Today I went to the Hickory Ridge Mall here in Memphis. Fifteen years ago, this mall was the place to be. It had all the nice stores, there was a large carosel for the kids, a four screen theater, foot court, ampitheater, several big box stores… it was a typical suburban mall.
Today I went to Hickory Ridge for what will probably be the last time. Its interesting how dynamics of an area change. None of the stores that I used to shop at are in the mall any longer. Only two of the four anchor stores are still open. Many shop windows are vacant. The Mall has been insteady decline for ten years now. An area that was once suburban mecca has now become one of the most violent and gang infested in the city.
How does that happen?
I imagine white flight has a great deal to do with it, but there are other aspects as well. I feel really bad for those in the African American community in Memphis who are making an attempt to raise their family away from the trappings of the inner city, but as soon as they move into a nicer neighborhood, white folks leave and property values decline and the same element they are trying to escape follows them.
I wish there were a good answer to this. How does the African American community help itself end the problems that have plauged it for the last 30 years? How does the white community help without being patronizing and without sounding like we know how things work and that’s why we don’t have these problems?