The social landscape of our city in changing..

The City of College Park used to be known some 50 or even 20 years ago is not the same as today’s College Park, New generations of people are moving into our neighborhood – Latinos, Asian, African and Europeans – people from all different parts of the world are changing the ethnic composition of our community.

rthnicThough the influx of this new generation of people is making our community a truly diverse one, their arrival is causing new complexities among the neighbors – there seems to be a decline in the trust among our residents.

“I don’t know who they are – we never met since they moved in” – this kind of expressions are abound when I talk to our long time residents and ask their opinions about their neighborhood on my campaign trail.

Sometimes the tones of their unknowingness turn into pitches of frustration. “This neighborhood is going to south – these people are changing the way I saw my neighborhood when we bought this house 30 years ago. I’m going to leave this place once I retire.”

Fortunately, many neighbors open up to express their reasons of frustration. These new neighbors, as one resident puts in “should behave better” – “they drive fast on our streets, their houses are full of people – I cannot even count how many of them live in that house.”.

I also noticed their concerns about the young members of these new families

“Their children play in the middle of our streets. When we grew up, we used to play in our backyards and parks; we never played on the street.”

Others even go further..

“Their children hang around at the street corners. Look at the four corner area; how many of their children roam around that place after the dark? Shouldn’t these kids be doing their homework at home? Do their parents know what their children are doing after the dark?”

I notice the repeated use of the words like “they”, “their” – as opposed to the use of words like “we” and “our”. And this signals the ethnic divide our community is currently going through.

True this social change may sound like an alarming one, but I’ve seen some very positive things that we should all be feeling proud of this community.

From the first look and by many definitions of ethnicity, I probably fall into the category of a minority group. (I was born in a foreign country, and I’m brown). Yet, except a few instances, I’ve found all of my long-time residents are very open-minded to have their ideas known to me. I found them very much engaged when I tried to discuss how we can all get our new neighbors into the greater fold of our community.

The nature of the challenges we’re facing in this ethnic ground is not radically different from the one we’re having between the residents and our university students – something that I blogged earlier. There is a parallel between these two issues – which can be summarized into one word – mistrust. This again results from the communication gap between the groups.

Many of the issues our long-time residents are concerned about may quite be true, and most likely because of the fact that our new neighbors aren’t quite aware of the city’s rules and regulations. Many of our young neighbors have language problems too; on top of that many do more than one job, thus having little time to take care of their families and social matters.

I think it’s the collective job of the City and our neighborhood associations to bridge this growing divide between the generations of the old and the new. The City’s family and youth services is doing a good  job in providing multi-language services to the city’s ethnic community; however I think the City and the neighborhood associations can arrange more educational and awareness programs on the ethnic issues that our  community is going through. In addition to having such programs, a joint multi-ethnic focus group should be created to explore the root causes of this ethnic divide and discuss steps to eliminate them.