J. Cole was renting a house a in a wealthy (white) neighborhood in the ‘burbs. A SWAT team soon found its way there and kicked the door in. Having seen a parade of black artists and producers come through, Cole reasoned the neighbors thought he was selling dope. This is the sort of racism black people face daily but I only have a small degree of sympathy for Cole. He is like so many black people in America, that hate battling this type of racism but continue to confront it daily because of their need to always be near white people. Cole did not have to subject himself to constant harassment and the intrusion of a SWAT team. He could have easily bought–as opposed to rented–a much larger home in a black neighborhood for less or invested in several properties and had rent paid to him. If we as black people could ever free ourselves from the belief that we need to be around white folks all the time, we’d save ourselves a lot of headache and have a lot more money.
It is not excusable that Cole’s neighbors automatically assumed he was a drug dealer, simply because he was black and could afford to rent in a wealthy neighborhood. Still, what about that experience was ultimately good for Cole? The constant stares? The SWAT team busting the door down and searching his home? Or could it be the much higher price he paid to rent in that neighborhood versus what he would have paid to rent (or buy) a comparable home in a black neighborhood? He lost money, peace and a door. Cole is no different than the rest of us. We know that our dollar will go further if we buy in a black neighborhood but too many of us avoid it. Is it because home values appreciate more in white neighborhoods? That is true but once a neighborhood becomes more than 10 percent black the trend reverses; so unless you love being the only ink dot in the neighborhood, why bother? Conversely, I have a family members who bought a 5,000 square foot home in a black neighborhood that would have easily cost three times more if it were situated in one of the hottest (white) neighborhoods in the city. The savings has put them in a position to retire years sooner and more importantly, freed up thousands of dollars which can now be used to invest.
Investing is the key. Perhaps J. Cole and other black celebrities are far too recognized in black neighborhoods to live there peacefully. There may be other reasons why black people will choose to not live in black neighborhoods. Still, investing in black neighborhoods should be prioritized regardless of your address. Magic Johnson is a good example. After retiring from the NBA he became a business mogul. Magic Johnson Enterprises has always maintained, however, a keen focus on investing in underserved neighborhoods, where people of color live. From restaurants to staffing and investing services, Magic has put a good deal of effort into making things happen where other investors have not. He has also made a priority of hiring black women at the highest levels of his company. Does Magic also make tons of money outside of underserved neighborhoods? Sure. Even so, he has found a way to make profits investing and creating jobs in his own community and has made that a priority for his business. Investing in black communities is cheaper and the need is certainly there so it just makes sense.
It is true that people choose to buy or rent in any given neighborhood for all sorts of valid reasons. Further, I cannot tell anyone how to spend their money. But what cannot be denied is a long history and conditioning that black people still suffer from that makes us believe white is inherently better and more desirable. This is white supremacy and we still wrestle with it. Whether we are looking for somewhere to live, play or invest, we tend to lose out on money and peace simply because we have been trained to steer away from our own people and that must stop. We must love ourselves enough to invest in ourselves. J. Cole just gave us a valuable lesson.