Let’s consider why the Town of Wethersfield never will desegregate. I’m white and live in Wethersfield; if you’re white and live in West Hartford or Newington or Glastonbury or South Windsor, feel free to substitute your town’s name for Wethersfield. Windsor and maybe Bloomfield get a pass for now. (I’m focused on the towns contiguous to Hartford, but if you live in Farmington or Glastonbury or Avon, this is for you, too.)
Wethersfield has over 26,000 residents, 86% white and 4% Black. The median household income in Wethersfield is over $83,000. The City of Hartford has 122,000 residents, 33% white and 37% Black, and the median household income is below $35.000. By comparison, the U.S. is 76% white and 14% Black, and the U.S. median household income is $69,000.
In short, Wethersfield is way above the national average in white population and income, and way below the national average in Black population. Hartford is way below the national average in white population and income. Black and poor people live in Hartford, disproportionately.
These aren’t random statistical concentrations; these concentrations have occurred and persist throughout our country for a reason. For 400 years in North America, white people have separated Black people intentionally, and Blacks were made to suffer substantial poverty intentionally.
I actually used to think we’re segregated because Black people want to live together, or Blacks just don’t get educated or work hard enough, or because it just happened that way. My plan for integrating West Hartford when I lived there, for integrating Glastonbury when I lived there, and for integrating Wethersfield when I first moved there, was to wait for the “right kind” of Blacks to move there. All of that thinking is way beyond naïve. Greater Hartford is segregated by town, intentionally and by design. White design. Indisputably. It is a problem that will not fix itself.
In greater Hartford, town boundaries are used to maintain that segregation.
Let’s imagine there is a great awakening in Wethersfield, when most of the white people in Wethersfield say, “Hey, this segregation is wrong, and we have to do something about it.” What would they do? They’d have meetings and discussions, they’d consider proposals, and eventually they’d adopt some ordinances and other proposals designed to integrate Wethersfield. Typical civic activity when faced with a civic problem.
What’s wrong with this picture?
What’s wrong is that there are no Black people in the picture. White people in segregated Wethersfield would design integrated Wethersfield in their image, an “integrated” town conceived and implemented by white people. White people designing the solution is no better than white people creating the problem. Black people are entitled to participate in the creation of their world, and they must no longer be forced to accept some world that the white upper caste invents for them. I’m talking about all Black people, not just those who I might think are the “right kind” of Black people.
Integration will happen in greater Hartford only when Black and white people build together.
Building together means sharing power. Yes, power. White people used their power to create this caste system and white people used their power to segregate our cities and towns and keep them segregated. If we truly want to integrate, white and Black people must work together, and Black people must have meaningful power in that process.
Wethersfield can’t integrate itself because there aren’t enough Black people living there to integrate with. There can be no meaningful sharing of power in our white towns, because there are too few Blacks there to share the power with.
However, if you’re white in greater Hartford and want to eliminate the immorality of racial segregation, there is a simple solution: merge your town with Hartford.
Merge with Hartford? Yes, merge with Hartford, because the people living in Hartford are the people who have been excluded from out white towns. The only way to end racial segregation in the governance of our community is to let in the people who have been intentionally excluded.
Merging with Hartford is the first step, the only meaningful first step, to eliminate racial segregation in greater Hartford. Our town boundaries are the largest impediments, almost impregnable barriers, to the integration of our population. Why? Because our town boundaries leave Blacks powerless, intentionally powerless, in Wethersfield and West Hartford and Newington and South Windsor.
Merging is the beginning of the end of racism in greater Hartford, because merging is the beginning of sharing power with all those who live in our community. And make no mistake, sharing power is a two-way street – I’m talking about Blacks and Hispanics sharing control of the City every bit as much as whites sharing power to control their towns.
Put Blacks and whites under one municipal “roof,” and everything changes. Now Blacks and whites are working together on the city council, on commissions, on schools, on everything that matters to a community. That’s sharing power.
Yes, I know that merging the City and the towns will not, in and of itself, eliminate racism, but I challenge white suburban Hartford to demonstrate how to end racism without merging. It is impossible to end racism without ending segregation, and it is impossible to end segregation without sharing power. How will the white towns share power with Black citizens if they don’t merge with Hartford?
Only when Blacks and whites come together politically in local government can they work together to end racial segregation and racially driven poverty in our community.
If greater Hartford is serious, truly serious, about combatting racism and all of its evils, then our community must eliminate its town boundaries.