Are We Diverse?

Guest Post by Graig Meyer

In the recent WCHL forum on education, an unidentified caller ($50 says it was Gloria Faley) chimed in at the last minute to challenge the notion that we live in a "diverse" community.

Initially I thought "right on" when she pointed out that our town's population is overwhelmingly white and affluent. But then I thought, "Hey, one of the reasons we moved here was for the diversity."

Are we diverse or not?

If you go by population numbers, we're not as diverse as Durham but we're more diverse than many other NC towns. What really bothers me is that people from different cultural groups don't really seem to know one another. Do many members of our white, affluent population maintain friendships with many Latino immigrants or African-Americans who live in Northside.

If we were truly diverse, wouldn't we know each other better and talk a little more?

Graig Meyer coordinates the Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate Program in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System.


If you look at the historical trend in Chapel Hill Carrboro, there is a definite downward trend in African American population. There is a reduction of about 1% point per year. There is a steady rise of Asian American. Sadly, several of the folks who have left Chapel Hill are from long-time families. Famlies who have wonderful legacy in this town. Part of the reason for this change is because of price of homes. Some of the reason is because folks feel a lack of community. I was recently in Chicago. I attended the Chicago Gospel Festival at Grant park. It was wonderful to see the impressive diversity and conversations/interaction between a number of different groups. It was fluid, inclusive, and very enjoyable. I had a wonderful time.

It is clear to me that the developments in the area are geared towards very affluent residents. When you have a town that is largely very affluent, you begin to change to shape, attitude, and services in that town.

It troubled me greatly when Meadowmount began its marketing campaign. Their signs and brochures had a great absence of African American people. I have not seen their signs earlier. I hope that changed.

Because our community does not provide affordable housing, our teachers can't even afford to live in here. I know several excellant teachers who left for Wake and Durham because of housing cost and the lack of diversity.

Regarding differentiation.....

To have differentiation, you must maintain and define a consistent and clear curriculum. We made good strides on this in the last four years. Before that, the curriculum was defined by the individual school, not the system. Not good! But, there is more work to be done. Hopefully, that will continue. You must also have good staff development. Good strides on that in the last several years. Hopefully, that will continue. You must also have teacher planning time. This was a message that I preached often when I was on the school board. When I left, we were still not providing enough teacher planning time. Hopefully, that will improve. It worries me that we do not have nearly enough planning time for elementary teachers.

Just for fun, I replayed the relevant part of the WCHL forum ( , go to minute 57 or so). If it wasn't Gloria, it was her doppelganger. She talked about McD because the middle school is often held up as a showcase for differentiated instruction instead of tracking. I get to find out whether that works for my son for the next 3 years. As for the level of diversity, thanks Mr.Murrell, those are nice links. I think the caller was comparing the 76% white population here to other towns in the area which are higher minority population, e.g. Pittsboro, or Durham, or maybe to cities like San Franciso, etc. The USA as a whole is 77% white (see So we fit right into the national avg on that. The wealth is definitely higher than national avg, largely correlated with the number of advanced degrees.

Mr. Mayer quotes a caller to CHL:

Initially I thought "right on" when she pointed out that our town's population is overwhelmingly white and affluent.

well, that caller,-who I really don't think was Gloria Faley---- seemed to know a lot about McDougle middle school and how well things work over there. Perhaps this is why she made her remarks--she may know a lot about a tiny slice of the district. If she were to visit the other three middle schools, I don't see how she could possibly come to the same conclusion.

Diversity is more than racial. When I moved here in the 1970s, the folks who lived out in the country used to come into town and socialize once the students took off. Ruby has often raised the issue of this community not being as progressive as our reputation. I feel (no evidence just my gut) that the upscaling of the community has created an environment in which many of those country dwellers, many of whom are very liberal and progressive thinkers, are no longer comfortable coming into Chapel Hill/Carrboro. Used to be you could go to Bullwinkles, the Station, or the original Crooks Corner in your dirty work clothes or softball uniforms and have a great time (still mainly white though). Now those venues are gone as are the rural people. If the white population is more homogeneous than we were 15 or more years ago, I'm not sure how much hope their is for racial diversity. And with the price of real estate, I can't see that trend slowing down anytime soon.

I recently discovered these statistical profiles at , and they're an interesting way to compare towns across a number of different categories, from ethnic diversity to educational diversity to marital status to average weather.

For instance, you could compare Pittsboro:

to Chapel Hill:

Have fun!


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