Why Blacks are not part of the vision of a Pittsburgh “comeback”

C. Matthew Hawkins

Time Magazine’s “Pittsburgh’s Comeback” video is a striking piece of work that romanticizes Pittsburgh’s potential niche in the so-called “New Economy” — even the commercials for the video promote financial derivatives, or as Warren Buffett famously called them “financial weapons of mass destruction,” which is the hallmark of the new economy — but the video is roundly being criticized for its lack of diversity.
But this is Pittsburgh. You cannot show what you do not have.
Although Blacks are well represented in sports and entertainment, when it comes to diversity within the leadership of financial, medical and technological activity the City of Pittsburgh is stunningly deficient. I think there are a number of reasons for this, among them the racial insularity of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods and social circles, exclusionary social networks of power and influence, and the inherent nature of uneven development which typifies the new economy model.
To me the problem is not so much the lack of diversity reflected in the videos, but it is in the blasé attitude with which many Pittsburgher’s approach this lack of diversity. The problem is that Pittsburgher’s don’t even see their own lack of diversity and inclusion, even though it is plainly evident to any outsider.
If one doesn’t see the problem then one should forget about the prospects for finding solutions. Changes in Pittsburgh’s key institutions, to develop untapped human potential, will not be forthcoming.
Whether done intentionally or by indifference, the current trend seems to be to price large portions of Pittsburgh’s population — especially working class African Americans — out of their homes, to gentrify city neighborhoods, and to relocate the “surplus” population into the Mon Valley — or to prison.
Whether or not one believes that Pittsburgh, or any city, may stage a “comeback” based on the new economy model I will leave to the reader to decide. The problem that I see, however, is that a very clear picture has emerged of who will not be part of that comeback and that too many Pittsburghers don’t even acknowledge that this happening — or aren’t troubled by it.
C. Matthew Hawkins was the Associate Director for Homewood Brushton Revitalization and Development Corporation and taught in the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work. He is currently a seminarian studying theology for the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese.

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