And just as black families of all incomes remain handicapped by a lack of wealth, so too do they remain handicapped by their restricted choice of neighborhood. Black people with upper-middle-class incomes do not generally live in upper-middle-class neighborhoods. Sharkey’s research shows that black families making $100,000 typically live in the kinds of neighborhoods inhabited by white families making $30,000.
As much as I enjoyed Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Case for Reparations, I found myself really thinking about and appreciating Carlos Javier Ortiz’s photos of North Lawndale which accompanied the article.
Ortiz’s website suggests that he’s more into social justice photojournalism—lots of people and getting into the thick of things in proper Robert Capa fashion—but these aren’t that kind of photo. Nor are they mining the textures of poverty and decay for superficial appeal and authenticity.
These photos illustrate how different Black America is from White America even today but do it in a way that references a lot of the photos I associate with White America—especially the way the New Topographics looks at the built environment. They also point out a glaring blind spot in Looking at the Land and the concept of what we mean by 21st-century American views.*
*Note: I love both the New Topographics and Looking at the Land.