Race and Community Your Community the Community Essay

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Race and Community

Your Community

The community in which I have lived for the past several years of my life is Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a relatively agricultural community that combines some major metropolitan features with a distinctive suburban flair. Traditionally, this community has not been noted for its racial diversity, as the vast majority of its residents are Caucasian. According to the United States Census Bureau's information as of 2009, 87.9% of all Sioux Falls residents were Caucasian, while the next highest population group, the population of American Indian and Alaskan Native persons, merely constitutes 8.5% of the city's residents (State and County, 2009). The percentages of populations are comparatively non-existent following the aforementioned group, as 2.9% of the city's inhabitants are Hispanic or Latino in origin, 1.2% of people reported their ethnicity as being Black, .9% of residents are Asian and .1% of the city's inhabitants are native Hawaiian or some other variation of Pacific Islander (State and County, 2009). It should be noted, however, that such infinitesimal percentages are in part attributed to the fact that 1.5% of those responding to this population survey reported that their ethnicity consisted of two or more races.

The lack of diversity in Sioux Falls is underscored by the relative differentiation of housing locations with which the respective racial groups are separated. Dissimilarity of the residential integration and neighborhood characteristics of Sioux Falls indicates that approximately half of minority groups live within their own enclaves (Diversity Data, 2010). This statistic is greatest for the American Indian population, which has a 45.5% rate of dissimilarity, while Hispanics and Blacks, respectively, have a 42% rate and Asian and Pacific Islanders (which comprise 1% of the city's population), have a 32% rate of dissimilarity (Diversity Data, 2010). As these figures indicate there is some dispersal among the races in community dwelling, but there is also a fair amount of separation in housing choices, or in the lack thereof.

As a Caucasian living in Sioux Falls I can confirm that Whites are the predominant racial group in the city, and that they typically enjoy all of the social and economic benefits such a majority would have in this environment. As far as the treatment of other based on their race, I would say that people are not so much treated differently as that in certain social settings (as well as in monetary or business practices and engagements) people of varying ethnicities are fairly rare to see. When one sees such groups in settings which are predominantly comprised of Caucasian people, the minorities are not necessarily treated any differently than others, although in some cases people may tend to look at them a little longer than they would at another Caucasian.

Challenges

Unfortunately, there are a substantial amount of challenges which people of minority ethnic groups face while living in Sioux Falls. It may even be possible that a substantial amount of these challenges are directly related to the lack of diversity within the city. The economic challenges faced by such minority groups are considerable, and there is no shortage of statistical information to buttress such an assertion. Among the most salient examples proving this point is the fact that in a city in which the poverty rate is 7%, the burgeoning numbers for the various minority groups are exceedingly high. The poverty rate for Caucasians is merely six percent, while the same static for American Indians is almost eight times higher at 47% (Diversity Data, 2010). Blacks and Hispanics have roughly a 28% rate of poverty (Diversity Data, 2010). These figures are all the more stark when one pauses to consider that again, the Sioux Falls population consists of only 8.5% American Indians, yet this ethnicity determines roughly half of the city's poverty rate.

Several different media have confirmed that the incidence of poverty among children is particularly devastating in Sioux Falls. Fortunately, there are a number of community organizations which have undertaken the arduous task of ameliorating such a pressing problem, as the following quotation from a South Dakota children's advocacy newsletter readily demonstrates. "South Dakota Voices for Children in late 2008 brought together key stakeholders to identify cornerstones and develop recommendations to combat childhood poverty and shift public policy. That work is the subject of a report "A Common Good," which was released mid-summer in Sioux Falls and Rapid City and is also available online at sdvoicesforchildren.org. The five cornerstones are economic security, housing, health and nutrition, education, and building public will (Lift SD Families, 2009)."

If I could change any inequities in Sioux Falls I would definitely attempt to address the disparity in the poverty rate for minority groups, particularly that of children. I would attempt to develop programs that would provide educational opportunities that could lead to gainful employment specifically for minority groups -- and for Native Americans in particular, since their ancestors inhabited this land before they were decimated and murdered by what some historians consider to be depraved imperialists -- that could ideally lift them beyond the limitations of poverty. Ideally, such employment would be situated in the respective neighborhoods of these minority groups, which could edify and uplift their community as well as provide a means of monetary sustenance.

Media

There are several media outlets throughout the community of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Many of these media options are locally based, while even the majority of the national media outlets tend to focus their scope primarily in consideration of a decidedly local, community based angle. The largest daily newspaper outlet is the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, which offers a satisfying blend of local and national news. The Tri-State Neighbor is a business media outlet principally dedicated to the coverage of agricultural issues and their effect on the surrounding city's climate. Weekly print publications include the Sioux Falls Business Journal, Link, as well as the Sioux Falls Shopping News, while a number of monthly and bi-monthly publications, such as Good Life and Last Call Magazine, provide residents with information as well. KSOO AM 1140 is one of the primary sources for public radio news, in addition to Radio 570 WNAX. Prominent local television stations include Central Plains Media's independent station, channel 26.

The representation of minorities in such media, however, is virtually non-existent, from the perspective of both advertising and feature news. Although crimes committed by minorities certainly figure prominently in media broadcasts, it would not be accurate to state that coverage devoted to such occurrences is sensationalized, for the simple fact that such occurrences do not take place with any regular degree of frequency. Excluding publications and media outlets aimed at women (conceivably of all nationalities, yet inevitably focusing on Caucasian females), such as the monthly print publication ETC, For Her, there are virtually no media news outlets with a minority focus in Sioux Falls. The closest one can come to something of this nature would be the scarce independent blogs produced by minorities, such as Indianz.com, which is more regional (covering all of South Dakota) and does not focus exclusively on Sioux Falls. Similarly, the lack of diversity in the city is reflected in the television news anchors, which rarely mirror other ethnic groups in the city other than Caucasians.

Community Leaders

The dearth of diversity evident in the city of Sioux Falls population resounds throughout many of its private municipal chambers as well. Although there are two women on the city council, Michelle Erpenbach and Sue Aguilar (the latter of which may be Hispanic), the rest of the six city council members are all Caucasian except for Kenny Anderson, an African-American. The mayor and other principal positions within the Sioux Falls' municipal organization are also Caucasian. The lack of diversity is again reflected in the face of law enforcement officials, although it should be noted that there are several instances of disproportionate minority contact initiated by Sioux Falls law enforcement officers. Studies indicate that Native Americans are more likely to be arrested and detained after being arrested than other minority groups (Leonardson, Loudenburg, 2005).

I was fortunate enough to procure an interview with Andre Oliver, vice-president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Sioux Falls chapter. Oliver's responses were decidedly optimistic regarding the representation of minority groups within the city and state of South Dakota. He pointed to the fact that there is currently a Sioux City Diversity Council, and that the governor has called for a unity community as well as reconciliation with Native Americans. He alluded to the Sioux Falls Human Relations Commission and the human relations commission at the state level as indicators that minority advancements are being made within the local community, and that further strides must be taken to value others so that ideally, one treats another the way one desires to be treated. Oliver's view reinforces the positive aspects of a situation which is still far from realizing the ideals which he believes are forthcoming.

Employer

My employer is Wells Fargo, where I work as a teller…[continue]

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