In order to gain perspective, it is important to hear the voices and grant visibility to all of those within a community. I had the pleasure of interviewing a wonderful and active community member named Valeria, who discussed her unique perspective on the future of Atlantic City and Atlantic County. The current situation in Atlantic County is that those who hole positions of power are not acting in the interest of others who actually reside in the county. There are many individuals who are struggling, impoverished, unemployed, and their voices are not heard. This struggle is well documented in “The City as a Growth Machine”, a reading from our urban sociology class. “The City as a Growth Machine” discusses the premise of political and economic “growth”, while leaving many individuals within an urban space behind (Logan and Molotch 1987). By looking at Atlantic City and Valeria’s description of it, it is easy to see that the city is controlled by the vested interests of few individuals. This group of people seem to only think about economic prosperity and the political leaders behind it, while in reality, there is a community of people that are living through difficult times and longing for better conditions. Therefore, this disparity of interest and power is a negative force in the Atlantic County community.
In urban communities where there is an egregious amount of inequality, those who hold the smallest share of power are not heard in comparison to those with the largest amount of power. In order to combat this, Valeria spoke about how persistent she has had to be over the course of her lifetime with the local government so that they would finally listen to her. When talking about some of the local meetings, she said, “Most people don’t come out because they think they don’t have a voice, and that’s just not true.” While not expressing much faith in the government to help alleviate some of the struggles the community is facing, Valeria seemed to express optimism toward the fact that it is up to the people to make a difference. For example, if a specific individual is not acting in the interests of those who need it the most, then she suggests the community to rally and petition in order to make changes. If a large number of community members speak up, then perhaps these individuals can be removed from office for others who will actually act in the interest of the community. Valeria also discussed the disparity of power and that there needs to be an even playing field for voices to be listened to. Even though a specific individual may be a part of the growth machine and hold down a high-waged job, does not give their voice any more credibility than an unemployed resident.
This opportunity to speak with Valeria about the problems that her community faces and how it can move forward was enlightening. The most important notion is that voices like her’s’ are heard and demonstrate that there is a pathway to success if the people and government can work hand in hand. Through Valeria’s story, it can be seen that community members want visibility, and should continue to speak up to combat power inequality.