A recent study from the Urban Institute shows that even within the racist country that is the U.S., Albany stands out. The capital of New York, a supposedly progressive state, ranked 234 out of 274 in terms of racial and economic inclusivity, using aggregate data like homeownership rates by race, poverty rates by race, and residential racial segregation.
While the city has become less white over the years, the money and resources have remained concentrated in white hands. Racist policing and institutions of power keep Black neighborhoods in constant fear of being incarcerated. Black Albany residents are incarcerated nearly nine times as often as white residents as shown by a report from the Center for Law and Justice, a local organization run by civil rights activist Alice Green.
From gentrification, a process that Mayor Sheehan is leading in an absurdly overt manner by herself being a gentrifier in the Black working-class Arbor Hill neighborhood (81 percent Black), to mass incarceration and political repression, Albany enforces segregation and oppresses its Black population at a higher rate than most other white-supremacist, capitalist cities in the U.S.
Albany’s lily white suburbs, which were/are sundown towns, were a creation of white flight. Now, capital and its state servants like Mayor Sheehan are encouraging whites to invade the cities that they once fled, to displace the working-class Black communities, and the police force plays the role of invading army. The murder of Breonna Taylor shows the violence of gentrification and cops’ role in the process. This brutality that mirrors colonial conquering, is crucial to gentrification and allows modern colonizers to re-take the land they previously fled.
At constant risk of becoming houseless
The wide racial homeownership gap coincides with terrible rental conditions to create a miserable housing situation for Black Albany residents. Without controlling for race, the data shows that the rental market leaves workers at constant risk of houselessnness. Over 60 percent of Albany residents are renters, nearly double the national average. Forty-five percent of Albany renters spend over 35 percent of their income on rent. The median rent in Albany is $896 per month, which requires a household income of $36,000 to be affordable. However, the median income for Albany renters is only $29,172. The housing stock is often in utter disrepair compelling tenants to abandon otherwise affordable apartments.
New York’s capital caters to lawmakers at the expense of working people. The lawmakers do not have to worry about making rent and exist completely above the working people of the city, who are exploited at work by their bosses and at home by their landlords at rates that are high even for this nation controlled by vampiric landlords. Combined with the fact that a disproportionate number of renters are Black and low income, we see the super-exploitation of Black Albany residents and its horrendous effects. For Black Albany residents, surveilled by the police and at a constant risk of being locked in a cage, home is an ephemeral notion as a result of the racial wealth gap, super-exploitation, policing, and housing precarity.
Revolution is the only path to liberation for Black Albany residents and the oppressed all over this country. Racism is embedded so deeply and in the foundation of both this country and the capitalist system that the only solution is to build a new one. We must fight for a new socialist society, one that guarantees housing to all people, one that ends racist policing, and one that works ceaselessly to end racism and anti-Blackness. We must fight, and we must win.
Image: Gentrified neighborhood in Albany, NY