By the time you read this story, we’ll have been in our new home for five days. About a month ago, we decided to start looking at homes, and after a few relatively easy weeks, we purchased our first house. Before we started our search, we had heard from family, friends, and coworkers about how tedious and stressful the home buying process can be. Often, you walk through several homes before finding one you like, you put out multiple offers and of course, there are all the negotiations you go through before it’s all figured out and confirmed.
Our experience was a little different; we only looked at one home and the sellers accepted our offer within 24 hours. Our stress didn’t come from the actual process of buying a home, it came from the tough decision we had to make about our son’s future in that home and neighborhood.
When we would sit down and think about this next step for our family, we had a lot of things to contemplate. As a Black family, there is more to think about than crown molding, open kitchen concepts, and paint colors. Those things can be changed and updated, but for us, we needed to decide between buying a home in a diverse neighborhood with Black people and other People of Color or choosing a home in a good school district.
Unfortunately, you rarely get to have both.
As a Black family, there is more to think about than crown molding, open kitchen concepts, and paint colors. Those things can be changed and updated, but for us, we needed to decide between buying a home in a diverse neighborhood with Black people and other People of Color or choosing a home in a good school district. Unfortunately, you rarely get to have both.
While the ratio of white families to Black families or families of color has gotten increasingly better over the years, it is still largely imbalanced. Heather Long and Andrew van Dam at The Washington Post explained that the main reason suburban neighborhoods struggle to keep an equal number of Black and white families is rooted in the historical wage inequalities. “In 2016, the typical middle-class Black household had $13,024 in wealth versus $149,703 for the median white household,” Long and van Dam said. This data is only four years old and little has been done to close that gap since then.
The questions we ask
Where I live in Ohio, there are very few neighborhoods that are safe, diverse, and that provide a good education. It took us a while to decide what was a better choice for our son. Is it better that he grows up seeing kids and families that look like him or that he goes to a school that is well invested in his education and academic career? If we choose the education route, will my son be safe walking home from his friend’s house? Will the cops believe that he lives on a quiet street with such beautiful trees, landscaped yards in a predominantly white neighborhood?
I honestly don’t have the answer to those questions; all we can do is have these conversations openly with our son and hope that our neighborhood and police staff are better people than the ones we so often see on the news. What I do know is that I can teach my son about Black culture, I can take him places where he sees kids and families that look like him, I can make him food that I learned to make from passed down recipes, I can involve him in activities where he feels proud to be a Black boy. What I can’t carry solely on my shoulders is his quality of education.
The sacrifices we make
Since before my son was born, I was deeply invested in his future. One thing that has always been extremely important for my husband and me is making sure we do all we can now to give our son every opportunity to live a happy, healthy, and successful life. One of the things that have made a huge impact on our own success is the education my husband and I have had. While we grew up extremely different, we both understand that knowledge truly is power.
My husband is from Ghana, and his mom spent years away from her family in America saving up every dollar she could so that both of her sons could go to college in America. For my husband, he knows he is lucky to be here and that not everyone gets the same opportunities that he got. Education was important to his mother, and she made big sacrifices to make sure he could do what he wanted. We also want to pass the opportunities down to our son, so we also need to make sacrifices.
For us, raising our son in a predominantly white suburban neighborhood is a sacrifice, especially these days. While the coverage of George Floyd’s death is already beginning to die down, this is still very much a reality that many Black families have to face every day. We know that by moving our family to a better neighborhood with a good school district, our son may be treated unfairly not only in his front yard but also while in school. But unfortunately, this is a risk that our family, and many Black families, must face.
The realities we must face
The fact that this is a decision that many Black families and amilies of color are having to grapple with is yet another example of the inequalities that still exist in this country. Black families simply want basic human rights such as fair housing and good education. Yet, we sometimes have to put our lives on the line to get one or the other, and still not get both. Our son is one of the sweetest kids you’ll ever meet. Every day I look at him and wonder what he’ll be like in a few years. What will be his favorite subject in school? Will he play soccer, join the swim team, or try out for basketball? Will he be a writer like his mom? Or maybe go into finance like his dad?
I’m looking forward to seeing him blossom, and I’m so glad we were able to give him the best running start at all of these opportunities by planting him in a safe neighborhood with a good school district. As for the diversity part of his life, we will teach and show him all we know through reading books, having open conversations, spending time with family, traveling to inclusive destinations, and always telling him that being Black is an honor to wear proudly every day.