Saturday, February 24, 2018

Living in Baton Rouge, Living in the South, and Lent

I cut and pasted this link in the summer of 2017. It was a year after it was written. It was written just after the Alton Sterling shooting. Go read the Wikipedia article, then read the "everythingisfinehere" post. I'll wait.

It’s not getting worse. It’s been there all along.

I spent a lot of years in Connecticut. For many of those years while I lived in Bridgeport, I worked in the suburbs - first Wilton, then Hamden. Both of them are pretty white. My kids went to school where they were in the minority (but not, as in this article, THE minority). I saw some of the issues outlined here. In the North they are often masked by artificial political divisions ... the City/Town line between Bridgeport and Trumbull, for instance.

Now go back and look again at the map. Can you find Florida Boulevard? It is amazing to me how graphically prominent it is. I will also note, that when I drive North/South in the city (or the reverse), I inevitably spend at least a full minute, and often more, waiting to cross Florida Boulevard. There is only one intersection that I regularly use where that does not happen ... it is the T-intersection at River Road and Florida where Florida Boulevard begins. Let me also note that I have driven from that intersection, along Florida Boulevard to Airline Highway without having to stop for a single traffic signal! The road is not only a geographical marker, but an actual physical divide.

Finally let me note. When I first moved to Baton Rouge, I stayed in the same Congressional District as when I lived in New Orleans. It is an amazingly gerrymandered district, drawn to maximize the number of black voters. Look at the map here. I moved south in Baton Rouge, a few miles, and am suddenly in a different district! (Actually, at my old place, it was 0.75 miles to work, and work was in a different district!)

The two most poignant quotes, which resonate most with me, are these:
  1. "I had no idea the eye opening experience we had unwittingly signed up for when we agreed to move to Baton Rouge."
  2. "I never thought I’d see a city this segregated in my lifetime."
 Part of what I am (finally) beginning to realize is the incredible life of privilege which I have lived.

My challenge to myself this Lenten season is: What am I going to do about that?