We just moved to Avoid.
You won’t find it on any official map. And from a quick Google search, I can’t find any real town in America with the name Avoid. But if you take a look at the Atlanta map on JudgmentalMaps.com, you’ll find it.
Go to the middle of Atlanta — where all of the highways converge into one big traffic-jammed mess — and slide your finger a little to the left.
There it is!
A big ol’ part of town just labeled “Avoid.”
It doesn’t have a cool, sarcastic name like “Wannabe Rich White People” or “Actually Rich White People” or “Rich White AND Rich Black People Living Together in Rich Unity.”
It doesn’t even get a stereotypical name like, “Black Gay Professionals” or “Riced out Hondas” or “Ze Jews.”
Heck, we don’t even get a nod to the landmarks that are here like other parts of town do. They get labels like like “Disappointing Sports Teams” or “Really Black College” or “Mall for Looking” and “Mall for Buying.” (Anyone who has been shopping in Buckhead gets that one immediately. Insert insider head nod here.)
It’s like someone just gave up trying to be funny and just labeled Westside Atlanta “Avoid.”
So there it is. I live in Avoid.
My 17yo found the map online shortly after we moved. We were the only white people in the West Lake MARTA station, waiting for a train to take us to the Kenny Chesney concert at the Georgia Dome. (A whiter event has never occurred. Trust me. It was obvious who on that train was going to work and who was going to the concert.)
“Oh my gosh, Mom. You just moved to Avoid!”
And he showed me the map. And we laughed. And we looked at all of the other names around town and tried to decipher exactly what part of town, neighborhood, or group was being slammed — an activity which kept us more than occupied while waiting for the train and for a long time after. But my eyes kept coming back to Avoid.
My dear husband and I just picked up our family out of upper-middle class suburbia and moved to Avoid. Took them out of their small, loving, private Christian school that we adored and are putting them into Atlanta public (charter) schools. Took them out of an area where they were in the majority — and considered very normal — to a place where people do a double take when we are out walking our dog. That is, if they don’t outright stare for a few seconds. It’s as if they’re saying, “What are they doing here?”
What was I thinking?
I was thinking that I wanted more for my kids. I wanted them to live outside the bubble. I wanted them to know what true need was. But also what true community is.
I wanted to help bring stability and caring and neighborliness to a place that really needed it — and is hungering for it. To be the hands and feet of Jesus close-up, every day. Not just a couple of times a year when doing a “service project.”
And, ultimately, I’m hoping that if more people like us start moving into Avoid, maybe other people will follow. Like Asians and Indians and Hispanics. Like Georgia Tech students and young professionals. Like single hipsters and traditional families with kids.
And maybe when the new Judgmental Map of Atlanta comes out, someone will bother to give our neighborhood a name.
Like “Ethnic Rainbow Garden of Love Watered by Unicorn Tears.”
A girl can dream, can’t she?