True, many have learned the shallowness of judging someone by the color of their skin and know that generalizing the characteristics of an individual to an entire race is wrong. Yet, prejudice remains an issue in today’s modern society.
In this modern era, as knowledgeable and connected as we claim to be, another brand of prejudice — based on economic status — seems more prevalent.
Though it has long been present, I feel we in the United States have been more reluctant to admit that “the land of the free, and the home of the brave” actually does have a class system.
The mention of high-occupancy apartments, townhomes or even the thought of “trailer homes” coming to an established neighborhood has packed out meeting rooms to oppose the rezoning that would make such a development possible.
I have never owned my own home. Yes, I’m a renter. I have rented ever since I moved to this town I happily call home.
In today’s climate many my age are slower to “put down roots” with the weight of a mortgage. However, I have some good friends who are an exception and are happy homeowners.
But even as beautiful, expensive luxury apartment complexes bookend our town, renting still seems to have a stigma in established neighborhoods where everyone else owns their home.
Many have only praise for the established luxury apartment complex, yet renters of townhomes or duplexes seem to be viewed in a different light by society.
Just because a townhome or a duplex is built near an established area does not mean one needs to say, “There goes the neighborhood.”
I heard someone say once that everyone has prejudices they struggle with. The comment made me cringe, hoping that it wasn’t possible. But, certain stereotypes seem reinforced in popular television and news. I find that yes, it is a struggle sometimes to see someone for who they are, not just what you assume by the way they dress, how they look or where they live.
I have always said just because people in a neighborhood may be of a lower income does not automatically mean that area will be high in crime or unkept.
Crime is created by people’s choices. Crime is stopped by people’s choices. A neighborhood is created by people’s choices. A neighborhood can be destroyed by people’s choices.
Beautification or decimation is a choice.
Neighborhoods that band together are something to be valued in a time when many do not know their neighbors.
For the first time in my adult life, I know my neighbors by name and am forming a friendship. My neighbor is the opposite of a renter stereotype. Rather than detract from the neighborhood, she has enhanced it. Solar-powered lights now line her sidewalk and other homey touches can be seen.
My previous neighbors at this location, however, were the kind that give the rest of us a bad name.
So, if everyone struggles with generalizing from stereotypes, then how do we combat it?
Knowledge has long been touted as the cure for prejudice and stereotypes. So, as we as a community find the urge to say, “all renters are this …” or “all people of that ethnicity act such-and-such a way …” maybe the answer is getting to know more people who belong to the class or ethnicity we are generalizing.
A positive stereotype is Asians are always smart and good at music. While I’ve known many Asians who were indeed musically gifted, I also have had friends who were not.
The same is true of negative stereotypes. Not all renters leave their townhomes or duplexes trashed or in disrepair. (The condition of a house can also be influenced by a landlord’s lack or commitment to maintenance. However, that is another column for another day. Suffice it to say, I have had a positive experience.)
Renting is truly gaining in popularity and the reasons people choose to rent are now more varied than simply cost. With the population of renters changing, maybe those of us who do care can make a good name for renters of nonluxury apartments by the choices that we make.
I believe part of the stigma connected to renters comes from the idea that we are transient and never stick around very long. Again, while that is true for many, it is not true for all.
I stayed at my last apartment for two years and have lived in my current neighborhood for nearly a year.
To combat this stigma, fellow renters, get to know your neighbors, whether they rent, own, lease, whatever. By showing that we care about where we live, we can change the way other neighborhoods think about renters.