Friday, March 27, 2020

Healing a Divided Nation

Below is a Tweet that I saw today showing vastly different levels of concern for the #COVID19 virus among Democrats and Republicans.
There are many serious divides in America. One is a political divide. One is a wealth divide. One is a racial divide. Another is a technology divide. These divisions are tearing the country apart and reducing our collective ability to solve some of these problems.  Maybe while so many are now working at home, they will spend a little time looking at these divides and look for ways to bridge them, or shrink them.

Below is an article I wrote in October 2016.. before the election. 

On Saturday, Ann Medlock, of the Giraffe Heroes Project, shared a story on Facebook that prompted me to write this.  The article is titled "How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind" and was talking about how so many American's are supporting Donald Trump for President.

I read the article and encourage you to read it too.  If you live in a city, some of the ideas may turn you off, or challenge your thinking. If you live in rural America, or grew up there, you might say, as the author did, "That could be me."

Included in the article was a map showing the 2012 Presidential Election voting, on a county-by county basis.

Read  more 
The red counties on this map represent rural, mostly White, America. The blue counties represent urban America, with much larger populations of people of color. Reading the article I began to look at "TWO Americas" from a "rural-urban" perspective, not just from a "White-Minority" or "Rich-Poor" perspective.

Of course, they are all related.

What's driving the motivation of rural America is a changing economy that has caused factories and jobs to leave smaller cities and rural areas, leaving poverty and a lack of hope in its wake. The article talks about how popular culture (movies, TV, radio, music), coming out of urban Ameria, have helped prepare rural America to accept Trump. One line in the article was, "He's our "asxhxxle"

I did a little more digging today, and visited the web site of Mark Newman  There are several more maps on the site, like the one below. This shows that not all of the Red counties are 100% Republican and not all of the Blue counties are 100% Democratic.

Look closer at the maps
We know how the 2016 election turned out and how the nation has become even more divided in the years since then.   

What the political maps do not show is the racial mix across America.  
The article about rural America voting for Trump does not focus on the race and inequality issues that Black American's have been focusing on, yet it's there.

I recalled another web site that I saw a couple of years ago, with what's called a "Racial Dot Map". I've included a screen shot below, showing the full country.  The map has color coded dots showing where different racial groups are most concentrated.

Racial Dot Map shows different racial mix throughout USA

You will need to open the site and zoom in to get better information from this map, but just by comparing this to the map above, you see two patterns. A large part of the Republican counties East of the Mississippi are high majority White. Cities and urban areas across the country have high minority populations.  However, the areas West of the Mississippi, mostly Republican, have very low population density. This is lack of population density is a different rural America than Appalachia and the US South.   I encourage you to read Newman's article and see how he describes how population density affects the general election vote, as well as the Electoral College vote.

My take-away?

First, the issues of race and poverty in America are complex, and getting consistent attention of people in Red and Blue states will be difficult.  For the past 40 years I have focused on helping urban areas build and sustain non-school support systems for youth living in poverty.  However, I've recognized that there needs to be a parallel group duplicating my efforts, with a focus on rural areas. I recently found an organization called Rural Assembly, who is doing some of this.

Second, the problems facing rural American and its loss of jobs, rising poverty, growing drug abuse and suicide rates is also a wicked problem, that won't be solved by more tutor/mentor programs. It's not a problem I've spent much time thinking about, since the problems I do focus on are already far beyond my own area of influence.

Below is a map showing the Digital Divide in Chicago, which I included in a December 2018 article.
Digital Divide in Chicago

This screen shot shows interactive map included in WBEZ article titled "Clear Signs Of The Digital Divide Between Chicago’s North And South Sides"

The article reports that "more than half the households in Englewood and nearly half the households in West Englewood (51 percent), Riverdale (49 percent), Auburn Gresham, and South Shore (both 46 percent), lacked internet access at home".

The closing of schools across America during COVID19 has highlighted this divide, as many students do not have the equipment and/or internet access to continue learning.  However, it's also one of the reasons many in America are not connected to the information shared on the Internet, thus are limited to radio, local faith leaders, and local networks for the ideas they believe in.

This is an important divide to understand and reduce.  Here's a link to a set of articles on this blog where I've shared more information, and links, to the Digital Divide.

Update: 3/30/2020: Here's a Tweet showing households in the USA without Internet access:

Time for deeper learning:
In articles on the Tutor/Mentor blog I focus on learning, complex problems, network building, etc. These do apply to the issues this article focuses on.  Getting more people personally engaged in learning about the problems we face, and using their own time, talent and dollars to build solutions, is the one strategy that I keep sharing that can lead to a more connected America focusing on problems, not personalities, and focusing on well-thought-out solutions, not vague promises. 

I hope you'll take a look.