Thursday, September 1, 2011

Segregation of Population and of Perception

The division between the African American and white population of Winter Park effects not only the historical perception, but also the current perception of the city. Having lived in the area for the majority of my life, I have never come in contact with the west-side, or the predominantly African American-side until recently. The history and culture of this community rarely gets told. When I, a native, Orlando, FL resident, thinks of Winter Park, the first things that come to mind are the nice houses, Park Avenue, and the wealthy people that live there. Winter Park, originally served as a popular retreat for wealthy Northerners during the “winter” months. The perception of Winter Park, sadly, has focused primarily on how wonderful and luxurious a place to come and enjoy. The spokesman for this vacation destination didn’t advertise the west-side, where the laborers for all the trendy attractions, the railroad, and the shops, lived in much less extravagant environments.

And still, in our modern, more “advanced” age, the west-side is still tucked away, out of plain sight, because we are blinded by the huge houses, tailored lawns, and fancy boutiques. Why has this tradition continued? Because the houses on the east-side are valued way more, and the price to pay in return is to continue denying the existence of the poorer section of Winter Park. The small fortunes needed to buy the houses in east-side Winter Park secure not only a mini-mansion for the owners, but also secures the tradition of a wealthier and safer neighborhood east of the railroad tracks. Meanwhile, just across the tracks, the adjacent homes and neighborhood value at fractions of the neighboring communities! This has been standard for almost one hundred and thirty years! If we were able to compare the two sides, and the quality of living between the two sides, would we be able to digest the information we discover, and more importantly, do something about it?

Because of the segregated nature of the city, the perception of the city is segregated. When approaching Winter Park, FL the two sides are seen separately, because that is how they are presented, and as long as the two sides are valued differently, I believe they will continue to be seen this way. The community around which Hannibal Square was founded in 1881 was a community who focused on the importance of faith and family in everyday life. This community may not be the wealthier side, but they do seem to be wealthier in their connections to their community and to their religions. The residents of the west- side owned many of their own businesses, and the west-side was for the most part an interdependent part of Winter Park capable of living separately from the main part, but also dependent on the jobs created by the needs of the wealthier sector. Also, the wealthy white crowd that fueled the Winter Park economy provided the African American population with more opportunities for a better education and private owned business.

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