On Springfield

A Little Help Here?

This afternoon at 4:30, the City Council’s planning and economic development committee will meet to discuss data from the University of Michigan that shows deep racial segregation in the Springfield metro area.

The research looked at segregation between the white population and the Hispanic, African-American and Asian populations in 102 metro areas around the country. It found that the greater Springfield area has the nation’s highest level of segregation between whites and Hispanics and the 22nd highest between whites and blacks. Segregation between whites and Asians was the least stark, with metro Springfield ranking 57th.

As the Republican’s Jeanette DeForge reports, City Councilor Bud Williams, chair of the economic development committee, has invited state legislators and representatives from civic and social organizations to attend today’s meeting. The meeting, Williams told DeForge, is a chance to “have an open conversation and find out if there are things we can do to make the numbers better.”

But for that to happen, a heck of a lot more people would need to show up than can fit in a City Council subcommittee room.

Like so many issues related to race—and the closely connected issues of class and economic opportunity—the report is being played largely as a Springfield issue, not a Valley-wide issue. But that’s exactly what it is; the UMichigan report, after all, looks at segregation in the Springfield metro area, which includes all of Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties.

The problem isn’t that Springfield is a segregated city, but that the Valley, overall, is a segregated region; as DeForge notes in her article, 75 percent of the Valley’s black residents and more than 50 percent of its Hispanic residents live in Springfield. Given that those two populations face more social struggles—like higher levels of poverty and higher school drop-out rates—that means, of course, that Springfield bears the brunt of this Valley-wide segregation.

That doesn’t mean Springfield should have to tackle the problem on its own. But until other communities in the Valley—specifically, the whiter and more affluent ones—step up to share the work, it’s easy to see why so many regard this as a “Springfield problem.”

© 2014 The Valley Advocate