Photo caption: After the November 2016 election of President Donald Trump, signs similar to the one pictured above have sprouted in yards around central Ohio. The sign states, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” in Spanish, English and Arabic.
An insight on racial tensions throughout the US and how it affects the UA community
By Katherine Dominek and Clare Driscoll, ’19
The blue skies over Charlottesville, Virginia turned black and white on Aug. 12 as the streets were splattered with red. A Dodge Challenger, allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, parted a sea of protesters, injuring 19 and killing one. Signs and posters calling for solidarity, love and peace were trampled as the crowd of counter-demonstrators dispersed.
Events such as the Charlottesville attack seem to be occurring more frequently around the nation and around the globe, sparking dialogue regarding diversity, acceptance, and tolerance.
For those who have grown up in Upper Arlington, it’s not difficult to get trapped in “the bubble,” especially due to the fact that UA is a society with a deep rooted history of turning its cheek to outsiders.
While Upper Arlington has improved from its intolerant past, there is much we can do to better our community’s take on diversity and acceptance.
On Aug. 12, the “Unite the Right” rally, an alt-right demonstration, was held to protest the removal of a statue commemorating Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Later, the rally broke out into a violent demonstration leaving 3 dead and 19 injured.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country,” President Donald Trump said in a controversial statement following the Charlottesville attack.
“[It’s] very important for the nation to hear @POTUS describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida
Members of both political parties condemned Trump’s words.
Fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted, “[It’s] very important for the nation to hear @POTUS describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.”
While Charlottesville has undoubtedly left a mark on the country, its effects on local societies prove to be debatable.
“The Charlottesville riot has no connection [to] UA… and [it has not had] an effect on the community… I especially don’t want any unnecessary action taken by UA to possibly catch the attention of these people, [whether] it’s the KKK, ANTIFA or any other belligerent… ideological group, they have proven themselves to be militant, terrorist organizations,” senior Zach Buckley said.
Others, such as sophomore Abby Hahn, believe that events like Charlottesville should be mentioned in the school environment.
“No one talks about it and it is a thing that definitely needs to be discussed. We need to encourage students to not accept that. I’ve heard people validating white supremacy and it’s absolutely disgusting,” Hahn said.
Cities across the country, such as Lexington, Kentucky and New York City, have announced the forthcoming removal or relocation of their Confederate statues in light of the racially-fueled violence. Many other cities, like Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama, are currently considering the removal of their statues.
Not all believe that Confederate statues should be removed. Some argue that it will erase the history of a major turning point in our nation.
“[It’s] sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You… can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson— who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!” Trump said in a tweet.
As the nation was collecting itself after being torn by another divisive and violent racial event, supremacist messages were circulated close to home.
On Aug. 16, only four days after the Charlottesville attack, “packages containing KKK flyers were dropped on dozens of Green Township doorsteps on Cincinnati’s West Side,” an article from Cincinnati’s FOX19-WXIX said.
The flyers, which declared, “Racial purity is America’s security,” were distributed in outdated employment guides and left on people’s driveways.
“Green Township Police… are not investigating this as a hate crime… [since] the message is still protected by our First Amendment,” the article said.
Charlottesville starts a local debate over Confederate statues
Diversity in Old Arlington
The History of Upper Arlington compiled and written by the UA Historical Society describes the few African-American citizens and families that lived in the neighborhood before it became a bustling suburb.
The African-American community provided farm labor and postal delivery services, among other tasks and were said to have “rear[ed] the children of Upper Arlington.”
As UA began to grow, racially restrictive covenants were placed on house deeds, determining who could and who could not purchase the house.
Ohio author Patricia Burgess said in her book Planning for the Private Interest, “Written into the deeds were restrictions, made to be in effect until 1999, stating that no home could be sold or occupied by ‘any person or persons in whole or part of the Negro race or blood’ but people not of the white race could be employed as servants.”
The 1948 US Supreme Court ruling in Shelley v. Kraemer declared that racial restrictions on real estate were no longer to be enforced by courts. However, through shady policies, Upper Arlington still marginalized people of color from the real estate enterprise.
In a post titled “A Case of Race” published on the blog Unshoveling the Past, the writer, a local known as Sarah, describes how this worked.
“The Thompsons, [major real estate developers of Upper Arlington] went about circumventing [the Shelley v. Kraemer ruling] by mandating membership in a community or association as a condition of purchase or sale.”
The blog also described her family’s fight against the Northwest Arlington Association (NWAA) which was carrying out discriminatory real estate policies.
“My parents were two of the four white plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the [NWAA] and its trustees,” Sarah wrote in the post. The lawsuit was an effort to disestablish the association and the seemingly invisible covenants.
In 1970, Sarah’s next-door neighbor had put their house up for sale. An African-American family wanted to buy the house, but the NWAA stepped in and purchased the house.
“Soon afterward… a lawsuit [was filed] hoping to end this xenophobic practice in UA. It was not a popular act, and I remember the harassing phone calls and my mother being worried that a cross would be burned on our lawn. She was always a worrier, but since the newspapers printed our address in the paper, she had good reason to worry,” Sarah said.
The African-American family won the lawsuit in the Franklin County Common Please Court, and by the order of Judge Clifford Rader, the NWAA was ultimately disestablished and all remaining restrictive
covenants were nullified.
Where We Are Now
As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Upper Arlington has a total population of 33,771, with over a 92 percent white population. In contrast, Reynoldsburg, a neighboring Central Ohio city of a similar size, has a white population of less than 70 percent.
Because of this lack of diversity, some people of color in Upper Arlington feel that white citizens have a hard time discussing diversity and acceptance.
“Once you talk about diversity and… about the lack of it, people tend to get uncomfortable.”
Freshman Mesi Morphew
“Not everyone here is like this but I feel like… once you talk about diversity and… about the lack of it, people tend to get uncomfortable. And when I say, ‘people’, I mean white people who have been living in a neighborhood with primarily other white people,” freshman Mesi Morphew said.
Sophomore Ayah Elsheikh, who grew up in UA, recently moved back after nearly four years living in Saudi Arabia.
“[In Saudi Arabia] people are very careful about what they say because they know that there are people in their environment that will take offense. In this area people are still very careful about what they say in terms of that subject, but it’s not as important to be censoring what you say because there aren’t people around you that relate to the subject,” Elsheikh said when comparing her former International school to UAHS.
Not all believe that UA has difficulty accepting diversity.
“I’m part of a lot of hip-hop groups [around Downtown Columbus]… hip-hop’s going to attract a lot of different backgrounds. And generally my experience has been… very loving and caring— people around me have been very accepting of other individuals anywhere I go,” junior Cory Leo said, expressing that he, “see[s] no difference,” in how UA handles diversity.
Facing the Future
Thoughts on the future of diversity in UA have spurred efforts to improve education and awareness.
“We could be better by just making sure we educate ourselves to what is happening around the world not just our small community so we can know how it is for people all over the place. Also making sure as a community we are being more accepting of people who look different,” Morphew said.
UA’s Burbank Early Childhood School has taken steps to include acceptance and respect into their young students’ curriculum by adding an “emphasis on diversity” in their mission, in hopes of teaching their students to appreciate the differences of others.
One way UAHS students can educate themselves is by attending the Culture and Diversity Club every other Wednesday after school in room 243.
“Culture and Diversity Club [encourages] students… of UAHS to explore and celebrate the diversity of our UAHS community, provide opportunities for safe and productive dialogue among members of the UAHS community as a way of understanding our similarities and differences,” senior Cindy Tang, the President of the Culture and Diversity Club, said.
The club will also be hosting a Culture Fair, which will happen around sometime in March 2018.
“UAHS’s Culture Fair exists to unite and strengthen our UA community… bring[ing] the entire school together in preparing, taking part in and experiencing a day filled with cultural education, sharing and fun. [Also, we hope] to represent as many groups as we can and to have as many students and staff take part in the Culture Fair as possible,” Tang said. In years past, the event has taken place all day in the auditorium lobby.
While the acceptance of minorities in UA has evolved throughout the decades, we must “[bring] more awareness to the fact that even though the number of minority students at this school is very low, we should appreciate their presence in our school,” Elsheikh said, “and that… in the end we’re all human.”