On New Year’s Day, I had the pleasure of meeting with the legendary professor Linda Dallas, an accomplished painter and illustrator who teaches in the art department at St. Augustine’s University. We sat at the Starbucks on Peace Street and discussed how our city has grown and changed over the years—and at an ever-dizzying pace. As we talked about the transplants to Raleigh, she said something profound: “Many of the 60-plus people moving to the area are moving away from the very cities that Raleigh is trying to emulate. And many of those who are moving are people of color.”
Immediately, I knew this needed to be written about, this whitewashing of the future of Raleigh by our politicians and our media. Nearly 30 percent of Raleigh’s population is Black, and, along with every other minority group, it has grown since 2000. Experts estimate that people of color will be the majority of Raleigh’s population by as early as 2025.
But reading articles like those in the INDY’s 2040 Vision series would have you believe that Black and Latinx leaders will not exist 20 years from now, at least not any worthy of their own column. Out of the 13 contributors tackling topics like the future of housing, politics, art, and the robot apocalypse—not counting the sections on the future of the Triangle’s municipalities, which had multiple authors—there was only one person of color represented (shout-out to the realest, Zainab Baloch). Black culture was mentioned in the piece about hip-hop being a future subject of arts education, but it was written by a white man.
Similarly, The News & Observer recognized former DHIC executive director Gregg Warren as its 2019 Tar Heel of the Year but left out the fact that the DHIC was founded by Raleigh’s first and only Black mayor, Clarence Lightner, in 1974. It seems we didn’t exist as leaders in the past, either.
When you look at City Hall, the future is just as pale. Conversations about affordable housing are mostly referring to blue-collar workforce housing, meaning Raleigh’s teachers, first responders, and government workers—professions where there is a gross underrepresentation of Black and Brown people. And what about minimum-wage workers, single parents, and those on a fixed income? The city council and its staff have said multiple times that they are not focused on providing housing for residents who make 30 percent of the area median income or less. Raleigh developers are looking to build homes for the young singles, couples, and families moving to the area for tech industry jobs, a sector of the market that is predominantly white. But this group comprises a dwindling percentage of Raleigh’s actual projected population.
Why is this happening—the whitewashing and “rich-washing” of Raleigh’s future? Why are our government and media ignoring the proverbial writing on the wall?
I can’t speak to the intent of these entities, but the effect is that Raleigh’s Black community is being ignored, and they know it. Their needs are being swept under the rug, and they know it. Their knowledge and voices and perspectives are being shut out, and they know it.
Our city and county are full of Black people with fascinating and insightful perspectives on every topic covered in the Vision 2040 series.
Aaliyah Blaylock, creator of the Black Raleigh Facebook page, would have incredible insight regarding the future of media. There are two HBCUs in downtown Raleigh with professors and students who could share important perspectives on the future of education. Wanda Coker has been on the frontlines of the fight for fair and affordable housing and deserves a column all her own. Mike Williams, the creator of the Black on Black Project, is an authority on the Triangle’s arts scene and has a clear vision of its future that ought to be heard far and wide.
There were some brilliant minds represented in the 2040 Vision series, as there are in City Hall, but they do not accurately represent the diversity of Raleigh or Wake County. The great science-fiction novelist Octavia Butler said, “Whites represent themselves, and that’s plenty. Share the burden.”
Black people exist in Raleigh’s future, and the future is now.
COURTNEY NAPIER is a Raleigh native, community activist, and co-host of the podcast Mothering on the Margins.
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