Why You’ll Like It: Scholarly Critique on housing & schools in Grand Rapids.
I am a Grand Rapids transplant and proud to be one. I do not think in school I realized that my career choices (and job market) would not necessarily allow you to live in the same place (for the rest of your life). I remember learning the 50 states and capital song, remembering talking about the overall summations of states (state bird, flower, etc), but while you learned your local and state history intimately---that did not apply to the rest of the states. I When I moved to Michigan, I did not really know any of the local history. I knew comments that people made and their memories growing up, and I did quickly learn some Michigander quirks:
1. Everyone in Michigan does this hand thing to tell you where they live. See video below.
2. People in Michigan (at least in Grand Rapids) ALL KNOW EACH OTHER AND IT IS WEIRD.
I’m so serious, I’m a big city girl and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t name my neighbors (and they have lived next to us for YEARS). I’m lying, I like know like two families on the block, and don’t get me wrong, we wave and say hi (we're not RUDE)---but I don’t know their whole life story. It's awkward when people start talking about everybody who knows everybody. I like my anonymity.
On to the book:
I read a very compelling history about how they city instituted inequalities that have plagued Grand Rapids neighborhoods and schools since the 1960s. The struggle of African-Americans in this small city is absolutely fascinating. This is a very academic read, but Robinson is very thorough in his research on this topic. I mean, it is crazy to me that (today) all the complaints lodged against (certain neighborhood) schools and city housing HAVE NOT CHANGED. It completely blew my mind! The murmurs and whispering that you hear from local or suburban people about "those" neighborhoods or "that" school STILL EXIST TODAY. Don’t get me wrong, you get to read about people who were trying to make change happen here (and some were successful in doing so), but the book ends on this bittersweet note (to me) because while you see how far the African-American population has come in fighting for civil rights in this city, well, why is still so much the same? The city should have gone forth to become better...but is it? I know that Grand Rapids is going through a regrowth (this is ignoring recession, jobs going overseas, drugs, etc). Needless to say, It was VERY enlightening read.
One of my laments to friends and family when I first moved to Grand Rapids was the general population was not accustomed to (seeing or dealing much) with black professionals. For the record, I was born and raised in a city that is HIGHLY segregated in living areas, BUT everyone works with everyone. Walk the streets of downtown Chicago and YOU SEE EVERYONE. Perks of living in a big city? Probably.
This book just echoes the on-going message that we still have a long way to go (in this particular area) to have a city that is not racially divided.