Making home in Mt. Airy

Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, is the neighborhood to the northwest of my house. To the northeast is the Germantown district, which historically comprised Mt. Airy and beyond. Google Maps says I live in Germantown, but several of my white neighbors insist I am in Mt. Airy.

The boundaries, of course, are political. Germantown is 80% African American. It still bears the economic scars of white flight in the 1970s, where disreputable real estate agents and their companies used a technique called block busting to stoke racist fears in white home owners and profit from the sudden sale of whole neighborhoods.

Mt. Airy takes pride in having resisted block busting. It is more racially diverse than Germantown, and economically healthier. But any neighborhood is more complicated than its popular stories. One indication is Mt. Airy's public elementary school, which loses many white pupils to private Quaker academies after they pass 4th or 5th grade.