to just find yourself in “your” section of the city without ever thinking about it. I had never been in this part – this Black part – of Dayton, and I had no idea what to expect.
Sure, I’d been near the Dunbar house or the Wright’s cycle shop. I’ve been at Urban Nights. But that “revitalized” area is visibly renewed, even compared to the rest of downtown. I suspected the areas I had been were not representative.
It wasn’t until later that I heard it described as “the hoodiest of the hoods”. I have no idea how true that might be, but have no reason to doubt it. If I had been pressed to imagine it, the little bit of surface knowledge that I did about West Dayton – predominantly Black, predominantly underemployed – might have led me to imagine something like movie depictions of East LA or Compton.
Not houses like mine.
It surprised me. Yes, there were signs of bad economic times: some bars on windows, some boarded up houses, some overgrown lawns. But by and large, there were homes that would fit in to my neighborhood. Despite everything that I had learned so far, despite the things I’d written on here, I had stumbled across an embedded stereotype I hadn’t consciously realized was there.
I knew that this would happen, that I would find failings in myself. I’m sure that it will happen again. The important part is to learn, understand, and recognize my own fallibility. Maybe, by being honest about my own failings, I can help others with thier own.
And in the meantime, I can move forward realizing a little bit better that different parts of Dayton aren’t that different after all.