For the third time in the past year I have seen the ugliness of racism, elitism, and class distinction rear its head in our community. Let me explain.
Last year the city received numerous calls and emails about a small, proposed basketball court that we wanted to install at Desert Rose Park. Desert Rose Park is a small city park nearly under the I-15, and adjacent to the Desert Rose Subdivision. We were clearly told by some of the residents that it was their park and they did not want kids from nearby neighborhoods using the facility. They, of course, didn’t use any racial terms, but just called them, “those kids”. The residents thought the shooting of baskets would disrupt their peace and quiet. At least that’s what they claimed. Untrue as you can’t hear much of anything except traffic noise.
The second incident was meaner, raising the issue of, “those people”, who might come from the other side of town to use Redd Hills Park, another city owned park. The adults I encountered there were far more direct when I was told we don’t want Mexicans here on our property. In fact, I was told by one of the residents it wasn’t my concern as it wasn’t my neighborhood. I happen to live just up the street.
Last week got really ugly when I, as well as our council, received e-mails about the area across from the elementary school about the possible workforce housing planned for the vacant property. The property was zoned single-family low-density housing and would have had to have a zone change. Sometime back, we allowed Clark County School District to use the property for the drop-off and pick-up of their school children. We offered the property for sale or lease to the district, but it never got anywhere. This was our mistake, as we need at a minimum an agreement for liability purposes from the district.
As we grow as a city, we all know we need workforce housing if we are to attract new business to Mesquite. We know we are badly lacking in affordable rentals or homes. I’m not talking about Section 8 housing for those barely able to get by or those receiving government assistance, but housing for the many skilled workers Mesquite will need that are not making twenty dollars an hour and up but need a respectable place to live. A great many of these workers would have children that would probably attend the school.
What we heard from many of those with children attending the school was just plain racist and class defining. Rather than say it outright, it was the usual, “we don’t want those people here”, especially so close to our school. They will spend the day looking out at the children as they play and so forth. I don’t think so.
It took the Supreme Court in 2015 to make it easier for advocates to use the Fair Housing Act to integrate communities and dissolve the racial and economic lines dividing them. Maybe not in Mesquite. I guess we need more than a court decision. We need to change attitudes. Everyone has the right to live where they can afford. Having less than others is not a crime. It does not mean that you are better than someone because you have more money, and can afford a more expensive place to live.