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The deliberate devaluation of Blacks and their communities has had very real, far-reaching, and negative economic and social effects. An enduring white supremacist myth claims brutal conditions in Black communities are mainly the result of Black people’s collective choices and moral failings. “That’s just how they are” or “there’s really no excuse”: we’ve all heard those not so subtle digs.
But there is nothing wrong with Black people that ending racism can’t solve. We haven’t known how much the country will gain by properly valuing homes and businesses, family structures, voters, and school districts in Black neighborhoods. And we need to know.
Noted educator, journalist, and scholar Andre Perry takes readers on a tour of six Black-majority cities whose assets and strengths are undervalued. Perry begins in his hometown of Wilkinsburg, a small city east of Pittsburgh that, unlike its much larger neighbor, is struggling and failing to attract new jobs and industry. Bringing his own personal story of growing up in Black-majority Wilkinsburg, Perry also spotlights five others where he has deep connections: Detroit, Birmingham, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. He provides an intimate look at the assets that should be of greater value to residents—and that can be if they demand it.
Perry provides a new means of determining the value of Black communities. Rejecting policies shaped by flawed perspectives of the past and present, it gives fresh insights on the historical effects of racism and provides a new value paradigm to limit them in the future.
Know Your Price demonstrates the worth of Black people’s intrinsic personal strengths, real property, and traditional institutions. These assets are a means of empowerment and, as Perry argues in this provocative and very personal book, are what we need to know and understand to build Black prosperity.
Praise for Know Your Price
“In this groundbreaking and important volume, Andre Perry brilliantly addresses the importance of fixing the racist governmental policies that have ‘created housing, education, and wealth disparities,’ especially in Black communities. Not only a rigorous analysis of the dynamics of devaluation, Perry has written a powerful personal narrative that will captivate his readers.”
—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
“Black women have long known how to build and grow community despite others’ negative perceptions of value. This book illustrates beautifully for the rest of the world how perceived value and gendered racism in policies is killing us.”
—Alexis McGill Johnson, co-founder, Perception Institute; acting CEO, Planned Parenthood
“Know Your Price is a purposeful, in-depth, and critical examination of the pathology of racism, classism, and the self-destructive impact of American indifference. But what Dr. Perry so skillfully illuminates is the culture of exercising our right of self-determination that has served generations of African Americans as a means of survival in the face of the most virulent, violent, and discriminatory social order. Know Your Price brings solutions to the table, not merely voicing dissent to the status quo. It’s a gift of understanding that the one variable a person controls in a dysfunctional paradigm is their contribution to it, without absolving those who are the source of that dysfunction. Personal, powerful, and profound, Know Your Price is a display of Dr. Perry’s brilliant analytical mind as a researcher, and the heart of a man who speaks with the passion and intimate knowledge of the world he creates in this book.”
—Wendell Pierce, actor, producer, activist
“Birmingham understands that developing trust in communities that have been historically discriminated against requires time, energy and partnership. As mayor, I work in the building where the city's red-lining maps were once drawn. This book calls on city leaders to think and act systematically to begin dismantling systemic racism. In Birmingham, we are working for economic justice and racial inclusion because of our history, not in spite of it.”
—Randall L. Woodfin, mayor, Birmingham, Alabama
“In a book grounded in both personal testimony and rigorous empirical research, Perry writes compellingly about how Black folks have managed to navigate the systemic and structural impediments history has placed before us. Perry outlines in extraordinary detail what Black folks have been up against over the course of generations to help the reader understand that the contemporary landscape of inequality is no accident, but exist by design. Know Your Price is an important addition to any conversation about racial inequality in this country. This book is an essential tool to help refute the lies we have been told for so long.”
—Clint Smith, author of Counting Descent
“In Know Your Price Dr. Perry lays bare the wretched tradition that devalues black bodies and black property. By writing from the inside out, he gives the facts and figures of redlining and subsequent gentrification, names and faces—their joys, desires, hopes, pain, agony, and despair. The writing itself is deft and heartfelt. It reads as if James Baldwin was a social scientist. Indeed, Dr. Perry has a word for our beleaguered democracy.”
—Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, associate fellow, Institute for Policy Studies
“A powerful indictment of a white culture that persistently blames the victims of racism for the consequences of oppression, Know Your Price is also a hopeful and moving celebration of Black resilience. Its meticulously researched case for better scholarship and an end to racist policy should be must-reading for American policymakers and the people who put them in office.”
—Grant Oliphant, president, The Heinz Endowments
“This memoir is not another self-aggrandizing voyeuristic presentation of hood triumph. Rather it is a brave, honest, and analytically insightful understanding of dignity and worth and challenge to society’s myopic devaluation of black people and communities. This book is one of a kind and Andre Perry is a national treasure. In both persona and scholarship, he exemplifies the clear and convincing case of why diversity and inclusion matter.”
—Darrick Hamilton, executive director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity; professor, John Glenn College of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University
“At its core, Perry’s work and research is very personal, intimate and familial, because it’s for and about Black people, and his life experience has made him exceptionally sensitive and conversant in the patterns of socioeconomic disparity—but what he’s doing is also a public service for the common good.”
—Carla Bell, Essence
“Perry reflects on the good, the bad and the ugly, and even apologizes along the way for falling short of what he’s now challenging others to do—to see and understand black lives and black places as inherently worthy of investment.”
—Oscar Perry Abello, NextCity
“VERDICT Especially for students of urban planning and public policy but also for those seriously interested in equity and social change in America, this work combines extraordinarily readable, well-documented data analysis with a people-oriented call for activism.”