By Anna Daniels
The San Diego Free Press editorial board invites you to participate in our examination of race and racism throughout the week of February 16. This past year has revealed how deeply fraught and painful our national conversation on that topic has become.
In May of 2014, months before the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri, before the choke-hold death of Eric Garner and the shooting death of twelve year old Tamir Rice, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote “The Case for Reparations” which appeared in the The Atlantic.
He observes that Americans talk about “race” but not “racism” and makes the case that “Whiteness and blackness are not a fact of providence, but of policy—of slave codes, black codes, Jim Crow, redlining, GI Bills, housing covenants, New Deals, and mass incarcerations.”
A discussion of race and racism in San Diego requires a broad lens, given our history as well as current events. The first European colonizers began a history of displacement with the Native Americans in the region. Residents of Japanese heritage in San Diego were interned during World War II; Mexicans and Mexican Americans were repatriated to Mexico during the Depression. We watched anti-immigrant sentiment over-run the town of Murrieta and send ripples into Escondido this past summer and fall and infect the efforts to pass Propositions B & C in Barrio Logan. The issues of police brutality and racial profiling in San Diego continue to engender anger, anguish and protest within the African-American and Latino community.
Beyond those obvious examples, there is our legacy of segregation enacted through racially restrictive covenants in property deeds in the early to mid-twentieth century. Black, Mexican and Jewish residents were perceived as a threat to property values and they were precluded from owning or being a tenant. These covenants were enacted from La Jolla to Mission Hills to City Heights.
Urban Renewal in the 60’s brought federally founded highway construction that in many ways reinforced those covenants even after they were found illegal. Highways 94, 8 and 5 have created profound demarcations beyond their sheer physical presence. Low income minority communities have historically been and still remain concentrated south of Interstate 8.
Dustin Cable, at the University of Virginia, compiled a map based on population distribution along racial and ethnic lines based on the 2010 Census. He was asked what conclusions could be drawn from this map.
One of the concerns scholars have about residential segregation is whether or not it is indicative of (or the cause of) differences in economic opportunity, educational attainment, social mobility, and overall well-being, Cable said in an email to Al Jazeera.
For example, does a school system in a predominately African-American neighborhood provide the same quality of education and opportunities as a nearby district with predominately white residents? Because poverty is more prevalent among minority groups, do concentrations of poverty in segregated urban areas lead to dilapidated housing, health hazards, violence, or other ill-effects? Or, rather, does segregation cause the poverty in the first place? These are important questions to ask on this subject.
Cable’s response raises issues of structural inequalities and equal access to resources and institutions. Attention and resources are being focused on low income minority communities in San Diego. Mayor Faulconer has initiated a “One San Diego,” a nonprofit that will focus on poor areas south of Interstate 8. CivicSD is poised to develop areas of City Heights and Encanto. What is not clear is the degree to which either nonprofit will address structural inequalities and equal access to resources and institutions.
Is addressing the issue of poverty, without a deeper recognition and a much broader discussion of how race and racism has impacted whole communities in San Diego, enough to bridge a widening divide between those neighborhoods which are prospering and those which are not?
We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic. Articles, videos and poetry can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org