In 2011, a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported intriguing findings about an ambitious program to green vacant lots, again in Philadelphia. From 1999 to 2008, nearly 4,500 of the city’s vacant lots were greened—trash was removed, the land was graded, grass and trees were planted, and low fences were installed around the lots. The researchers found “consistent, statistically significant” reductions in gun assaults in the areas near the greened lots, compared with areas near lots that were left alone.
Diversity has been “one of our fundamental principles,” says Brenda Krause Eheart, the University of Illinois professor and researcher who cofounded the community 18 years ago. “I think diversity helps us learn from each other.” When people from diverse backgrounds live together, “they become more tolerant of each other,” she says. “Tolerant isn’t quite the right word—people become friends, good neighbors.”
Don’t miss Bogira next Monday at Chicago: Segregated City, a rare screening of 3 Kartemquin films that confront Chicago’s legacy of racial segregation, along with a sneak preview of 63 Boycott, our in-progress film about the 1963 boycott of Chicago Public Schools by thousands of African American parents and students in response to Superintendant Benjamin Willis’s segregationist policies.
The costs have been steep. More than 20 years of research has implicated residential segregation in virtually every aspect of racial inequality, from higher unemployment rates for African Americans, to poorer health care, to elevated infant mortality rates and, most of all, to inferior schools.
Should Emanuel move to Englewood?
Emanuel said reports labeling Chicago the nation’s most racially segregated city were greatly exaggerated. “I doubt we’re even in the top two,” he told reporters at a City Hall news conference. But he allowed that the city “had yet to achieve ideal diversity,” and that his desire to achieve that lofty goal had prompted the contest.
Aides to the mayor later said Emanuel really did understand segregation’s role in the high rates of poverty, homicide, unemployment, and high school dropouts in many Chicago neighborhoods, and wanted to do something about it because such problems make it harder to attract business and tourism to Chicago.
The aides said the mayor had considered several other approaches for combating segregation. The boldest plan called for Emanuel to challenge segregation personally by moving to a poor black neighborhood.