Perceptions and Misperceptions: Safety Concerns or Latent Racism?

Dawn Griffin Posted by
Misc. Sep 2007

I have this wonderful, wonderful listing in the heart of Tower Grove East–my neighborhood, my favorite neighborhood. And as I have had showings or open houses I always get the same comment about the street. Granted no one just comes out and says, “I don’t want to live here because there are too many black children playing outside.” But that’s the gist, in fact let me copy and paste some of the agent feedback.

Examples:

the area was not as appealing to my single young female buyer

The street is a big concern, the neighborhood was very “alive”

Now, let me be very clear, I am not saying these agents are racist. I am saying that their clients are. The agents are simply repeating the feedback.

If you are just not feeling the house, fine, no problem. If you think there is price issue–OK. That’s what negotiation is for. If you won’t get out of the car because there are children playing or people sitting on their front porches, then you have an issue.

I am particularly incensed because I held an open house there today and one person who walked through asked me what I thought of the neighborhood as she wrinkled her nose and nodded to homes the next door.

WHAT DO I THINK OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD????

I think that I live four blocks away and that I walked from my house passed this house last night on my way to Tanner B’s and back in the dark. I think that I passed several people I didn’t know but said hello to and I felt safer walking down the street in the dark knowing that there were people outside using the street, sidewalks and porches.

(OK, I didn’t say that. I just kept smiling and nodding until she left. Very disappointed in myself for that. Hence, the rant.)

From the chapter on Sidewalks in Jane Jacob’s classic, The Death and Life of American Cities.

The problem of sidewalk and doorstep insecurity is as serious in cities which have made conscientious efforts at rebuilding as it is in those cities which have lagged. Nor is it illuminating to tag minority groups, or the poor, or the outcast with responsibility for the danger. There are immense variations in the degree of civilization and safety found among such groups and among the city areas where they live. Some of the safest sidewalks in New York City, for example, at any time of day or night, are those along which poor people or minority groups live.

I get the safety concerns. But I think they need to be founded not just based on who you see outside. I am relatively sure that if the 5 or 6 kids outside would have been Caucasian it would have been endearing. In fact, these visitors may have even perceived it as a safe neighborhood because there were children outside.

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