Friday, January 18, 2008

Shaker Heights has a "Race" problem?

The New York Times ran an article today about Shaker Heights Ohio. The article discussed the brutal beating of a white lawyer by six African American youth in Shaker Heights. There were two quotes from the article I would like to comment on :

"Mr. McDermott was attacked on a quiet street one block south of Ludlow Elementary School, which in the 1950s and ’60s became the center of Shaker Heights’s successful integration effort."

I'm not sure anyone familiar with Shaker Heights would consider it "successful" integration. The community is so overwhelmingly segregated it's alarming. This isn't because the people of Shaker Heights are racist, it is because something about American Society makes it easier to be rich if you are white. After writing this, I thought "Is that true? Or is it merely an impression that I have?" So I looked up US Census data on the issue. I was alarmed.

The 2006 US Census data shows that of all white people in America, 8.2% live below the poverty level. Of all black families, 24.3% live below the poverty level. I knew there would be a difference, but I had no idea it would be this dramatic.

This brings me to the second quote I would like to comment on:

“'People in the Cleveland area resent us because we’re a repudiation of everything they believe,' said Brian Walker, 56, who was among the first African-Americans to attend Ludlow school. 'We’re proof that white people and black people can live together.'”

Since when do we need proof that "black"people and "white" people can live together? The source of conflict between African Americans and Caucasian Americans is not race, it is socioeconomic inequality. The reason it is difficult for the Whites to live near the Blacks in Shaker Heights, is because most of the Whites are rich, and most of the Blacks are poor. And historically, we have seen that when the Privileged live among the Underprivileged, the Underprivileged eventually lash out in an attempt to level the playing field.

The beating of a white lawyer by six black youth does not highlight the tension which arises when Whites live near Blacks, it highlights the tension which arises when the Rich live among the Poor. The problem is not that black people and white people hate each other. The problem is that our society is structured such that rich people are white, and poor people are black.