Back in 2007, Black flight started to take shape. According to a census conducted by the New York Times, many people of color began moving to suburban areas, including Westchester County. Just a year prior, a democratic governor, Eliot Spitzer, won the county for the first time in 12 years. Democrats have consistently won the gubernatorial race every year since.
Despite all that, some 14 years later, we see Black flight once more but this time it’s from Westchester County, which touts itself as more diverse in the workforce, but African-Americans are leaving because they cannot afford to live here. Don’t take my word for it, just take a trip up I-87 and cross Governor Cuomo Bridge. Or, better yet, drive up the Taconic and glance at who’s driving. When it’s time to own your own home Westchester County, like New York City, has become out of reach and unaffordable to the average middle-class African-American person who desires space and better schools for their families. Most of the individuals forced to take flight are not only of color but they are also loyal democrats who cannot afford to own a home and some have families that have long ties to the county. In fact, number of Democrats in the county doubles that of Republicans, according to the Westchester County site (westchestergov.com).
With that, a growing number of young African Americans from the county decided to head farther north to counties typically run by Republicans, including Dutchess, Rockland and Orange Counties where they can live out the “American Dream” of the white picket fence home. Yet, the irony in this is that most of these counties have Republican control, opposite of who we believe helps us most, who we vote for, and those who always promise affordable housing.
You might think, if you want to maintain your strongest voting base, evidenced by this year’s presidential election, affordable housing should be at the top of the ticket to keep us. Instead we are being pushed up and out.
In January, Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, spoke at Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of the Black Wall Street Massacre. Bloomberg unveiled his plan to address “the systemic bias that has kept Black Americans from building wealth, titled the Greenwood Initiative.”
In this, he structured a plan to invest in more Black owned businesses and to create more opportunities for African-American homeownership. Bloomberg’s plan offered real solid capital gains for the Black community because what he knew and what we must learn is the only way to achieve real success in our state and country is to make real moves to close the wealth gap.
Home and property ownership is at the core. We want to own some of this land our ancestors built and the land we give the Democratic Party our vote to control politically. Home ownership is the first step, and possibly the most important, in closing the wealth gap in this country for African-Americans. When you don’t own, you become voiceless.
A poll I conducted on my social media showed 65% of the respondents said they’d rather live in Dutchess, Rockland, or Orange counties over Westchester County simply because of affordability. 100% of people agreed that local government should do more to assist getting more people of color into their own homes. Democrats, if they’re really about helping us, should focus on promoting programs like the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) to enable more in buying their own place in areas perceived as “unaffordable.” In November, when Jamal Bowman and Mondaire Jones were elected to represent Westchester County in congress, that gave me hope, as if a change was on the horizon.
We need to hold them accountable and help them remember they are elected by us to make the county more accessible for people like us who want to take hold of the American Dream, like our grandparents did, owning homes, paying taxes, and sending our children to public schools. We need more in return for our vote. It must start affecting our everyday lives in a positive manner. We need to look at the Greenwood Initiative and put it into play right in our backyard with possible assistance from the man who came up with it (Michael Bloomberg). It’s time for us to stop being pushed out like nomads who have no land and instead be pushed into paths where we can succeed with some help. The time is now for our political leaders to respect our votes so that we can see a return on our investment with them.