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Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Adversity of Diversity

I recently heard a dialogue between various DJs on the radio about the racial and ethnic diversity in Madison. Listeners who called in claimed to love Madison because it is such a diverse city with so many ethnicities of the world represented. Yea, right!

The way I see it, Madison has summoned all people of color to a little pocket on the edge of the city, namely Allied Drive. If we decide to abandon our cultural identity to incorporate “white culture” into our lifestyles, maybe the hippies up on Jennifer and Williamson will welcome us to their neighborhood. But if we do not assimilate, most likely the landlords will be unable to get in touch with our references and ultimately be unable to verify our rental application. I personally spent weeks in Madison dealing with landlords in the various trendy areas of the city. Allied Drive, however, approved my application and handed me keys within three hours. It is possible that the white landlords really were playing phone tag with my rental and employment references. It is also possible that the woman of color who processed my application on Allied Drive was unbelievably lucky in the fact that she got in touch with of all my references within an hour.

Other circumstances could be woven into the situation to argue that race had nothing to do with my experience. Race arguments are tired. Even some African-Americans will say that they have ditched the race card because they are tired of talking about it. But how can it be ignored when so many of us on Allied Drive can relate similar experiences?

Some would argue that we can’t afford to live anywhere else. Please. There are a lot of us who have good jobs here. I talked to someone who manages several properties on Allied Drive and she confided that three graduate students live in her buildings among many educated individuals earning salaries comparable to the rest of the city. And as far as Allied Drive being a slum where no one pays their rent, that is a fallacy too. Well over 90% of the residents pay their rent in a timely manner with no worries, according to her observations.

I dread looking for housing anywhere else in Madison and disclosing on an application that I lived on Allied Drive. Already I have trouble obtaining goods and services that are readily available to the rest of the city simply because my address is on Allied Drive. How will I combat the unsaid assumptions that I have all these connections with Madison’s vast drug and firearms network? Remember, Allied Drive is a whole three blocks. I could be a potential danger to any neighborhood. Is it really worth the trouble dealing with the landlords “out there”? No, not really … at least on Allied Drive I can experience true diversity.

This column was originally published in Madison Voices, Allied Drive's community newspaper. Visit their Web site at: