Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It can happen here...and likely has...

My HON 479 class is wrapping up the semester by considering the phenomenon of urban renewal, an innocuous-sounding phrase the belies its horrific consequences, as detailed in Mindy Thompson Fullilove's book Root shock: How tearing up city neighborhoods hurts America, and what we can do about it.

After realizing that I know next to nothing about how urban renewal affected my own hometown, I resorted to a little online sleuthery and discovered that Helena, Montana was the site of a late '60s/early '70s urban renewal project that fell under LBJ's Model Cities Program. Under Helena's Model Cities renewal, 430 families were displaced from over 200 homes in the South Main area of the city. (These data are drawn from Kennon Baird's website Helena As She Was.)

Considering Helena's population in 1970 was 22,730, we're talking perhaps 7.6% of the city's people removed from their homes. (I've taking an average family size of 4 here; with an average family size of 3 we still have 5.7% displacement.) I've started trying to track down demographic information broken down by race but so far to no avail.

One of my students pulled up the Cooper Center's Racial Dot Map, an excellent data visualization tool that enabled us to see at a glance just how racially segregated most cities in American actually are.

I'm more and more eagerly looking forward to my HON 479 students' workshop on diversity, inclusion, and related topics, coming up in a couple of weeks...