Antagonist? Catalyst? Realist? Change agent? It’s time for Dayton to face race.

I had a long conversation with a friend today. Someone inside the system, someone who wins elections. One on one, he stands up for me. In public, he keeps a safe distance. He wants me to change my style- I want him to stand up and take things head on. Somewhere, there is a middle ground- but, in Dayton it’s a no man’s land we don’t want to talk about, we avoid, we ignore and we pretend that it’s not the fundamental flaw- the root of all evil, what’s holding us back.

It’s as simple as this: Dayton is going to stay screwed until we integrate- and I’m not talking just Dayton, city of- I’m talking Dayton- regional.

This article that I quote below- from NewGeography.com is the most prescient article I’ve read that sums up what’s holding us back. And it’s not the fault of the black people- it’s a fault of all of us. From Oakwood with its handful of black students- to Wright Patterson Air Force Base which does a crappy job of reaching out into the local community to support small and minority business.

It’s our political parties that play games with elections, and our poor excuse for a Federal Judge Walter Rice- who can’t realize that the “desegregation” process imposed on Dayton Public Schools in the seventies- did nothing to integrate the suburbs – foisting white flight, sprawl and a permanent screwing of the core city.

We now have a group of people who are convinced we can become a “progressive” hip mecca- without realizing that until we find ways to employ our minorities, we’re going to continue to have a class struggle- and a mess on our hands. No amount of “bicycle friendliness” or “complete streets” compares with good schools with opportunity or jobs that pay more than just a hardscrabble wage.

I highly recommend you read the whole thing- not just this excerpt- to find out why the dreams of the “Dayton Development Coalition” and their “Regional Rally” aren’t going to get us there- until we address the fundamental problems:

As the college educated flock to these progressive El Dorados, many factors are cited as reasons: transit systems, density, bike lanes, walkable communities, robust art and cultural scenes. But another way to look at it is simply as White Flight writ large. Why move to the suburbs of your stodgy Midwest city to escape African Americans and get criticized for it when you can move to Portland and actually be praised as progressive, urban and hip? Many of the policies of Portland are not that dissimilar from those of upscale suburbs in their effects. Urban growth boundaries and other mechanisms raise land prices and render housing less affordable exactly the same as large lot zoning and building codes that mandate brick and other expensive materials do. They both contribute to reducing housing affordability for historically disadvantaged communities. Just like the most exclusive suburbs….

Lack of diversity in culture makes it far easier to implement “progressive” policies that cater to populations with similar values; much the same can be seen in such celebrated urban model cultures in the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Their relative wealth also leads to a natural adoption of the default strategy of the upscale suburb: the nicest stuff for the people with the most money. It is much more difficult when you have more racially and economically diverse populations with different needs, interests, and desires to reconcile.In contrast, the starker part of racial history in America has been one of the defining elements of the history of the cities of the Northeast, Midwest, and South. Slavery and Jim Crow led to the Great Migration to the industrial North, which broke the old ethnic machine urban consensus there. Civil rights struggles, fair housing, affirmative action, school integration and busing, riots, red lining, block busting, public housing, the emergence of black political leaders – especially mayors – prompted white flight and the associated disinvestment, leading to the decline of urban schools and neighborhoods.

via The White City | Newgeography.com.

The only way we are going to fix ourselves- and to balance things out, is going to take a gigantic community gut check- a deep swallow of humility, and a strong communal spine- one that stands up for what is right – really right. It’s going to take a Dr. King or Gandhi-like leaders- to march us down the path to what we have to do to compete- and survive: regionalize and integrate, whole hog, everything.

One government, one school system, one income tax, one zoning code, one region under god, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

And not just Montgomery County- we’d include Beavercreek, Fairborn, Springboro- even Xenia, Tipp and Troy if they were smart. Springfield too if they’d like. We’d become big, and we’d learn to share. We’d find the best of the best to lead us- and pay them well. We’d stop thinking small- and think like an Army taking on a battle of international proportions. We’d make sure that we thought about the big picture first- and stopped sweating the small stuff.

Of course, I’m crazy for thinking this- or saying it. In Dayton, we don’t do anything without a collective hug, and the blessing of the poobahs. But, as long as we stay divided, we’ll continue to fail.

The moment our numbers start being looked at as a region, and we start acting as one, we can start addressing the real inequities in Dayton, the ones that are holding us back. We can stop “protecting our turf” and start actually harvesting it and selling it to the world.

I’m not suggesting I can lead the charge, but at least I can call for it. I don’t have to protect myself, my position, or my power base. Call me an antagonist, call me a jerk, but- then look inside and after reading the article quoted above- tell me if there is another way to go. I want to know.

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