For eight weeks I had the privilege of being exposed to a side of Phoenix that I had never before known. As a Sociology major at Arizona State University West I thought the class “Urban Studies” would provide me with an interesting insight and perspective on the changes that occur within large cities. Indeed it did.
I first have to admit that I too have been guilty of placing a negative label on South Phoenix. I had never given it the opportunity to prove itself as anything other than an old, run-down, dangerous ghetto. Thanks to Dr. Koptiuch and “Urban Studies” I have been able to experience a different side of South Phoenix and have allowed the area to prove to me that it is something other than the stereotype it has been known for. I have learned and come to appreciate that unlike the rest of the Greater Phoenix Valley South Phoenix has character. It has a unique style that stands out from the rest of the look-a-like, cookie cutter valley. Above all, South Phoenix is not a place where only crack-heads, drug dealers, gang members and prostitutes live, but it is home to many hard working, honest people that are trying to provide for families whom they dearly love.
Through my class I came to realize that the residents of South Phoenix have a lot to deal with. Growth is not only happening on the outskirts of Phoenix, but it is happening right in the heart of South Phoenix. The growth occurrence is bringing along much change and many issues to be addressed. The many new housing developments going up in South Phoenix are an attempt to transform the area and “clean” it up. Other projects such as The Rio Salado Project, Habitat for Humanity, new golf courses and eventually new restaurants and shopping centers are expected to donate to South Phoenix’s new image. These projects are bringing an influx of new people, increasing the diversity in the area as well as bringing money, jobs and other amenities. However there are many worries, legitimate worries, that this growth will cause South Phoenix to lose its identity, its culture and its uniqueness. The fear of gentrification has set in as many people have been forced from their homes or forced to accept very little money for the places they have spent their entire life. Now they must search for a new place to live in which they can afford. Not only afford, but they must decide if they want to leave behind the area that has been their life and made them who they are. If they leave will they lose their identity, but if they stay will it be lost as well? There are many questions to be addressed.
This class has taught me the importance of opening my eyes to these different issues that affect South Phoenix, but also seeing how similar issues can be affecting other cities around the world. I believe that above all I have learned the importance of setting aside stereotypes and learning for myself what the truth is. If I was wrong and misguided on my opinions about South Phoenix I wonder what else I have preconceived notions about that I need to eliminate from my thinking. Most important I believe that it is important for all people to open their hearts and their minds and to be accepting of all people regardless of our differences. I believe if we truly do this we will come to find that all of us are more alike than we are different. If that is so then shouldn't we all be able to get along?