Inequities Harm Us All

ColumbiaMODemographics (2)

The need to recognize, and address, inequities in Columbia was one of three themes identified by citizens in the discussions that led up to the development of our community dialogue guide, “Are We An Us?” Significant inequities continue to exist, as illustrated in the infographic above. This infographic was shared with us by Tyree Byndom, a former resident of Columbia and community leader, and has recently returned.  In the time he was away from Columbia, Tyree started a coaching firm and teamed up with a client to co-found a website on black demographics.

As citizens we cannot afford to be indifferent to these inequities or simply assume they will resolve as a result of efforts by city government or various nonprofits. Indifference builds distrust within our community, and erodes community ties.

Although there are have been several projects undertaken by the city and others, particularly in the areas of affordable housing, business development, and neighborhood outreach, these fall well short of a community commitment to fully resolving the inequities that exist. As one participant observed: “There are many, very good initiatives taking place, but no-one has a holistic understanding of all of the efforts. To too many individuals it looks like nothing is happening and no-one cares.”

One thing that would help is more day to day interactions among people who live in different neighborhoods. Consider these comments from past dialogues: “We don’t know our neighbors.” “We get into niches that fit us too well.” “People want to stay in their comfort zone.” “City being divided like St.Louis with north and south.” “De facto segregation here.””People don’t trust other people.” Indifference leads to isolation, and isolation leads to fear and distrust. It also prevents the informal individual relationships that create “social capital”.

What can a concerned citizen do?

  • One you can be aware.
  • Two you can learn more about the systems and history that have led to the inequities illustrated in the infographic above.
  • Three you can take action by asking hard questions, connecting with others, and learning about the programs that are out there (and then using them or referring others).
  • Fourth you can consciously work to meet your neighbors throughout the city. How do you do that? You can plan or attend an event, you can call a contractor listed on the city’s minority business site, you can strike up a conversation when you are out and about, or reach out to a community organization you haven’t yet worked with and invite them to yours.

Keep in mind that social ties are often what drive opportunity. Creating those ties is one of our responsibilities as community members.

In subsequent posts we will interview various community members who are working in this area and present their thoughts on how we got here and how we might go forward together, both to build bridges, and to resolve the systemic inequities that exist in our community.

You are invited to share your own ideas in the comment section below.

Driving While Black: Addressing Inequities

Whether you call it profiling or disparate impact, the data shows that in both Columbia and Boone County, black drivers are more likely than white drivers to be stopped by police. Sunday’s article “Driving While Black”  reviews the data, the questions, and the consequences related to this fact.  Readers have observed that this pattern relates to poverty and other inequities identified in past forums.

What questions do you have? What experiences would you like to share? What changes would you like to make in our community? Why and how?

Come join other citizens on September 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the offices of the Tribune (enter on Walnut Street) for another citizen-led dialogue. Share what’s on your mind and listen to others.

Real people, real dialogue.  Join in a conversation that matters. We hope to see you on September 20.

Community Forum On Equity and Race

A number of organizations and community groups are hosting a forum on race and equity issues across the city, with a particular focus on education and poverty.  You are invited!  The forum will be held at Hickman High School, in the gymnasium, Tuesday May 3, 5:30 to 7 pm.  Hosts include Heart of Missouri United Way, the Columbia Public Schools, University of Missouri and the City of Columbia.