The primal desire to stick with one’s own.

From NPR’s story Being With People Like You Offers Comfort Against Death’s Chill about an immigrant from India who developed a retirement community in Florida for other Indians (highlighting mine):

“It’s a gated community where you will be living with people of your own cultural background,” Iggy says in one of the YouTube advertisements for the complex.

So I went down to Florida to find out if the people had bought out of some primal desire to stick with their own. And if so, was that OK? What if you flipped this and this is like one of those country clubs that only let in white men?

That comparison is unfair, Ignatius says. “We would let anybody in.”

But no one at ShantiNiketan was shy about admitting that part of what everyone was paying for was being around people like them.

NPR puts a whole lot of spin on this story and dances around the fundamental conclusion, but it’s an interesting article anyway and worth reading.

5 thoughts on “The primal desire to stick with one’s own.

  1. This is nothing new; it’s just a more formal version of the ethnic neighborhoods that have flourished since the 19th century.

    The area of nortern NJ where I’m from is still largely comprised of such neighborhoods: Polish, Irish, Jewish, Italian, etc. There’s no gate preventing people outside of the majority group from settling there — and the neighborhoods are slowly becoming more integrated as fewer people can afford to live in NYC and settle in NJ instead — but people tend to still feel comfortable living where others share their culture.

    Of course, gentrification has fed into the mix as developers have bought large parcels of real estate in some working-class neighborhoods (Jersey City and Hoboken come to mind) and turned it into expensive condos and apartments which has driven the working-class people out.

    On a personal note, it was nice growing up in a place where I could get Italian meatball mix (equal parts beef, veal, and pork) at the local butcher and homemade ravioli and Italian pastries at the bakery. On Sundays the streets smelled like tomato sauce (or gravy as Italians call it) because that’s what everyone was having for dinner.

    Now I live in a small New England town where Italians are a small minority and our culture is foreign to most people outside of the stereotypes they see in mob movies. If you want Italian specialties, you have to make them yourself and people sometimes compliment me on my “exotic” good looks and ask about my nationality, which would have never happened in my hometown.

    As far as white/black neighborhoods are concerned I think that oftentimes when blacks move into a traditionally white neighborhood it’s because real estate prices have decreased making them more affordable. Whites see it as a sign that the neighborhood has gone downhill and move out en masse, which makes prices fall even further. Then more poor people move in and suddenly there’s an increase in crime and other problems associated with poverty as much as race.

    You don’t see this in the more liberal wealthy NJ towns where blacks, whites and various ethnic groups have coexisted peacefully for decades. You can Google Montclair and Maplewood, which are good examples of this. Property values there have continued to rise as these towns have become ever more diverse so poverty and its associated problems hasn’t been an issue.


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