Reactions to Philly’s status as one of the most racially segregated cities in the country.
It’s your girl, P.O.C.! Philadelphia is the 2nd most segregated city in the US. Our population is roughly half Black and half white, but sharp lines still exist between neighborhoods, where racial makeup is strongly related to differences in income, healthcare, literacy, and more. Chestnut Hill for example is only 2 miles from Germantown, but it’s like a whole different world.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Philly has a long history of segregation – we’ve been one of the country’s most racially-divided big cities since 1980! And with many parts of the city seeing rapid gentrification, it seems neighborhoods aren’t being integrated, but rather swapping one racial group for another.
Chronic underinvestment and discriminatory practices have left many non-white neighborhoods with under-performing schools, food deserts, crime.… Indeed, the rash of gun violence the City has been experiencing occurs mostly in the same zip codes where there is also poverty, unemployment, and social trauma.
It’s hard to think of one single factor that impacts a person’s life more than where they live. It affects where you work and go to school, who your friends are, where you hang out and spend your money. It shapes your goals and expectations. Also the resources and opportunities available to you. It’s even a part of your self-image – how you see yourself, and how the world sees you.
What does it mean, when two populations occupy such parallel lives that are so different from each other? I hit the streets to ask residents, Does the lack of integration in Philly make you Mad or Nah?
Neighbors sound off! NOTE: Some speakers provide their names & neighborhoods, some don’t. Check out their voices in the original recorded interviews, transcribed here:
- I live in South Philly, so I personally can see some of it. When it comes to ethnicity, race and stuff like culture. So I do see it. Do I see a change? It just all comes to acceptance of other people. But there is evident segregation and like, racial divide within this population. I’ve been in Philly my whole live and do see it, to the present day. – Ryan, South Philadelphia
- Definitely makes me mad! I’ve been mad for years, because it’s been happening forever. I mean, it’s just an ongoing process. It’s like they’re moving us out to try to move back in when they left in the first place, so… I think it’s all money. They just want to be closer to downtown because that’s where they work at, man, they try to push us to the suburbs now. But nah, we got to stand up, you know, the minorities. Cause when we can’t pay our taxes, then they take over our property, then they sell it and put their people in! — Resident, West Mt Airy
- I think gentrification in general is kind of bittersweet, right? I think that yes, it’s good to fix up neighborhoods that you know, where, historically there may have been a lot of violence, but it’s also pushing out residents who have lived there for years and years and years. And, you know, raising taxes to the point where they can afford to live in the houses that they’ve pretty much worked their entire lives to pay off or, you know, are still working to pay off. I think we need to do more to bridge the gap between, you know, young, old rich poor black, white, I think it’s important for us to, to come together as a community. And then hopefully, with that comes, you know, more integration and being able to live closer together and less segregation less pocketed communities. — Molly, East Falls
- Well, I am new to the city. I moved here in like August 2020. And I really have enjoyed the city, but my partner goes to Penn, and it’s so obvious how much Penn is taking over, like all of that area of West Philly. So It like makes me sad knowing that, like, my experience of Philadelphia is like, just kind of the experience of gentrification, — Margot, Center City
- It’s not fair because they’re pushing black folks out. Where we gonna go? They’re taking houses, they’re taking churches. That’s my comment. – Resident, Wynnefield
- I think the government needs to be taking care of our residents. There are a lot of homeless in Philadelphia right now, they need to be better cared for. – Resident, Delco (employed in the city)
- Does it make me mad…? No, because anger will come from a place of surprise. I mean, this is America, where racism is nothing new. Capitalism is nothing new. Segregation, discrimination, prejudice is nothing new. – Resident, Philadelphia
How ‘Bout You?
Mad or Nah is an original woman-on-the-street interview series from REVIVE Radio that asks Philadelphians about issues impacting their everyday life. This edition originally aired October 27, 2021 on WHYY.com and on 90.9FM.
Tamara Russell aka Proof of Consciousness aka P.O.C. hosts and produces a variety of award-winning shows featured on Uptown Radio 98.5FM and Philly’s WHYY/NPR/PBS outlets. Read more in our feature on this multi-talented motivator, Wouldn’t It Be NICE? (June 2021).