For all that we are, Evanston is not an equitable city. Bubbling under the diverse neighborhoods and integrated blocks are great disparities, almost all of which are divided by race.
These disparities tell a story very different than the story we tell ourselves when we take pride in our diverse surroundings and enlightened beliefs; very different from the story we tell our friends when we brag about our diverse town; very different from the story we tell our families when we talk about how diverse our kid’s class is at school. These disparities tell the story of our town’s past racial divisions, the story of our community’s current racial discomfort, the story of our country’s centuries-long institutional racism.
Evanston is a diverse city. Within our borders we house a diversity of race, gender, socioeconomic status, language, educational attainment, gender, ethnicity, and many other characteristics. Evanston is uniquely positioned as the most diverse city on the North Shore, something in which most Evanstonians take pride – indeed something that attracted many to Evanston in the first place. Diversity is defined as “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements.” Diversity is a noun – a thing.
Evanston is an integrated city. Many of the blocks are filled with families, single people, homeowners, renters, students, retirees, and more. Blacks and Jews are no longer banished to the West and South part of town, as they once were when racial covenants and red lining were practiced. Our kids no longer attend schools with only kids of the same racial background.
Integrated is defined as “allowing all types of people to participate or be included” Integrated is an adjective, a descriptive word.
To bridge the gap between reality and the story of what we want for Evanston, we have some work to do. The first step is for us to be honest about where we are. Policy Link, a leading organization for equity, inclusion, and collective impact, cites that a city can determine its equity by the outcomes of its systems. Here are some of Evanston’s outcomes:
: white male – $81,933; black male – $41,002; Latino male – $31,798.
: white male – 4%; black male – 24%; Latino male 9%.
College-Ready Seniors (% of students who met ACT CRB in reading):
white – 86%; black – 20%; Latino – 31%.
Police Arrests By Race (2014): black – 64%; white – 22%; Latino – 11%.
Given the disparate results in these areas (and others unlisted), I think you will agree that we have some work to do. To achieve full equity there must be intentional strategies, proactive actions, and an honest discussion of how we get to where we want to go.
Equity is often misunderstood as the practice of taking from those who are already doing well and giving to those who are not. That is not equity; that is charity. Equity is the practice of ensuring that all are given the opportunity and support to do well. Executed properly, equity promotes all people; equity “fills in the gaps,” leaving us all whole. The inequities in our community are glaring; it is now time to address them. Equity is defined as “fairness or justice in the way people are treated, free from bias or favoritism.” Equity is a noun, a thing.
A fully equitable Evanston is a city where all can participate and thrive; where conditions are created so that all reach their full potential. An equitable Evanston has an educational system that produces a thriving workforce; a school in every ward allowing students to make connections with their neighbors and neighbors to build community; neighborhoods that are given equal resources, access, and political capital; elected bodies that are representative of the diversity of the community. If you want to achieve an Equitable Evanston, join the effort.
We invite you to join us on Feb. 16, 6:30 p.m. at Second Baptist Church to hear from Retired Judge and former Public Defender Andy Berman. Judge Berman will discuss the importance of the upcoming State’s Attorney race and how your vote affects the criminal justice systems’ application of justice. More information is available at Opalevanston.com.
Ms. Fleming is president of Organization for Positive Action and Leadership (OPAL). OPAL was founded with the purpose of engaging and equipping Evanston residents to actively participate in the decisions that affect their lives.