What happened to our strong community?

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Susan Banks, One View

I certainly appreciate John W. Fountain's recent column urging college students to keep at it and beat the odds of generational poverty - and can definitely relate.

Sometimes I feel as if I am spiraling quickly into the dark abyss, with all of my hopes and dreams of doing well here dashed.

Like the author, I too am a product of the Austin community, went away to college and then on to law school - and earned another degree while earning my law degree.

Recently, I returned to the area to launch and promote a different kind of quality educational program for young children, but I am feeling like such an outsider here. I am hated on my block because I drive a luxury car and own the house where I operate a preschool and the property next door.

To my knowledge, I am the only owner on my block under age 40. Most of the older homeowners, primarily in their late 50s and 60s scowl at me and don't speak.

People over here are really envious and spiteful at the fact that I cut two whole lots of grass by myself and won't hire out the work to neighborhood people. I did this before, only to have very unwelcomed loitering at my property and flower pots stolen and busted, with the contents dumped onto my lawn.

Someone also broke in and flooded my basement when they stole my pipes. I was told there is value to the copper in the pipes.

I had an issue with my electricity after someone stuck a large wooden board into the power lines in the alley that provide electricity to my property.

I believe this is all because people do not like me because I am different from many of them. After seeing a male friend accompany me and help me at my property, young men have disrespected and harassed me because I spurn their inappropriate advances.

I know the Austin neighborhood and grew up in it, but I don't think many people over here really "get it." Instead, they get mad at others when they appear to do well. They look at me and see someone who "thinks she's better than us," but that's not it.

I wasn't raised to think I am better than anyone. I may have had some different experiences, but I certainly am not better than anyone else. I live in Austin too. My parents never even got a fourth grade education. They were from the South and worked all their lives.

I am also dealing with these issues when it comes to promoting my preschool. I would love to hire from the neighborhood, but I am reluctant to hire people who have 1.7 high school GPAs and promise to enroll in college soon but have been out of high school for years - or to hire people who are trying to dictate to me how to operate my business. They think it should be religion-based or "pro-black."

What they don't understand is that the Golden Rule is a foundation of the program and that quality education has no color attached to it. Children from all backgrounds are entitled to a great education.

All of this, I think, has prompted my yard to be trashed with Hennesey Black and Miller beer bottles and people allowing their pets to enter my yard to defecate when I am not home. Cameras and an alarm system have taken care of most of these issues, but there are deeper and more serious issues to address on behalf of a large majority of Austin residents who are misguided and ignorant.

Way back when, we used to have very strong community leaders and people who actually showed that they cared. Now all I see are a bunch of people who look the other way when wrongdoing is done.

I am referring to a lot of older owners on my block who see their relatives and their friends doing wrong but choose to look the other way. Never an admonishment or a word advising against the bad behavior. I guess it's easier to look the other way than to open your mouth to speak out against something wrong.

As a community, w need help, but I am not sure what kind of help that is. Is it more education? Parental involvement? Advice from more caring elders? The church? What? I'm tired of trying to figure it out.

Sometimes, I feel like many people who inhabit Austin do not want to be helped because when you know better, you are supposed to do better, right? I don't know that many want to or even believe they can do better.

Banks is an attorney and founder of the MindBloom Preschool of Chicago

austintalks.org@gmail.com

 

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