When most of us hear the word “Segregation” our minds tend to drift back to the Jim Crow era south through the Civil Rights Movement of the 50’s and 60’s. We tend to think of segregation as an historical event whose greatest wrongs were repaired long ago. In reading the second chapter in the Leading on Opportunity report, it is clear that the effects of those and many other policies and outlooks over the last several decades have done little to improve the very visible race and income segregation that exists across Charlotte. While it is easy to argue that this situation was inherited from those before us, there is no doubt that segregation is real, it’s here and it’s a barrier to opportunity to the most vulnerable. With that said, the task force is confident and that our breaking down these barriers and forging new bonds to strengthen the community is well within our collective capacity.
What surprised me about Chapter 2?
What surprised me most about Chapter 2 were the facts. It is easy for people discussing such sensitive topics to get lost in emotional arguments. For me personally, when reading or studying any issue of the day, I like to understand the data and quantitative facts that tend to be free of emotional bias. This chapter is chocked full of those facts. I encourage you to read the article and digest them yourself, but a few that stood out to me:
- In 1999, when the school integration mandate was lifted, CMS schools were 60% white and 40% students of color. Between 2001, when the new assignment plan took effect, to 2013 schools with student populations of over 80% minority and eligible for free or reduced lunch climbed from ten to 50.
- In CMS, schools with the greatest percentage of white students, 82% of third graders read at or above grade level. Proficiency drops to 59% at the balanced campuses, and to just under 29% at the ones with the highest concentration of black students
While these particular statistics speak to the CMS school system, there is a direct correlation to other opportunity-poor indicators like; segregated housing markets, less access to technology, transit, lending practices and social capital. All of which have long term effects on a person’s upward mobility.
While the facts are impactful and somewhat scary to read, the problem is not irreversible!
Where do I see hope in Chapter 2?
This is not a zero-sum game! Like the article states:
“We must recognize our own successes are uniquely tied to the success of others in our community. By building communities where people of all socioeconomic backgrounds have access to quality housing, high-level education, jobs and transportation, we ensure all of us thrive together.”
I know I have fallen guilty, as many of us do, to having made decisions out of worry that the success of others comes at my own expense. But through reading studies of the benefits of education in integrated environments, personal reflection of opportunities and social capital that has been extended to me, interacting with some of Trinity’s fantastic local Mission partners, it is clear that ‘Rising tides lift all boats.’
If we work together and do our part, I’m confident we will find that in helping others rise to a higher level, we may inadvertently elevate ourselves as well.
What can Trinity do?
Plenty! I’m not foolish enough to think we can single handedly eliminate segregation in Charlotte, but I don’t think that is necessarily the measure of success. I think we are called by God to help those in need and recall Jesus’s words that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40. Even in making an impact on one person’s life, we are answering our call and pleasing our God. Here are some great places to start.
- Continue to invest in our partnership with Nations Ford Elementary. Considered hyper-segregated with over 90% one race, we may not be able to change the demographics of the student body but we can absolutely combat the effects of it. There are so many opportunities to volunteer at the school, read to children, help host school events (i.e. book fairs) and quite honestly just talk to the children and let them see that you care. Even this small extension of social interaction means so much to these children!
- Get involved in the community. As the task force continues to put programs in place and create opportunities around the community to interact, jump at the chance! Don’t be afraid to interact with and learn from the experiences of others. We are all God’s children!
- Look for opportunities to partner with churches in “low-opportunity” areas for different activities and engagements.
- Through our personal and professional lives, in conversations with each other or local officials, ask questions and talk about the issues at hand. You’re well equipped with this powerful report and passionate about our duty as Christians to care for each other, so don’t be afraid to talk about it!
I hope that as you read through these blog posts and the full Task Force report, you find inspiration and a passion to get involved. It has become clear to me through reading this report that the opportunity gaps in our community are real. While it feels overwhelming, I hope that the combination of Charlotte leaders, our wonderful residents and our church, we can work together to transform our community and improve our reputation to become a “Leader in Opportunity.”