Dear Chris Kolmar and Nick Johnson,
A week or two ago your article, “These Are, Undeniably, The 10 Worst Places To Live In Texas” caught my attention.
Initially, it caught my attention because I teach Texas History, and I always look for various lists like this to get student to discuss present-day Texas and all of the ways in which it is viewed, studied, and classified.
Then, it caught my attention because Freeport is 10 minutes from where I live. Some of your information resonated with things I know to be true. Freeport is far underfunded by the state.
Then I kind of forgot about the article, until I saw a link, something to the effect that Freeport responds to being labeled worst place to live, a couple of days ago. (I have not read this article, thus far.)
Then I went back and read your article and realized you have made “The 10 Worst Places to Live” articles for a number of places.
Presently, I am left disturbed by your article.
Please allow me to explain:
I have known and still know a number of people who live and work in Freeport. People in Freeport are good people. Just like people everywhere else. Sure, Freeport has its problems, like any town, but Freeport is in no way automatically better or worse than anywhere else. People don’t need to be in a big town or in a big home to give and receive love. People make homes, not buildings and money and stats.
How would you feel if your hometown or present home came up on a viral list as among the worst places to live? Especially, if you didn’t have the means to relocate or make things “better” (a subjective state)? Imagine the 5 year-old or the 45 year-old sitting in front of the television or computer hearing that their home is among “the worst” places in Texas?
Where and when people are born is an accident of time and place.
Don’t confuse geopolitics with real problems. There are certainly a number of places in Houston (a gigantic geopolitical area), for example, far “worse” than Freeport in terms of crime, food deserts, and underfunded, overcrowded schools.
Additionally, your list, likely not intentionally but the effect is the same nonetheless, embodies and perpetuates racism. It could cause business to avoid areas where such business could really be needed in terms of jobs and services provided.
Instead of attacking and demonizing the people who live in Freeport, why not attack the structures–the institutional structures–that keep those racialized as Hispanic, Black, Asian, etc and those without the same access to wealth from having the same opportunities and support via state and federal monies as those racialized as White? The status quo is what needs to be called out.
I also find the rhetoric of your images and stats important and worthy of comment. Below is the image and information from your article:
Clearly, this is just one small section of a much larger city, but you picked a specific image, and it embodies it own messages. From this picture, Freeport looks small, semi-abandoned, with older buildings. A one-second Google Image search, shows a variety of other images (example here) with a very different idea of what Freeport is. Other images could show children happy and playing at a crowded swimming pool or football field.
Also, please note that Freeport is largely the home of chemical industries, such as DOW and BASF, and a spot for people wanting to play at the beach or dine at sea food restaurants. Where is this information in your blurb of stats?
Your research and information is important, absolutely and thank you for caring about the world, but how its framed is most important.
And, yes, we need lists of rankings because they help us know how to improve, but again its about frame and delivery. And a list saying the United States is ranked so-and-so below x number of countries (a very abstract idea) is very different than saying your city is “the worst.”
And once more, please do remember that people have feelings. Freeport is home to people. And has a rich history.
Thank you for your time.