Even though I thought about it for a long time, I made what could prove to be a rash decision. I bought a crumbling house, the worst one on the block. Though this house is a mere three blocks from where we currently live, in the core of most American cities, neighborhoods and the homes in those neighborhoods, change quickly.
I should at least be honest how I use the word “change.” The neighborhood where this house is located is predominantly black and hispanic. I currently live in a neighborhood that is “desirable” and “stable,” meaning, of course, predominantly white.
As real estate goes, the house was not a sizable investment. To put it in perspective, the final selling price (subject to a probate court judge’s approval) was pretty close to the cost of a 2014 Honda Civic Hybrid ($24,000 if you don’t feel like doing the research).
I hope I didn’t overpay. From basement to roof, everything needs work. The kitchen is virtually non-existent and the bathroom, well, you don’t want to know. A lot of birds have found a home through a hole in the eave, and I have good reason to believe something between the size of a squirrel and a raccoon has taken up residence in the attic.
In my optimistic moments I say to myself, “It’s not so bad, this place has character and tons of potential.” Other times, which is most of the time, I think, “Why the heck didn’t I buy a 2014 Honda Civic Hybrid?”
Here’s the truth of the matter. I don’t know what else to do? Over a year ago, I marched with hundreds of people in Benton Harbor, Michigan’s poorest city, to protest the way the black community has been overlooked. Not much has changed. When George Zimmerman got a “not guilty” verdict in the death of black teenager Trayvon Martin, my stomach was tied in knots for days – not weeks, but days. Not much has changed. The 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech was the news story for a day, but now it’s Syria. We continue to buy into the national myth that violence solves problems. Not much has changed. Lindsay Lohan still needs rehab. The Kardashians still think they’re interesting. And America’s prisons are disproportionately populated by black males. Not much has changed.
I don’t know what else to do. A minister for over thirty years, I’ve always been involved with white congregations. I stood behind pulpits and preached about loving all people – “red, yellow, black and white, they are precious in God’s sight.” But for the most part, I live as though I don’t believe it, at least not enough to make any measurable difference in my life. Not much has changed. Talk alone doesn’t change a thing. I’m tired of talking, and I imagine God is tired of listening.
So, believing as I do in restorations and resurrections of all kinds, I bought a crumbling house, on a downtrodden city block, knowing that when my wife Jody and I move in — and the critters have been evicted — we will be the racial minority.