New York City does not need you

October 16, 2020

New York City’s “emptying” out is evidence of the disparities that have existed and that have been quietly celebrated by capitalists for decades. As article after article is published, detailing an exodus out of New York with which the right seems to have made a point to scapegoat Democrats, the truth about racial and economic inequalities is clearly revealed. 

Growing up in New York City, you learn very quickly about just how segregated the city still is. Neighborhoods and even blocks are oftentimes so neatly divided by race and class that NYC’s segregation problem is an inherent feature of our landscape. The projects of East Harlem, only blocks away from some of Manhattan’s most expensive apartments in the Upper East Side, show two opposite sides of life in New York City that are seemingly aligned in their existence. It’s also always been apparent that the white neighborhoods, whether it’s Riverdale in the Bronx, Whitestone in Queens, the Upper East Side of Manhattan or Park Slope in Brooklyn, are coincidentally better funded, better cared for and always protected even as they lie right next to some of the most underfunded and overpoliced non-white neighborhoods.

Our school system highlights this segregation to a gross extent. The best public high schools just “happen” to be in Manhattan’s neighborhoods and just happen to be the only ones that prioritize admitting students from just their district. Attending a public high school in non-majority white neighborhoods means going to a school with metal detectors, truancy vans policing students, school cops throughout floors and battered twenty-year-old textbooks. It’s not just a coincidence that it is these schools in the non-majority white neighborhoods with majority Black and brown students that have been underfunded and overpoliced. 

It is a clear and deliberate choice that the city’s Department of Education has made each and every effort to uphold racist policies that allow for this segregation and disparity to persist. NYC’s segregated public school system does not itself exist in a vacuum, because it is directly related to New York City’s housing segregation problem. New York City’s housing segregation is directly impacted by New York City’s segregated employment opportunities which have been made possible due to the systemic racism that exists in this country. So, when articles and news reports scream out that New York City’s white, wealthy Manhattan neighborhoods have been emptying out to upstate and Long Island, while coronavirus ravaged Black and brown neighborhoods, it is not surprising. What’s insulting is when the right deems this emptying out as the downfall of New York City, and not the exacerbation of capitalism’s obsession with keeping Black and brown New Yorkers in a segregated state.

After years of gentrification and the pushing out of minorities from the edges of the outer boroughs that look upon Manhattan, it is truly an instance of blatant hypocrisy and disrespect, that the white and rich of New York City hold the privilege to leave. The city thrives off of a system that marginalizes and exploits the outer boroughs’ minorities in order to simultaneously expand the wealth of its rich white population, and leeches off of the elite’s taxes. The only thing that coronavirus exposed to such a great extent when it caused white Manhattan neighborhoods to empty is that it has been supporting tax and social policy that exacerbate the disparities between rich and poor to a point of a racist and toxic symbiotic relationship. If those in charge of NYC, both economically and politically, truly held an interest in the welfare of its New Yorkers, they would focus on fixing our deliberately segregated system that is so clearly aimed at furthering this cycle of poverty and institutionalized racism.

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