Thursday, July 28, 2016

Heading West to Denver, CO

Total population: 600,000 
Race Breakdown: W: 68% B: 10%  L: 31% A: 3%

Take a moment with the above race demographics. Now, another.

I was way too busy with scheduling moving trucks and finalizing temporary housing and picking out tile for a renovation project on our new house to do ANY homework about Denver before we plopped on its westward soil. I HAD NO IDEA THAT MOVING WEST WOULD MEAN SAYING GOODBYE TO BLACK PEOPLE. 10% in this vibrant metropolitan community. 10%!  And look at Latinos with a whopping 31%! It took me a couple months to recognize it on my own... We moved in the early Summer, and it took a lot of running around both in my temp housing location and into the city for me to notice. I still don't know if it is common, in general, for the black population to grow more sparse the further west one travels in the United States. But, Denver's makeup, at the very least, feels WAY different from that of similar-sized midwest cities.

Greenwood Village, CO
Total Population: 11,215 W: 94% B: 1% L: 3% A: 2%

But we didn't settle in Denver. We settled in Greenwood Village. Remember how I told you we weren't super-burb-y people? Eating. Words. Now. Because, Greenwood Village is further out than any other suburb we've lived in (yet still only 20-30 minutes into the city). Our kids attend a Cherry Creek School District school: High Plains Elementary. Greenwood Village is whiter than Upper Arlington, based on the stats. And yet I must comment that High Plains Elementary seems to be an exclusive little gold mine that defies the rest of Greenwood Village's statistics. High Plains, if it were to have a flag it waved in our little community, would wave one of racial and socio-economical diversity.

When we showed up those first few days and weeks of school, though, I didn't get it. Scott LITERALLY had to spell it out for me. He informed me that I was looking for black kids. What a numb nut!!! Since in my formative years, I had associated diversity with African American people, I couldn't SEE the Latinos. Couldn't see them as making our school diverse, anyway. Like black people have the monopoly on diversity. Ugh, how maddening it is to be stupid, white, and me. Our school is represented by a lot of minority populations, but its pretty obvious the biggest one is Latino. And, again, this has been explained to me by the fact that our school's physical boundaries, unlike the other Greenwood Village elementary schools, includes several affordable townhouse and apartment buildings on the perimeter of the border.

So, here I am, in an expensive house in an affluent suburb. And I have a gift right before me that most folks with expensive houses in affluent suburbs (at least based on MY experience - review Powell, OH and Upper, Arlington OH above) don't get: the diamond-in-the-rough High Plains Elementary School. Principal Derek Mueller really, really GETS IT, too. He said to me recently, "We have a reputation for being 'diverse' and that's wonderful, but that fact alone means almost nothing... it's what we DO with it that counts."

My subdivision, although I dearly love it for a variety of reasons, I can tell you, does not have one Latino family from our elementary school that I know living in it. I do not see Latino High Plains Elementary families walking in my neighborhood, shopping at my grocery store, dining at the restaurants I dine in, participating in my kids' sports team, attending my younger one's preschool, or playing at the parks I play in. This troubles me. Am I the only one? Here is my life, 15 years after graduating from college the heterogeneous-community-infatuated dreamer that I was, playing itself out the opposite of how I had hoped...These socio-economical disparities and housing segregations are the very things getting in the way of that idealistic community of harmonious (racial and all other types of) diversity.

I assert that we cannot expect our kids to form real and lasting friendships with kids different from them unless they not only go to school together but are also in community with one another, too (that goes for us adults, too... we parents cannot form lasting relationships with other parents different from us unless we are in community with one another). It's certainly more challenging to construct "in community" without physical proximity. But I never was one to shy away from a challenge.

For, there is such a thing as a spirit of community. And, what I know about the word "spirit" is that it is boundless and borderless and can surprise us all.

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