NAACP leader discusses city inequality

James Rawlings, president of the Greater New Haven branch of the NAACP, cited transportation and housing as central issues of “urban apartheid.”
James Rawlings, president of the Greater New Haven branch of the NAACP, cited transportation and housing as central issues of “urban apartheid.” Photo by Jiwon Lee.

Apartheid exists in New Haven, according to James Rawlings, the president of the Greater New Haven branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

At a Monday afternoon talk, Rawlings — who is also a clinical instructor at the Yale School of Public Health — discussed a report by the NAACP Greater New Haven branch entitled “Urban Apartheid” that found that low-income minority residents in the New Haven area still face significant barriers to equal opportunities in all aspects of life, such as education, health, housing, jobs and civil rights. Rawlings called on various members of the community, including students and Yale community members, to take action to change the policies that promote an unequal system.

“For the last 20 years, the gap [between low-income and high-income neighborhoods] has grown in America, in Connecticut and in New haven,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings said a major barrier to employment results from a lack of physical access to transportation. The report showed that African-American workers in New Haven County are six times more likely to rely on public transportation than non-minority workers. Public transportation should be improved to make the commuting time for individuals “30 minutes instead of 90 minutes,” Rawlings said.

In New Haven County in 2010, 36 percent of African-Americans owned homes while as many as 74 percent of Caucasians did, Rawlings said. He said a reform in housing policy is necessary for better integration of low- and high-income neighborhoods. The gap between the health conditions of minority and non-minority residents is also evidence of drastic inequality, Rawlings said. The NAACP’s report found that the current asthma prevalence among black children in Connecticut is 18.9 percent, compared to 9.9 percent among non-Hispanic white children.

Rawlings said the Yale community plays a crucial role in solving these problems, but a major divide still exists between the University and the rest of the community.

“We have never sat down with the president of Yale University — not because we did not want it,” Rawlings said.

He added that his organization hopes to “go every place, any place” to raise awareness about the issues of inequality and to better motivate community involvement.

Audience members interviewed said they thought the talk was meaningful because the issues discussed should be spread to a wider range of people.

Jamil Jivani LAW ’13 said he thought Rawlings’ speech would help facilitate conversation about urban inequality within the Yale community.

“The best part of today’s event was hearing from a mixed group of people — both Yale’s and New Haven’s perspective,” he said.

Ceria Fernandez, a New Haven resident, said she was “excited to find out what I can do about [the problem].”

The NAACP Greater New Haven branch was granted its charter in 1917.

Correction: April 24 

A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Jamil Jivani LAW ’13.

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