The Land of the Diverse and Segregated

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By: John Kay, West Editor-in-Chief

Diversity, as a word, is often misinterpreted and has become a cliché that provides a false sense of integration. A look at the most diverse cities will change one’s opinion on the status of desegregation in America. Diversity is not the equivalent to integration—and in many cases the more diversified a city becomes, the less integrated its population.

In Ohio, Cuyahoga County is the most diverse county in the state, but it has become the most segregated as well. According to data from the latest U.S. Census Bureau, Cleveland finds itself ranked 5th among the most segregated cities in the U.S. and Dayton, Ohio is ranked 16th.

The question then becomes, why are cities mostly segregated? Up until the 1960’s segregation was deemed legal, and it acted as the catalyst for racialized housing in the U.S. Legal segregation in the U.S. contributes to the segregation that is still inherent today and effecting just about every facet of life. Unequal housing, education, opportunity, and access to necessary resources have all been inhuman consequences of segregation.

Dr. Flatt, professor of Sociology at Tri-C, listed a few proponents that have helped continue segregation. “There are many studies that show the ways in which subprime home lending policies and predatory loan practices unfairly and disproportionately target racial minorities,” said Flatt. “While the racial element is often dismissed as a result of class (lower income), even studies that control for income and wealth see differences in housing practices along racial lines. This research adds to the evidence of racial steering that still occurs when people are looking for homes.”

Since 1968, other methods have acted as catalysts in prolonging discrimination. Gentrification, white flight, educational inequality, and household complications are among the many present-day issues that has enabled the longevity of segregation.

“Gentrification was once seen as a kind of ‘savior’ of dilapidated neighborhoods like Ohio City and Tremont…the downside, of course, was that the housing market costs (as well as costs of living like groceries, etc.) went up for the neighbors that were there before these were hot spots,” expressed Dr. Flatt. “The rising property costs effectively push the poorer residents out of their neighborhood—since these are often residents who rent, or cannot afford the increased property taxes. In that sense, gentrification aids segregation along class lines, which in America largely intersect with racial lines.

Segregation has never and will never be deemed a mechanism for positive change. The most segregated cities also confront increased crime rates, poor education, inadequate health options, and less access to arts and other activities that benefit society. This messy equation is a stimulus for elongated economic and social complications.

Cleveland, Ohio takes great pride in its diversity, but lacks in true integration. The city streets are lined with parades for multiple ethnicities and nationalities while Cleveland continues to have one of the most prevalent segregation issues in America. It is not enough to just organize city parades any longer—focusing on the integration of its diverse population is vital for positive change.

However, hope is not lost, it never is! The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. has and continues to challenge all to be advocates of true change, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

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