Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Slice of Suburbia

By Michelle Alexander, Associate professor of Law at the Moritz College of Law with a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute

“What are all those colored kids doing in the swimming pool?” I thought to myself as I struggled to juggle my 2-year old toddler in one arm and a giant bag of towels in the other, while my 4 year-old and 6 year-old dashed toward the pool, shedding clothing en route and shrieking in delight. I paused for a moment and surveyed the scene. More than a third of the kids in the pool were African American, playing happily with their white friends and neighbors, as well as a couple of Asian American and Latino kids. Could our neighborhood really be this racially diverse? Apparently, the answer is yes.

I spent most of my childhood in all-white or nearly all-white neighborhoods. When I became old enough to cast judgment on my parents for their child-rearing decisions, I swore I would never inflict a similar fate on my own children. How could they put a black child in an all-white school? What were they thinking? More than once, I ranted at them in self-righteous indignation, insisting I would never do such a thing to my own children.

Once I became a parent, though, I found myself facing the same difficult choices my parents had agonized over decades earlier. I could live in a racially diverse or all-black neighborhood, but I’d have to worry about the quality of the schools. On the other hand, I could live in a white neighborhood and worry about the quality of my children’s social and cultural experiences. Which would I choose? Good schools or racial diversity? As it turns out, I got lucky.

The neighborhood I live in today did not exist a decade ago. As new suburbs have sprouted up around urban centers, and racial and ethnic minorities have begun to venture outside city limits, an interesting phenomenon has begun to unfold. Neighborhoods and schools in formerly white suburbs are beginning to integrate. The Pew Hispanic Center recently reported that the student population of America’s suburban schools has shot up by 3.4 million in the past decade and a half, and virtually all of the increase (99 percent) has been due to the enrollment of black, Latino, and Asian students. In 2006-07, suburban school districts educated a student population that was more than 40 percent non-white, up from 28 percent in 1993-94.

In my neighborhood, it is a joy to look out my kitchen window and see black and white kids playing together, running through each other’s backyards, and going in and out of each other’s houses freely. During the summer, all the neighborhood kids tend to convene around 5:30 p.m. in someone’s backyard and play together until sundown. They seem utterly unaware of how unique and special their racially integrated experience is.

I wish it were that simple. The picture in our backyard obscures a more complicated reality. As the Pew report indicates, although minority enrollment has shot up in suburban school districts, there has been only a modest increase at the level of the individual suburban school. Our immediate neighborhood happens to be well integrated, but my oldest daughter was the only black girl in her kindergarten class last year. The broader community still has a long, long way to go.

1 comment:

  1. As it was in the Anthony Proviano Case - Belmont County Ohio I believe a “Suicide” is really a MURDER.

    Paul Edward Ault’s ‘ruled suicide’ on Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 in Bellaire, Belmont County could well have been a murder.

    Landlord Paul Edward Ault
    [Don’t expect the “Official” records to show Ault as the owner – it could be MEA Properties or Rivertowne Lim. Inc. and if so – just try and find these companies ANYWHERE in the world]
    [917 Main St., Wheeling, WV (The Mary Elizabeth Apartments – most of the top two floors)]
    to members of a terrorist religious cult whose doctrines promote the ‘…elimination, of those that are not completely cooperative, DURING VIOLENT STORMS’
    and Mr. Ault died during a horrible thunderstorm not long after telling members of the cult that he was not interested in selling them the 917 property.
    The cult uses, by becoming members, established religious organizations as shields for their varied illegalities.

    If any responsible parties care to investigate this matter, be forewarned – you will not find a more entrenched Good Old Boys (Dining well in the Tenderloin District) network than that in the Wheeling/Belmont County area. Expect nothing but indifference, at best, and interference from the ‘local’ authorities.

    That is all I know and suspect in this matter.

    However I have little doubt that this will go into the ‘Got away with murder’ category because if Mr. Proviano’s parents had not been
    well-connected, in the Pittsburgh area, with plenty of money and a desire to fight for justice for their son’s murderer NOTHING would have been done.

    Here’s another twist – the 917 property was formerly owned by cult leader Stanley Klos owner of Wheeling’s Victoria Theater.