In Summit- University, Ethnicity Influences Power

Power is a large word thrown around to coin a person who has a sense of authority in one way or another. It can be shaped and created by many different aspects such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, economic stability, etc. and while it might not always be fair in a way that the best man/woman holds the power, it certainly does become a way of life.

Based on my interpretation of the neighborhood and on visual and interactional experience, in Summit- University , power is shaped by ethnicity. This is plain to see as you travel through the streets and see, for the most part, segregated living areas.

I will not fill you with boring facts to prove this power relation, I will simply try to show you my point through my own, hands- on interaction with the neighborhood and its residents.

While the decrease of segregation within the neighborhood has made immense strides, it is still easy to see that this ethnic segregation depicts the people in power.

I will be blunt in saying that whites hold a vast majority of power in Summit-University. It doesn’t take much to realize this, as the “white” part of the neighborhood is ubiquitous with beautiful Victorian style housing, government buildings, college and churches.

It does make sense, then, that one of the greatest residents in power is Governor Dayton- one of the most powerful men in the state. Obviously, this is where political influence starts to relate to power. Not only does the governor reside here, but many of his supporters and non-supporters as the State Capitol is just a few minutes away.  Following Summit Avenue down the road and you will find see a large amount of Caucasian men in dress clothes heading to the college of law that happens to be on the “white side” of the neighborhood. Keep following to the Ramsey Hill area and you will run into the old F. Scott Fitzgerald hangout which is now the Ramsey Hill Association club house. Head to their website and sign up for a membership for benefits such as: committee chair members, parks and garden overseer, Hill House tour/fundraising director, as well as sitting in on meetings discussing the neighborhood and election of executive officers and board of directors.

All of those glamorous sites and preppy clubs seem pretty keen to the eye, huh? Well now it’s time to walk down the street to Selby Avenue, in the “ethnic” and “diverse” part of the neighborhood. Here, you will find a similarity in the closeness of the community, but that’s really it. As far as power goes, these people have little say. Of course, this has gotten much better throughout the years, with some ethnic minorities even holding committee positions, but still.

In my opinion, Selby Avenue is the best part about the neighborhood. It brings a laid back community- like atmosphere, diverse with all different cultures from Russian to White-American to Islamic, to an otherwise very busy part of St. Paul. Rarely will you see people strutting around in slacks or heels. Instead, a common sight is business owner in jeans and a t-shirt conversing with locals. I’m sure in some cases, these business workers are more preferred than the ones with “power” but we’ll leave it up to the harmless gossip to decide that!

Speaking of businesses, history, economic and social context play a big role in influencing how we understand power as operating in this neighborhood. Like most areas within Minnesota, whites flooded majority of Summit- University, as mentioned in my history blog. When African Americans came to town and started business there was racial uproar, which created the segregation that stands today. This segregation then creates a divide in economic standings as is evident by looking at the conditions of housing from one end of the neighborhood to the other. Since so much in this world is based around money (some even say you can buy love, which is absurd) eventually economic standing leads to a social divide. And although the Selby Avenue area is very open to every race and ethnicity, this social divide is almost entirely in the Summit Avenue area where the majority is white.

Like I said, it may sound a bit blunt but it is what I am seeing. All of these aspects led to power then and still leads to power today. And as times are changing, little by little, it is hard to say when or if power will ever be equal.


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