America’s Social Distance Crisis
Our friends over at Project Sanity, just one of the great shows in the Benjamin Dixon Show network, invited me to sit in on an interview with Ms. Erin Jones. She is a brilliant Woman of Color and a candidate for Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction. It was a great discussion. We covered a lot of topics. As we discussed each concern, I was reminded that they were almost all rooted in our social and economic structure. That should come as no surprise to those that pay attention.
The next logical step is the question of “persistence.” Why have we been in this state of constant inequality? In many cases, constant declination with the occasional leveling off from some leap in policy or technology that is always short-lived.
How We Got Here
The only conclusion that I could come to is Social Distance. In the United States, social distance is based on housing policy and practice. Furthermore, those policies and practices are based on social and economic norms. For the purposes of this article, I will use the below definition:
Social distance describes the distance between different groups of society and is opposed to locational distance. The notion includes all differences such as social class, race/ethnicity or sexuality, but also the fact that the different groups do not mix. The term is often applied in cities, but its use is not limited to that.
Obviously, race is a major factor in America. We tend to view people through the lenses of class, gender, and race. This puts each of us in broad groupings that are used to make judgments/generalizations about individuals. The further away we get from each other socially, the broader the assumptions we have about each other.
How It Works
This plays out in American policy. Washington, DC is the epicenter of power in this country. The majority of our representatives tend to be well-healed White men that have attended elite schools. The social gap between them and the average American may as well be measured in light years. The sea of privilege they swim in is only inhabited by the whales of Silicon Valley and the sharks of Wall St, for the most part.
Hence, this plays out through policy. In the world of academia, one can easily predict public school outcomes by measuring social distance from Privilege Sea. Additionally, the further you get from these waters, the more persistent the outcomes. We are talking generations of failing schools and communities. Furthermore, this exacerbates social distance. These communities become easy to scapegoat. This helps policymakers feel less beholden to the obstacles these communities face. The most vicious of cycles.
Let’s Fix It
Ultimately, we have to find ways to defeat the Social Distance Crisis. The key, I believe, to fixing the gap is education. Especially, public education. Would love to hear your solutions/thoughts! Use #SocialDistCrisis.