Some time since (Oh, heck was it in 2005, ten years ago? So it was.) I mused on the concept of public space, both in the general sense – of a large city – and the smaller sense, of a neighborhood … that is, the place that we live in, have our gardens and our households, where we have neighbors who know us, where we jog, walk our dogs, take an interest – from the mild to the pain-in-the-neck over-interested and judgmental. If our homes are our castles, then the neighborhood is our demesne.
And unless we are complete hermits, home-owners will take an interest in the demesne. I state that without fear of contradiction, and it does not matter if that demesne is in a strictly-gated upper-middle or upper-class community with real-live 24-hour security, a private and luxurious clubhouse with attached pool and attractively-landscaped park or a simple ungated, strictly crisscrossed-streets and cul-de-sacs development of modestly-priced starter houses without any HOA-managed extras like golf courses, swimming pools, fitness centers, jogging paths – indeed, anything beyond a little landscaping around the sign denoting the entrance to the development. This is where our homes are, and at the lower end of the economic scale of things, likely to have consumed a major portion of disposable income on the part of the householder. A good portion of our material treasure, in other words, is committed to those foundation, walls, roof and yard.
Generally, the lower on the economic scale of things, the harder it is to liquidize and relocate elsewhere, when things go south, in a manner of speaking. People who have a paid-off mortgage and decades of residency in a neighborhood are anchored there by economics, at least as much by habit. If there is no buyer for that little house … then they are at least as stuck as the residents of a development where the average house runs to almost half a million when there are no buyers either. It’s just that the owners of the larger house are likely to have more in the way of tangible and intangible resources to start with. Generally the working-class or just barely middle-class home owners are liable to fight more fiercely for their neighborhood and regard any letting down of the standard with fear, disgust and loathing. Trashy, loud, inconsiderate neighbors, who let the landscape and home maintenance fall into arrears, who have noisy parties, invite large numbers of similarly trashy friends to them, appear to take pleasure out of flouting the written and unwritten community standards and making the lives of their nearest neighbors a misery – such residents are the bane of a convivial suburban neighborhood. Indeed, many residents of suburbia moved from stack-a-prole city apartment blocks to get away from that kind of neighbor at least as much as for the free-standing house, gardens, trees, and HOA amenities.
Which brings me around by easy stages to McKinney, Texas, and a sprawling suburb development called Craig Ranch, whose open park space and gated private HOA-owned pool have wound up being ground zero in the latest racial outrage. (Complete rundown, including analysis of the social media of the young woman who seems to be making a career out of throwing a succession of raucous parties is here. Scroll down – about the only question I haven’t seen answered yet is if she is reporting any of the income from this to the IRS…) Somehow, though – I just don’t think that the flying company of race agitators are going to get very much more mileage out of this affair. This is not a marginal to failing neighborhood like Ferguson, or an almost entirely black one like Baltimore. Craig Ranch seems to be about what you would expect from a neighborhood in Texas where the houses run $400,000; about three degrees more upscale than my own, but not anywhere near the eye-wateringly exclusive level of San Antonio’s Dominion neighborhood. It also seems to reflect the same racial balance nationally, as it is about 11% of color. So, not overwhelmingly, vibrantly diverse … but not exclusively white, either. These are home-owners who have resources of their own, and an HOA with presumably strict rules. Getting into their faces with the usual displays of racial grievance and demands that their employers fire them will, I think, be counterproductive. People who have paid $400,000 for their house and lord knows how much in HOA fees for the privilege of enjoying their castle and demesne … no, I can’t see them being bullied very much beyond what they have been already, although it does look as if the city of McKinney itself has caved.
(Cross-posted at www.ncobrief.com)