Divided By Design: Understanding How Cleveland's Segregated Neighborhoods Got That Way

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With few exceptions, neighborhoods in Cleveland are largely white or largely black. This geographic segregation has serious ripple effects for everyone, and it didn’t happen by chance, but rather by specific policies and events. We’re looking at this phenomenon for the next several days in the series Divided by Design. The series’ coordinating producer, ideastream’s Anne Glausser, spoke with “Morning Edition” host Amy Eddings about the series.

On the genesis of “Divided by Design”:

“When we did a quick audience survey in a Listening Project just before this series launched,  many people wrote in about why Cleveland’s segregated neighborhoods really matter, and why it matters to talk about these things, citing impacts like racism and fear of the unknown, neglect of minority neighborhoods,  entire populations stuck in poor schools, crumbling housing, low job opportunities, crime, perpetuation of poverty and [the] wealth gap. So there’s really some compelling reasons to look at our neighborhoods and the lack of diversity across our neighborhoods,” said Glausser

On the extent of segregation in Cleveland:  

“We looked at the data here and there are predominantly white neighborhoods, like Hunting Valley with a 99 percent white population and then there are predominantly black neighborhoods like Lee-Harvard with a 97 percent black population,” said Glausser.  “And truly integrated neighborhoods, at 50/50, with a balance, are pretty few and far between, with the Heights area (Cleveland and Shaker Heights) being a notable exception  (Census data from 2012 showed Cleveland Heights with a population that was 42 percent black and 50 percent white, while Shaker Heights’ population was 38 percent black and 53 percent white.)

On whether Cleveland’s segregated neighborhoods are unique:

“No, and that’s important to bring to the surface here,” said Glausser.  “Peer cities like Detroit and Chicago face the same divide.  Cleveland is one of the top ten of the nation’s segregated regions when it comes to the black/white population. 

On the black/white focus of the series:

“This coverage is just a part of a commitment from ideastream to report on issues of race and race relations in a concerted manner over the coming months.  We will be able to look at our other minority communities – Asian, Latino -- in later months,” said Glausser.

On the need to know the history of neighborhood segregation:

 “I think it matters to fully look at it, to acknowledge where we’re at, first and foremost.  But it also matters to understand the history of inequity, how we got here, so we can apply that knowledge to the present,” said Glausser.  “Some scholars I’ve talked to argue that current areas of disinvestment really track with historic redlining maps and discriminatory practices, so there’s really a need to look to history as we create our present.”

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