HBO’s Show Me a Hero, which ended last night, cuts right to the stereotypes about public housing: It breeds crime and hatred toward the police, tenants don’t want anything better in their lives, surrounding property values go down. The six-part miniseries is based on a true story. In the 1980s, a court mandated that the city of Yonkers, N.Y., build public housing units in predominantly white neighborhoods. On the show, we see white residents and politicians vocally — and sometimes violently — oppose the judge’s decision. Housing poor black and brown people is fine as long as it’s in segregated ghettos. White neighbors use code words to mask their fears — until episode four, when someone finally clearly expresses the underlying sentiments by scrawling “nigger” on the new construction. Even if the housing is going to be built, the new neighbors won’t be welcomed.
Such stigmas didn’t go away after Ronald Reagan left office or after the Yonkers public housing got built, and cities still wrestle with the right way to provide housing to low-income folk. Which is why the editors behind this spring’s Public Housing Myths: Perception, Reality, and Soc... Read more