NLC Insta-Poll: Some Cities Report Better Race Relations, but Much Work Remains. (Cities Promoting Racial Equality)

Article excerpt

Some city leaders have reported improved race relations since the September 11 attacks. But just as many said there was no perceptible change and others said relations had worsened.

The National League of Cities (NLC) conducted an Insta-poll of 73 cites and towns on this topic at the Congressional City Conference in March of 2002. Asked about race relations in their communities since September 11, 41 percent said race relations had improved while 39 percent reported no change and 20 percent said race relations had worsened.

"I don't think race relations have changed," says Cynthia McCollum, councilmember from Madison, Ala., and president of NLC's National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO).

She said there was more awareness about shared bonds among Americans right after the attacks but the effect was short-lived and racial injustice remains entrenched.

"I think there's been a steady decline," she said. "As African Americans, we talk among ourselves and say things seem to be worse. I still walk into municipal courtrooms for traffic violations and see mostly African Americans and Latinos. It's just not going to change overnight."

McCollum points to Ku Klux Klan rallies in recent years in Scottsboro, Ala., just a short drive away from her town. She believes the rallies would not have been tolerated 10 years ago.

Part of McCollum's job as president of NBC-LEO is to push for legislation to end racial profiling and predatory lending, and also to promote racial justice in cities and towns.

Charlie Lyons, selectman from Arlington, Mass., and second vice president of NLC, said the September 11 attacks changed attitudes in the short-term. Arlington held a candlelight vigil just after September 11 that identified Arlington as a "no place for hate" community and attracted about 4,000 participants.

"But I hope and pray there will be long-term, national reflection," Lyons said. "The big concern is how people have been segregated over the past 10 years by class and ethnicity." He fears that barriers such as poverty and lack of affordable housing will further divide Americans from each other. …