Our community is faced with significant inequities that have persisted over time. The redlining map of Springfield shown in the picture above shows the mortgage lending categories used in 1940, which segregated our city and discriminated against people of color (https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redlining/#loc=13/39.794/-89.71&city=springfield-il). The red-shaded areas show the portions labelled as “hazardous” for loan making. Unfortunately, over 80 years later, the legacy of the redlining practices remain.
In recognition of the need to address inequities, the Citizens Club of Springfield, in partnership with the University of Illinois Springfield, will be hosting a series of programs titled Confronting Inequities in Springfield. The steering committee for this event states: “The Series seeks to engage the broader public in an educational dialogue about the lasting effects of inequities and their destructive legacy in our own backyard. The series also seeks to spur discussion and action to create a more just and equitable community and write the next chapter to our story.”
Segregation in the Heartland
The first program in the series will feature two reporters, Daniel C. Vock (an alumni of the UIS Public Affairs Reporting program) and J. Brian Charles, who wrote a series of articles titled “Segregated in the Heartland: An Investigative Series” for Governing. This program will take place via Zoom at noon on Wednesday, April 28. Brittany Hardaway, the Morning News Anchor for WICS News Channel 20, will be the moderator. (Click here for the registration link.)
The Governing series, which was published in 2019, was based on a six-month investigation into segregation in downstate Illinois metropolitan areas, including Springfield. Vock, Charles, and Maciag (data editor) analyzed U.S. Census data and federal/state school enrollment data; reviewed court documents, books, and academic reports; and spoke with more than 80 people, including local government officials, school district officials, legislators, sociologists, historians, community activists, housing experts, and black and white residents.
Based on their analysis of census tract data, the authors reported that Springfield was among the top third most segregated metro areas between black and white in the country. They also stated that the differences between the median black and white household incomes in Springfield were the highest of any metro area nationally.
The reporters do not claim to have “the answers” for how to eliminate segregation. But, drawing from their analysis and discussions with experts and community members, they present a number of factors that they believe may contribute to the persistence of segregation. This includes practices such as zoning requirements, housing covenant restrictions, white flight from central city schools, and past police records that create barriers for future employment opportunities. We, as a community, need to address whether these factors, as well as others, are contributing to the inequities in Springfield and, if they are, how we should address them.
Time to Come Together as Community to Address Inequities
The Citizens Club, in partnership with UIS, plans to host additional programs on inequities within our community. An important part will be to hear from grass root service providers, as well as individuals in our community, who are experiencing inequities in their daily lives. Their stories are important. As one of the steering committee members reminds us – “nothing about us, without us.”
We also need to share information about what groups in Springfield are doing to address inequities. This includes activities such as anti-racism training, economic and community development efforts in east Springfield, a summer youth employment program, outreach and other strategies to address health inequities, efforts to increase board diversity, assistance to local immigrant families, and others.
UIS scholars are addressing issues related to community inequities. For example, Ty Dooley, Tess Dooley, Richard Funderburg, and Travis Bland are examining Springfield's barriers to housing programs designed to de-concentrate poverty and desegregate its black community and the workforce development outcomes of families who move to more affluent neighborhoods. Jennifer Martin and Denise Bockmier-Sommers are studying the use of empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard to discuss topics such as race, social justice, and cultural competence. Sean McCandless has co-edited a book with Mary E. Guy titled Achieving Social Equity: From Problems to Solutions. And there are others too.
The steering committee for the Confronting Inequities in Springfield programs includes Willis Logan (Chair), Dominic Watson, Lisa Stone, John Allen, Maria Crain, John Stremsterfer, Sheila Stocks-Smith, Richard Bowen, and Beverly Bunch.
Bio: Beverly S. Bunch is a professor in the UIS Public Administration Department, with a joint appointment in the Center for State Policy and Leadership. She also is a board member of the Citizens Club of Springfield.