Here’s the scenario: Renee Wilson, a grandmother who has taken in her four cute as button grandchildren because their mother can’t raise them, lives in a ramshackle house trailer which she fears will leak buckets every time it rains. She is nominated as a candidate for Extreme Makeover – Home Edition by two of the children’s teachers and is chosen to be given a new home. The show’s producers send her and the children to Walt Disney World for a week while they construct a brand new 3,400 square foot home for her on the site of her former residence. Local builders and businesses provide the labor, materials, furnishings, and landscaping to give Ms. Williams and the kids a dream home. The community rallies around the project providing everything she could need, including college scholarships for the four kids, when they graduate from high school. According to North Myrtle Beach on-line, “Renee Wilson and her four grandchildren not only got a great new home but the funding necessary to pay taxes, insurance, utility bills and maintain it for years to come thanks to the generosity of local people.” What could possibly be wrong with all this?
As I watched the excitement development in local media concerning this event, several questions came to my mind. Since there was lots of local television coverage of the build, I was able to observe some, too. My questions:
· Where were the black and Hispanic faces in the work crews on this building? Watching the progress each morning on WPDE, I saw loads of happy white contractors congratulating themselves for their work, but not a minority face in the bunch.
· How will this "build" affect efforts to improve housing the large number of similarly situated people in
· What does Extreme Makeover do to affect institutionalized poverty, racism, and classism in our society? How have local institutions been challenged to continue a program of helping poor people get homes? Habitat for Humanity accomplishes such goals without government interference, but I doubt Extreme Makeover provides anything real or lasting to communities. I suspect it only provides a feel good experience for viewers who can feel better themselves for having watched it. Nothing is done to challenge the institutions of society to make housing and life better for poor people.
The program airs on ABC on March 25th.