NIMBY….it is a concept that rears it’s ugly head too often in the American social culture.

While many will agree, in theory, certain things need to be accomplished for the betterment of society as a whole; too often those same people will complain and argue profusely IF that public good or social program will actually be in their own community.

I raise this subject today, because this morning, when I opened my morning newspaper, The Buffalo News,  the headline which greeted me was “NOT in My Backyard”.   The story went on to detail a report conducted by the University of Buffalo about suburban economic segregation and discrimination that is going on in the region where I live, and I suspect goes on in other areas as well.

According to the report many Erie county suburbs are “rife with discrimination and segregation”.  The number of stereotypes about the poor, minorities and the disabled of many suburban residents and their leaders creates an exclusionary atmosphere which makes providing affordable housing projects and objectives difficult to enact and thus makes it difficult, if not outright impossible for many of modest means to improve their living situations and gain access to safer communities and schools.

It doesn’t take much to make the leap that if there are such barriers in housing  they extend to other areas as well, such as employment opportunities, which in our region, as well as many others in the nation, ALSO moved to the suburbs.

While there are small enclaves in the region that buck this trend, those are not the norm and are unusual.  Finding these few enclaves and gaining access to them is also difficult, as they are small and not very transitory, thus people in those areas don’t tend to move often and thus available housing in those areas is limited.


It is rather covert form of discrimination and unless someone lives in the area and understands how things work they may not realize this truth to be reality.   Things are often said behind closed doors or when not in mixed company that tell the TRUE story of what is behind much of these policies and actions of the people in the communities involved.  Unless one has access to those closed door or behind the scenes discussions, one would not realize the extent of the ingrained social racism that is evident to those who DO have such access.

There is a local ‘joke’  in some circles, that if one lives in one tony suburb in WNY ( where our pro football team’s stadium resides)  one should not be driving or living in that town IF one is of color WITHOUT a Bills jersey on…sadly, there is too much truth to that statement.  Very few African Americans or other minorities live in that town other than professional football players. It is well known in the region, that if one is a minority, they probably shouldn’t be driving through that town unless it’s game day,  especially at night or risk being pulled over for ‘driving while black’.

Recently, I was talking with a new professor at my school, who is NOT from the area. She recently moved here and has never lived in the region before.  She is obviously not ‘lily white’.  When she moved to the region she chose to live near the school she is teaching at, due to weather and driving concerns.  That would be a logical step for her to take, however, when some local people asked her WHY she chose to live in that town…she didn’t understand the question or why it would be a problem.  She actually told the story herself and was the one who mentioned that  she herself didn’t understand, at FIRST, what they were trying, nicely to tell her.  As she is a cultural anthropologist, it took her a minute, after asking some pertinent questions, to figure out what was REALLY meant.  She, who is well educated and understands cultural biases and social issues very well, didn’t realize that the area she moved into is not known for it’s acceptance of those of different ethnic backgrounds, imagine how it would be for someone without such training!

The concepts that lead to such social and cultural exclusions, are ingrained in many within our American culture and the election of a Black man into the White house has done nothing to alleviate these problems, in some ways it’s actually brought these issues back to the forefront and has shed more light on the subtleties of discrimination and how it creates different classees of people, both socially and economically.

These social and economic class issues are at the heart of many of our national problems and probably are a contributing factor that keeps the likes of the Koch brothers and Sarah Palin able to continue their divisive tactics that simply keep us from uniting as a people and seeing one another as human beings first, Americans second  and whatever else one maybe should be a far third or fourth on the list.

WE are all human beings, regardless of sex, social class, state and town of residence, economic status, educational or ethnic background or religious affiliation.  As residents of this nation we are ALL Americans…again regardless of the above subcategories.  The subcategories should not matter as much as the TWO primary categories.  When we allow people to divide us along these subcategory lines and create barriers based on these lines we do a disservice to ourselves, our nation and our progeny.

I urge everyone to take stock of their own divisions and make an effort to try and recognize them and address them for the betterment of us all.

The concept of NIMBY in most cases, is just not justified and actually hurts the whole for the benefit of a few.


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For the last 21 years, I worked in international trade as a licensed customs broker, international freight forwarder and international trade consultant. I ended up in that business after having studied Journalism and communication in college. (Strange how that worked) Over the last 3 years I have been trying to change my life and my career, so I left my job, returned to school and am on the last leg of completing my Bachelor's of Science in Business Administration and Economics, and am planning on going on for my masters in International Business. It might seem odd that I decided to formally study the business I was in for 21 years...but there is a reason for that... I hope to teach and write on the subject in the future. I'm a mother of 2 young adults and have many hobbies; reading, researching, writing, blogging, decorating, are my current favorites.

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The Divide and conquer strategy that has now become part of the normal American culture and used by our politics and corporates for selling us candidates and products seems to me the core of the problem..
We have a clear prejudice against the poor..Our bankers target and prey on the poor. Keep us divided and mistrustful of our fellow citizens because they are “different” therefore the company store is the only place left to go… Add that to the Banking Mafias engineered culture that states if you don’t have a credit score (been in dept to the banks) you are barred from doing business or even left homeless.. The system actually goes as far as to punishes anyone not a serf to the system..
Its been cleverly designed this way purposefully. And many people fall into the hole for no fault of their own. loos a job or get sick. We have a full out criminal class running governments and these financial institutions that are engineering all of this…And in the 60’s when some of our last great leaders knew what was wrong and had dedicated themselves to fixing it i am convinced the power and control people ruthlessly put a stop to it.



On the other hand there are developers who have mixed low income and previously homeless people with wealthy people who pay top dollar to live with them.


Ques – that is the goal, it seems to work, but you have to pull teeth with some (most) developers to get this done. Our county just voted to ELIMINATE what had been a mixed-income requirement from the housing code. Another part of class warfare.


Abby – you aren’t going to believe this, but I lived in Buffalo, too. You are very correct about the issues that divide the suburbs and city. I lived in the city, Elmwood corridor, and the area around Linwood, Delaware, Main were where ALL the services for those in need were located. I must say that people who opted to live downtown or south of Hertel were pretty good about it all – part of the urban fabric etc. But we all knew we were top heavy because – gasp – you could not put “those” people “out here with US” in the upscale burbs. Oh there were some thing – homes for people with developmental disabilities – but always along Sheridan etc. which were commercial districts.

I was near the state college and thus the psych center. It was not uncommon to find someone passed out on the front lawn, overdosed on Thorazine and released for day walks. Day walks meant walking around and around and around our block for hours – or falling down. Whatever came first. The day release people had a little money and often headed for a beer they carefully carried in a brown bag. And with years and years of all this, you know how much trouble we had? None.

In the whole time I lived in the city, I never had ANY problems with anyone at all except in the first neighborhood where we had two shootings. (Lower West Side, for your geographic orientation.) Why did we have the shootings? Because suburban white kids came into our neighborhood and tried to steal stuff. So my NIMBY attitude became – you white people stay out of our neighborhood, and we wouldn’t HAVE these problesm! BTW – I’m white.

Yes, the burbs are pretty, especially the ones north and south. I’d love to have lived there for the houses and trees, but NOT for the people. People who run away from racial diversity have NO idea what a good neighbor really is. The reason I got my house was because a bi-racial couple moved next door. Then another down the street. The family fled, I got the house, and it was 16 of the best years ever. The neighborhood was entirely diverse, had lots of kids of all races, and in all that time – ALL that time – I never heard a fight or even argument save one. That was when my little neighbor loftily told a new girl, “If you want to play with us, you have to play NICE.” That was it. The older kids looked after the younger, the games were non-stop and fun, and my front porch in the summer was littered with children of various ages, ethnicities, backgrounds who just came over to talk with me. I’ve never been happier. We had block parties, moveable feasts, and work parties. It was a joy. That is a sense of belonging you will never get in the burbs.

The university has no public transit because people fear “they” will come out from downtown, steal things, and flee by subway. Uh huh. “They” don’t have cars? OK – I do know of one dimwit who once stole a TV and got arrested waiting for the bus, but that was ONE.

Race as a fear factor mystifies me. I volunteered for a campaign years ago for a sitting city councilman from Masten (the one before Byron) and was often the only white person in the room. I’ve never had more fun or laughed harder than the nights we’d be wrapping up, and the people would start telling stories from their past. It was right out of August Wilson – and I’m honored to have been part of it. It was sheer joy.

I’ve never understood the fear of “the other” that permeates so much of our society. Race and ethnicity mean exactly what height does in terms of whether I do or do not like someone. People ask me am I not self conscious with Black people? Sure – when I don’t know them. Just as I am in a room of men as the only woman or tall blondes as the only not-tall brunette. It’s unfamiliarity, not race per se, that makes things awkward. Get to talking with somone, it’s not an issue.

So when NIMBY dovetails with race, Abby – it’s just stupid and ugly. Having social services is not the same as having a fat rendering plant next door. And it’s not like having your quiet neighborhood trashed with a McMansion. It would be easier on everyone if we parcelled them out, did NOT concentrate them, made access easier for people needing those services who lived in the burbs.

But self segregation and fear are all we know. Because we never got to know “the others”. NIMBY is also loss.


There’s one thing that binds a small town together and that’s because everyone knows everyone else. I went back to my hometown to care for my mother for three years and worked at the hospital because there’s no where else to work! I’m talking under 20K with one high school and no matter how long you’ve been gone people remember you. What you do have is a class structure but you’ve all been mixing it up since elementary school so the boundaries are blurred. You don’t see the lines as divided as you do in the city. You see plenty of problems with kids and drugs and drop out rates but there is some kind of bonding that takes place in that “hick” town in Indiana that I can’t explain.


About 15-20 years ago (or less, it’s hard to keep track) my neighborhood in the San Fernando suburb of LA suddenly seemed to have a large influx is Latinos. I was cool with that. And there were the occasional local news story about that in some regard or other—nothing panicky or even particularly racist. Probably it was about the schools and about English as a second language vs bilingual education. I was fine with either, more or less. And a little time went by, and there were small markets that sprung up catering to the new clientele, and some small shops that sold quinceanera dresses. I liked that mix.

And then, one day I was driving and I noticed a bunch of billboards for businesses like McDonald’s and Sprint and some public service announcements and whatnot—and they were all in Spanish. All of a sudden, I was not OK with that. As I drove, I was thinking, “Wait a minute. This is MY neighborhood. And this is America, and the language we speak is English!” I was upset.

But I didn’t like that I thought that. And then it came to me: what do I mean by MY neighborhood anyway? How did these few square miles get to be “mine.” And even America—how’d that become “my” country? And don’t even start about California! My grandparents came here from Russia—maybe they should have been turned away, since it wasn’t “their” country. Who was I, when you get right down to it, to declare anything “mine?” I mean, aside from some property (that the bank owns) and a few personal belongings, was I going to leave that neighborhood to my heirs? HAH!

To be honest, I wasn’t immediately all blissed out about the signs in Spanish. But over the years they have become as normal to me as any other billboards—which are a kind of a blight in any language.


We have a little different problem here.. about fifty thousand registered sex offenders- about half in Central FL.
Every month, in the US, another thousand are released,
and I swear they are given a bus ticket and a map to FL. There are strict ordinances determining where they live(proximity to schools, churches and parks.) But every week, we hear of bus monitors, custodians, fry cooks,theme park workers and transients attempting to molest or abduct children. Many live in tents in wooded areas behind subdivions and recreational areas. These camps are huge- not just a few tents.. If there are 50,000 Registered offenders, how many more are Really here?
I live just outside an upscale suburb, behind an elementary school; there are 26 Registered offenders within 3 miles of my house.


People have an incredible need to belong. A need that has been exploited since the dawn of civilization. The easiest, most identifiable way to belong is race.

There is still debate as to how but we know that eventually we moved out of Africa and spread all across Europe and Asia. And from there to the Americas and many islands in between.

Different races evolved and there was never really any historical record to connect them to their beginnings. Ethnocentrism evolved as each race believed there’s to be the most important in existence. Their GODS ruled the skies,their customs were the norm.

It was still relatively cool when different cultures and races met. The evolution of racism can be tied closely with the evolution of organized religion. Just as race is the easiest way to identify and belong,it is also the easiest way to discriminate and divide.

Religion was closely associated with race back then and the demonizing of “foreign GODs” eventually led to the demonizing of the people who worshiped them. Stereotypes formed and prejudices were cemented along ideological lines.

Entire races of people were wiped from history by great empires who used these divisions to foment hatred and a perverted nationalism among their people. Religion became a justification to enslave people who “weren’t really people”. And on and on and on. Getting deeper and deeper.

Soon,groups with only slight racial distinctions began feuding with one another. Europeans. Asians. Latin Americans. Mostly on the belief that the “inferior race” should submit to the rule and customs of the other.

It’s so easy. We ALL want to belong. Caesar used it. England and America. Tojo in Japan. Hitler in Germany. Hussein in Iraq. Not always purely along religious lines but usually backed by them in some way. But always that idea of superiority.

I don’t know that it is reasonable to ever discuss “ending racism” until there are no longer any races. Or until we no longer create artificial divisions like religion,country, and wealth. It’s just so fucking easy.


Adonai, like George Carlin said, “We should all keep fucking until we’re all one color.”


KT, First off, great Carlin quote

And second, some scientists believe that is exactly what we’re doing!


Makes sense to me.

Pepe Lepew

A little off-topic because this isn’t about class or race, but when I was a small-town journalist, I felt like half of what I covered was NIMBYism.

Some NIMBYism is OK, like some wealthy asshat buying a parcel of land in a semi-rural neighbourhood and then attempting to build a helipad on the property, because he didn’t feel like landing his private helicopter at an airport three miles away. Or another guy who had a septic pumping business building septage treatment ponds on his property in a residential neighbourhood without any permits.

Some NIMBYism got pretty ridiculous. I’ll never forget some little old lady who wanted to convert her home into a two-bedroom B&B. The entire neighbourhood went berserk and made up a bunch of nonsense about traffic issues and not knowing who these people would be at the B&B. It turns out the homeowner’s association had the opportunity to prevent B&Bs through their CCRs, but explicitly declined to do so. So B&Bs were explicitly allowed by county zoning in residential zones. When they updated their zoning regs, no one — and no one from this neighbourhood — complained about B&Bs.

The county put conditions on her permit that she could only have four guests at a time and only two cars at a time. It didn’t appease the neighbourhood. This woman had to spend a couple of years in court because her neighbours all sued her. If it was such a big deal, why didn’t they insert something in their CCRs to begin with? It was just a handful of old farts fighting this woman because they didn’t want as many as (gasp) four “strangers” in their neighbourhood.

A couple of years later, a couple of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the little old lady filed an application for a B&B of their own.


I remember reading and seeing some history programs on the Green Bay Packers’ Black players experience in Green Bay. It was to say the least, surprising although probably not really.

I was told by more than one person in the legal system that I was fortunate to be white and male when I got in to a bit of a legal tangle many years ago. Raceism hangs on for deal life behind the scenes, and explodes when times get tough. This is another reason the American Taliban (Tea Party) is expanding.