- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
YPP/City Paper Team Up: The Race, Race, and Philadelphia's Future
Race and segregation in Philadelphia is not traditionally something that many people like to talk about. It makes people uncomfortable. It brings back not-so-distant memories of Frank Rizzo raiding the offices of the Black Panthers, stripping the men down to their underwear, and parading them in front of photographers from the local press. It brings back memories of an all-white Democratic party running the City and of mostly African-American neighborhoods being bulldozed for ‘urban renewal.’ In my lifetime, it has meant racially charged mayor’s races, white flight, and a city that feels perpetually split apart. (With periodic exceptions for playoff runs or an election against George Bush.)
And, lest, anyone think we are in some sort of post-racial utopia in Philadelphia, a quick check of the popular site Phillyblog shows a couple people talking about public housing residents as “vermin” and “rats,” and basically insinuate that Chaka Fattah’s mother is in a cult. Meanwhile, Mike Nutter has been deemed “too white” to attract African-American votes and was called "watermelon man" by civic booster Milton Street. And Inquirer reporters following Bob Brady noted that out of his earshot, racial epithets were casually being tossed around a bar in the Northeast where he was campaigning.
Philadelphia is in fact still a very segregated City. Using the dissimilarity index, the most common measure of segregation, Philadelphia is the 6th most segregated big city in the Country. Over a third of school children go to schools where the population is over 90 percent of their own race. White kids, who as of 2004 made up only 15 percent of the school district’s population, are heavily concentrated in a small number of schools. Poverty, and the murder rate that has come with it, is overwhelmingly confined to communities of color. And although we love to highlight them, integrated, stable neighborhoods are still the exception, rather than the rule. No, we are not a city full of racists. But, it’s not always sunny in Philadelphia.
However, with the Mayoral race providing us with an eight-year benchmark on our progress, Philadelphians have looked around, and realized that this year, there is seemingly no need to duck and cover. Why? Primarily, I think much of the credit has to go to the candidates themselves, who have run largely positive campaigns. I think a lot of this groundwork- for a citywide campaign based on issues- was started two years ago by then-District Attorney candidate Seth Williams, who asked us to get past the same old racial divisions and to focus on concrete policies that will make our City better for everyone.
In this year’s race, many of the latest polls show racial voting patterns in Philadelphia being turned upside down. Mike Nutter has gone to the top of the polls with largely white support, and was endorsed by the Northeast Times. My personal bete noire, Tom Knox, is capturing a significant amount of votes from African-Americans. Race in Philadelphia is simply not the same issue that it was in past races.
So, where are we then? Is it that we have advanced as a city, or is it that we just don’t talk about it anymore? Are we acknowledging the challenges we face and solving problems or are we papering over them and hoping they go away? And given the incredibly different opportunities in life that the average white child in Philadelphia will see, as opposed to his African-American counterpart, is it possible to have a discussion like this without coming back to class, as well? And lastly, what can the next Mayor do- and what can we do- to change course as a City?
Like some old, white wig wearing guy named John Adams said, "Divided we stand..."