social capital and community integration
On NPR the other day, I heard a very interesting interview. The interviewee was relating lack of social capital between races as the reason for racial segregation in our cities and communities. He also stated that social capital was essential to making our communities a safer place.
According to the interview, creating social relationships between people of all different communities is a more important first step than simply being integrating communities, because integration should naturally follow once the social relationships are formed. If someone goes to their friends house in a different neighborhood than their own that may be racially different, they are exposed to a different environment than they are used to. Being immersed in that environment will supposedly show them that the neighborhood isn’t that bad and it will allow them to break down the previous assumptions they had about the neighborhood (ex: high crime, etc.). Therefore, you won’t have pre-conceived notions about why you shouldn’t move there, since you will no longer fear being in the racial minority.
In addition, social capital between communities will make communities safer because if something happens in a particular neighborhood, it will not be a problem just for the people in that neighborhood, but also all of their friends and social acquaintances who live in different neighborhoods. Therefore, all different communities will care about the well being of other communities, not just worrying about their own, while other communities are forgotten about and crime and other problems are ignored by the larger public. The example the interviewee gave was that the whole nation was upset about 9/11 even though not all of us are New Yorkers. He attributed this to the fact that a lot of people live in New York City and so many people across the country have social connections to people who live in New York or worked in the world trade center. Therefore, we should get to the point in our own city so that if there are a string of shootings in Northeast Minneapolis, it shouldn’t be a problem just in Northeast Minneapolis, but for the whole city.
It is also possible to take this argument a step further. Putnam argues that the reason why people in the poor neighborhoods can’t bring themselves out of their poverty is because they do not have the social capital required to get high-paying jobs. If we were to create more social bonds between communities, this would become less of an issue and it would be easier for the people in the poor communities to not be so isolated and have easier access to a wider range of job opportunities, therefore increasing the capital in that community, and pulling the community out of its economic rut.