Mrs. X SpeaksPosted: November 1, 2014
Mrs. X Speaks
We sat down with a local low-income resident to talk about everything from the dorms the Broome County Local Development Corporation (which shares a governing board with the Broome County Industrial Development Agency) funded for SUNY Broome, to racism in Binghamton. Mrs. X is a mother with kids in a local school district. She is also a student at SUNY Broome. The interview has been edited for clarity.
How are things going at SUNY Broome (formerly called BCC) with the new dormitories?
What’s going on now with the new dorms is they brought in all these poor people, the school did, with federal aid and lots of loans from downstate. Many of the students were brought in with the promise of a good education and a great deal of support. Unfortunately, the faculty, staff, and the campus itself were not prepared for so many people, with that level of need. There isn’t adequate accommodations for disabled people, classrooms don’t have enough desks. Even the dorms were unprepared! I hope a good wind doesn’t come by, because those things won’t stand up! The kids in the dorms are really tearing those things apart, but I guess that’s why they charge so much for those cardboard cells! I really think these kids were set up to fail. The students, through no fault of their own, don’t have the foundation for being in a university setting. That is something that comes through careful planning by the university, and that simply did not happen. I don’t think many students will pass their classes and then next year they can bring in a whole new group to put in debt.
How does Binghamton compare to the other places you’ve lived? I grew up in a very white, very comfortable, very racist, part of New Jersey. My brothers got arrested going to school just because they were the wrong color. Then I moved to the inner city. There you saw people of every color. No one knew what anyway was, and no one had the time to give a damn. Not to glamorize that kind of environment, but they looked at you just like a human being without prejudice. When I moved to North Carolina, however, there is black, there is white, and then there are “shades.” I did not know that shades of color matter until I moved down there. I was working a good job and a co-worker told me I was hired because I was a “redbone.” I said “What’s that?” “You are a redbone,” she replied. “You are not a dark skinned black woman, you are brown skin, you have decent hair.” When she said that I was hurt. I was deeply hurt. And then I came up here. I encountered the same thing. Of course, they don’t used words like “redbone,” but you still get doors slammed in your face and you still get treated less than human because of your color. People think your children are running wild or that you are stealing, that you are on drugs, because of your skin. And then there is the other extreme: when people think that you are fantastic because you have a child that makes good grades. What’s so unusual about that? All children should make good grades. And all parents should be involved in their lives. Why should I get a crown? Because my kid has structure and is motivated? I just want to be a parent, not a black parent. I am not unique, there are plenty of us.
Has it been difficult to find housing in the area? Yes, it has been. Many places are either too far from bus lines, or they are too expensive. Prejudice makes it even more difficult. Most rentable places are for students, so they charge them three times what they are worth. There is no tenants’ union, no tenant rights. I am living in a two bedroom apartment and I’ve had to make a dining room a living room. My rent goes up every year. Every year, without having anything fixed, ever. No paint, no nothing. I cannot afford to live downtown in one of those beautiful new apartments. What they charging? $1,200 for a two bedroom? I am a tax paying, well organized involved citizen of Binghamton and I can’t live comfortably in a nice area. I can’t live on Riverside Drive, because I get doors slammed in my face. So I have to live in an area where I don’t feel safe.