A painting of me

Out of Existence

   2 April 2007, mid-morning

The people in Harlem know they are living there because white people do not think they are good enough to live anywhere else. No amount of “improvement” can sweeten this fact. Whatever money is now being earmarked to improve this, or any other ghetto, might as well be burnt. A ghetto can be improved in one way only: out of existence.
— James Baldwin, “Fifth Ave, Uptown: A Letter from Harlem”

I’ve been going through James Baldwin’s non-fiction work. I finished Notes of a Native Son last week, which is excellent, and have started on Nobody Knows My Name, which looks to be even better. Both books are collections of essays he did before the civil rights movement really got underway. The quote above comes from an essay Baldwin wrote for Esquire. This essay is excellent. If you can track it down I recommend you read it. James Baldwin is the best writer America has produced yet.

I wonder if Shima and her planner friends are required to read essays by Baldwin and other people who have lived in the ghettos they aim to improve. My guess is no. Shima seemed a bit disappointed in what was going to be done with Regent Park. I also felt it was more of the same, but really, what do I know? I thought of the quote from Baldwin above while reading the following in the Globe:

Flemingdon Park is one of 13 so-called “priority neighbourhoods” identified by the city for targeted funding by the municipal government, social agencies and other groups. Over the next four years, the city plans to add an extra $13-million for these neighbourhoods.
Wall of silence breached in Toronto revenge killing.

After 50-60 years of failed government housing here in Canada and in the US, you would think they might want to try something different.



  1. What are the chances our society would actually become even remotely more socialist, or more egalitarian? We’ve already been infected by that suburban disease that makes people fear other people, that fosters apathy towards others.

    My little venting session.

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