- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2001

RICHMOND Eugenia Anderson-Ellis helped festoon the lanterns along her street with red bows and swaths of evergreens. It's a traditional holiday scene in her mostly white neighborhood where well-kept houses still stand despite the Union's attempt to torch the Confederate capital.
One street over is Arlene Winston's mostly black neighborhood.
Miss Winston's three-bedroom duplex is smaller but no less festive. The paint is less fresh but brightened with garland and twinkling lights. The street is a little more bumpy, and the cars on the street are a little older.
The two women who share the historic Church Hill neighborhood are separated only by a four-lane street, yet they are worlds apart.
An Associated Press review of U.S. Census Bureau information on race in communities with more than 100,000 residents found that Virginia's largest cities remained mostly segregated.
The segregation indicator is the "dissimilarity index," a gauge that measures the degree to which a city's black, Asian or Hispanic residents are integrated with its white, non-Hispanic population. A city with a dissimilarity index of 100 for a given racial or ethnic group is completely segregated; an index of zero for a racial or ethnic group indicates a city of perfectly balanced blocks.
Richmond tops the list of Virginia's largest cities as being most segregated with a score of nearly 74 percent. Portsmouth (70.5) and Norfolk (63.4) helped round out the top three spots, followed by Hampton (53.0), Chesapeake (59.8), Alexandria (53.1) and Virginia Beach (48.1).
Nationally, Chicago (87.9) topped the list where black communities were most separated from whites, followed by the Babylon, N.Y., area on Long Island (87.8) and Lyons Township, Ill. (86.8), in the western suburbs of Chicago.
While small gains have been made in integrating these cities, the national trend shows the black-white urban divide to be particularly strong. Blacks live apart from whites significantly more than other minorities do, according to the AP review.
"The whites are over there," said Miss Winston, who is black, pointing toward Mrs. Anderson-Ellis' section of the neighborhood. "We're over here."
Miss Winston is proud to note that the family living next door to her duplex is white. Mrs. Anderson-Ellis, who is white, notes that she has black neighbors two doors down. Still, the lines are clear.
"It's not like we're not supposed to go over there," Miss Winston said, gesturing again in Mrs. Anderson-Ellis' neighborhood. "But most of my neighbors are black. Always have been, it seems."
The black-white divide has been an issue in Virginia politics for more than 100 years. Any optimism that black Virginians felt as the 20th century dawned was quickly shattered by a 1902 change to the state constitution that curtailed their voting rights.
Next came a succession of laws that prohibited racial integration and took away many civil rights that blacks had gained with the end of slavery and the Civil War.
"Segregation is not unique to Virginia," said John Moeser, urban studies professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. "But throughout Virginia's history, where there were laws that segregated institutions … that legacy still haunts us.
"It takes decades and decades and decades to undo that damage," he said.
Miss Winston and her family used to live in Mrs. Anderson-Ellis' white neighborhood, made famous by St. John's Church, where Patrick Henry gave his famous "Give me liberty" speech.
But investors came in and revamped the historic homes, driving up rents and mortgages that working-class families couldn't afford. Houses now sell for as much as $300,000 there, said Dick Neher, a 30-year resident of the area.
Over the years, what was once an 80 percent black population dwindled to 20 percent today, Mr. Neher said.
Miss Winston just recently moved back to the mostly black area after 20 years away.
"My parents moved away because it was too expensive, but I wanted to come back and finally did," she said as she tacked another red bow to the banister leading up to her house.

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