Viewpoint - December 1, 2010

Letter: 'There goes the neighborhood' signs

I am angry and frustrated by the anti high-speed rail signs lining my street and other streets throughout Menlo Park and Palo Alto. It is unacceptable to use the phrase, "There goes the neighborhood," as a political slogan.

I'm not sure if those who have chosen to display the signs in their front yards are aware of the phrase's history, but these words sound familiar for a reason. Beginning in the 1950s, "There goes the neighborhood" was the refrain of white homeowners as they moved out of their homes to avoid contact with the black families who began to move in. They feared the dropping property values and general "contamination" that blacks would bring to their neighborhoods.

Residents who display this sign may not be familiar with its connotations. However, it is the responsibility of all citizens to educate themselves before making political decisions. "There goes the neighborhood" is not an obscure slogan buried deep in history books. Housing discrimination and residential segregation did not end in the 1950s. This slogan still wields power today.

My multiracial family has always felt welcomed in our largely white neighborhood and town. However, these signs lead me to believe that my own neighbors don't care to consider the discriminatory power of their words. The signs make me feel like an unwelcome outsider in the neighborhood I grew up in.

I don't want to live in a community where I have to pass by signs that harken wistfully back to the days of segregation. Those who display "There goes the neighborhood" signs should take them down immediately.

Emily Taylor, Menlo Park


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