Systemic Racism

Why Is Our Sense Of Community So Limited Or Small?

There’s a local juvenile detention facility here that has been poorly run and mismanaged and underfunded and so – of course – there have been problems including one recent escape of a few of the kids. This has caused citizens to speak out and want it removed from the area. Similar conversations have come up before about low-income housing facilities being built in certain parts of town. People not wanting certain “elements” in their communities.

And it has me reflecting on something I find myself thinking about often whether we’re discussing district boundaries or government housing projects: Why do we draw boundaries of concern? Why are we concerned about our neighborhood or our school district, but not concerned with the city as a whole? Our city is not huge, it still feels like a small town…why don’t we think of it as such? Why don’t we come together and brainstorm ideas about how to help improve the juvenile correctional facility or how to help the low-income housing residents instead of just making sure they’re not in our neighborhood?

There is an EXCELLENT article here written by one of my favorite journalists about school systems around Birmingham, Alabama. I highly encourage you to read it though it is VERY long. My city of Huntsville has been under the same desegregation orders discussed in this article. (Here is our latest review with the same judge.) It has brought us different sets of problems than Birmingham has had (no district here is removing itself from the greater city school system), mainly the new district lines were drawn and people pulled their kids out of schools because now the “trouble makers” are zoned for their school. And this is where Donnie and I struggle to understand some of our peers. We were told that there was a lot of flight from the public school we’re now zoned for because the new lines “brought in the discipline problems” and people didn’t like that their children’s education would be jeopardized because of these discipline problems. But we didn’t quite get it until the morning the local Catholic school came and put signs in the yards of all of their students welcoming them to the new year. Our neighborhood was LITTERED with those signs. It looked like our kid’s chances of finding people they went to school with dropped substantially overnight.

Now – a lot of people switch school districts for specific educational needs. But I’ve talked do at least a dozen people who pulled their kids out of schools after rezoning because of the “discipline problems”. And just like with the juvenile detention facility, we feel better if we don’t have to see those kids with the problems in our schools or our neighborhoods.

But here’s the thing. They don’t disappear. Those kids still live less than 5 miles from my house, even if before those lines were drawn they went to a different school. Those kids in the juvenile detention facility still exist in our communities even if their school is in another part of town.

Donnie and I are just struggling with a lot of these sentiments. Yes, maybe our kids aren’t getting the attention they would get in a school without the “troubled kids” – maybe they’re not progressing as quickly because the class is slowed down to help the students who are behind. But we are really having a hard time understanding how taking our kid out would help anyone BUT OUR KID. What if our privilege, or our kid’s presence, can help pull the struggling kids up? Isn’t that better for our community as a whole? What if we worked on closing the achievement gap, even if it meant that maybe our kids didn’t get the exact academic experience they would get in a classroom with no gap to worry about?

I guess I’m just rambling, but it’s something that is a local issue so it’s on my mind often. How do we encourage members of the privileged class in our community to work together to help these kids instead of removing them from our neighborhoods and schools?

PS: I intentionally avoided discussing race. I 100% know racism plays a huge part in a lot of this but I find it’s easier to get people open-minded about the community if you don’t mention that maybe we’re all just scared of losing our white privilege or of crumbling the racist systems that helped raise us up.

3 thoughts on “Why Is Our Sense Of Community So Limited Or Small?”

  1. So I listened to a podcast the other day that talked about this a little bit – The Longest Shortest Time #135 – Whilte Guilt and Other Crazy Sh*t and it talked about part of institutionalized racism includes opportunity hoarding by those better off. And how we need to think not only of how something will better our child but also evaluate how it will benefit the community as a whole (that our child is a part of and will benefit from also!)… really interesting stuff! I struggle with this also. We moved to Indy from Chicago 6 years ago and moved to a nice area of town that isn’t as affluent as the other parts. And people are constantly jerks about us living there. Telling us that “we have time to move to the north side” before our kids are both in school. I mean, seriously. My standard and canned response is that if I’d wanted my kids to grow up around all affluent white people, we’d have stayed on the north side of Chicago. That doesn’t always sit well with people, I wish I had the courage to tell people to sit in that uncomfortableness and think about what it means about them, like you’ve said here on the blog.

  2. I must add that it’s not just that kids have escaped from there. Two kids who escaped apparently murdered a man (yes, I understand they are innocent until proven guilty, but it does appear currently that there is significant evidence against them). If the facility is housing kids who are that dangerous, then, for example, law enforcement needs to be notified when they escape (didn’t happen with those kids). And there needs to be an alert given out (again, didn’t happen with the recent situation). And while problems don’t disappear when they are out of sight, as you suggest, it is a legitimate, non-racist concern to have about a facility that apparently cannot keep people from escaping that doesn’t have a fence so close to neighborhoods that are not informed when escapes do happen.

  3. I meant to connect the racism more to the district line issues not to the juvenile detention facility. And that’s why I hope we can find a way to improve the facility and find it better so that it has better security and not just put it in someone else’s neighborhood. It sounds like it’s woefully under funded and missed managed so the problems will still occur no matter where we move it. I hope we can figure out a way find it better so it can be better managed and a more secure. I’m sorry if I did not discuss that well.

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