Moving and Prejudice

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.” -Abe

A few weeks ago, Feraz and I went to DC to look for a place to live. I went in with a twenty-two point checklist that I have been drafting in my mind since I was six. I have always wanted my own home and although we are just renting, this is the first place I will ever live in that everything in it will be mine. The excitement levels were off the charts.

Soon after we arrived to DC, my twenty-point list was given a reality check akin to what someone might experience when entering the marriage market.
On the second day of searching for apartments, we found something that we liked right next to the JCC. There was no exposed brick, no loft, no modern kitchen… in fact it was a basement apartment. I cringed at the thought! But at the time, it was the best we had seen and we felt good as we drove to our next viewing.
Not knowing the streets of DC very well, I booked the next appointment in a place we probably wouldn’t have ordinarily considered. As we drove past broken windows, boarded up buildings, out-of-business commercial properties and lots of people loitering outside, I groaned that we would have to keep the appointment but we should probably just consider the apartment we had already seen.
We arrived at the rowhouse which looked nice enough on the outside. But inside. My God, the inside was beautiful. Amazing hardwood floors throughout. A massive kitchen with an over sized oven. A dining room which I could put my beautiful green hutch in.
It was love. But like with the sissy desi kid who walks away from the one girl he ever really lowed because he knows his parents will never approve, I left the house not even considering it. I laughed to Feraz that we had a perfect location with the first place and a perfect apartment with this place- now we just had to find both things in one package. And by laughed, I mean I cried.
The next morning I woke up at the crack of dawn (being about 10 am for me) and did what any reasonable person would do. I called the Metropolitan Police Department. Lo and behold! There is a service, available here where you can find a crime map for any address in DC. The crime statistics for the address we were worried about were considerably lower than the other areas we were looking in like Chinatown and comparable to Dupont, which was originally our ideal location. After that, our decision was made and we never looked back.
Although we have made some progress, classism, racism and elitism still rule the day. I see it in many people in my profession and even in peers. I think as young professionals we all are so busy trying to look impressive, to have the right address, and to believe in some false sense of security that we shirk our responsibilities to our communities. This is especially relevant for us Michigan folk. Take Detroit for instance. It can be something glorious but we have to be the architects of that change. Recently some of my friends have moved to Detroit in an effort to do something about a problem most of us Michiganders just like to complain about. They have made a choice to be agents of change in that community. They have inspired me to do something in my new home. This is a city where people make a point to avoid certain streets but simultaneously complain about how gentrification is pushing poor people out. We lament that this is the capital of one of the greatest nations and to just look at it as we put on our suits and try not to make eye contact with anyone who might look poor.
I don’t know how you reduce poverty, how you increase integration or generally make the world a better place. But I do know that if we are going to move forward as a civilization, we have to think deeply and we have to think honestly about what dictates the choices we make.

On that Wednesday morning, we made the decision to take the place in the neighborhood that initially almost made us turn our car right around. Having moved here, I know that we made the right choice.

sumeera

7 comments

  1. you had me swooning at this part:

    My God, the inside was beautiful. Amazing hardwood floors throughout. A massive kitchen with an over sized oven.

    oh, it sounds SO BEAUTIFUL! and i am truly so inspired by the deliberate choice you and feraz made, to live in a neighborhood which may not "look" the most elegant or fancy or upper-class, or whatever, and instead choose it because your presence there may, somehow, one day, help create/enhance the community and beauty there. you — and your friends in michigan — are making a wonderful choice. i, too, am inspired to think about stepping outside my comfort zone in the next place i choose to live.

  2. yasmine- thanks for the super sweet comments. i feel that if someone took the energy and effort to invest in this home and community by making it beautiful then i want to support that even if in such a simple way. mainly though, i hope by being here we won't become yuppy detached people who think the world is nothing more than happy hours, dinners and other meaningless social events. turkey and london are over… for now!

  3. I am really glad to read all about your new home! But there is only one downside of all this that you had to leave my smelly City to start new adventure of yours… May Allah facilitate everything on your way for you!

  4. "…as young professionals we all are so busy trying to look impressive, to have the right address, and to believe in some false sense of security that we shirk our responsibilities to our communities. "

    i love…and totally agree

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