Saturday, September 16, 2006

Thinking about diversity

Okay, I can't stay away. You people make me think too much. I was just glancing at blogs while I waited for my Death-to-the-Diet Brownies (recipe tomorrow) to cook, when I ran into Phantom's post (Phantom Scribbler: Diversity)). I had read Jody's post which she references and even looked up the demographics of our current school--so very white, like 94%. I had occasion to return to the issue of diversity while out driving today. I had gone over to our local nursery to get some flowers but decided I didn't like their selection, so I punched Home Depot into our navigation system, thinking while I was at it, I'd check out some shelving. I knew there was one nearer to us than the one we usually went to up north, near a mall and Target and many other stores.  So off I went to a town I hadn't ever been to. On the way back, the navigation system (whom we call Muffy--long story) took me through a town we had considered living in.  The town is lovely, one of the older suburbs of Philadelpha with large Victorian houses and a quaint downtown.  The house we were looking at was an old central hall colonial. It was huge and had a large yard.  But there were bars on the windows and bars on the windows of all the other nearby houses. The high school was practially in our back yard and all the students were outside and they were almost all African American. In fact, despite the town itself being 75% white, the schools are 75% African American. And we balked. We looked up the school information which was worrisome, much lower scores, for example that other schools in the area and then there were the bars.

Driving through the area today, it seemed much quainter then. I drove right through the downtown area and saw people of all different races walking around, enjoying the day.  There was an arts festival going on and there were banners hanging and more people out than usual, I suspect. And I had a moment of regret. I'm always lamenting the lack of diversity around here and yet, I had run away from it here, too scared to take the risk. Living there would have put us on a train line. It certainly would have changed a lot of things about our life.

I am not comfortable with the way I reacted to the possibility of living in a diverse neighborhood, but as this shows, it doesn't take much to move us into segregated areas.  Go ahead, play with the model. Just a 30% preference to be with similar people creates a pretty segregated situation. At a 60% preference, you end up with almost 100% segregation. 

And, as Zuska was writing the other day about the lack of women in science, it takes a real push from the majority for change to occur. If, as apparently has happened in this particular town, all the white people go to private schools, there's no way to achieve any kind of diversity in the public schools. I don't have the answer. I don't know why I, as an individual, have not been more active in pursuing a more diverse environment for my kids. We're all talk and no action over here, or as my college roommate used to say, all hat and no cattle.

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