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Study: racial diversity low throughout Ohio

Though a recent study gave Ohio’s metro cities unsatisfactory ratings in racial equality, local officials believe Athens is not worse off than other areas.

“There is racial division everywhere,” said John Schmieding, director of the Athens Community Relations Commission. “Race is built into society, and we all seem to struggle with it.”

The Urban Institute study graded the top 100 metro cities in the country in terms of equality for African-Americans. Seven Ohio cities were on the list, all receiving a D or F. Toledo was the worst in the state, falling in the bottom ten, according a news release from the institute.

The study ranked equality based on residential segregation, neighborhood affluence, public school quality, employment and home ownership.

Even though cities received poor equality rankings throughout the state, Brian Bridges, vice provost of Diversity, Access and Equity at Ohio University, said there is little racial adversity at OU and in Athens.

“OU and Athens has a long history of presence of African-American students and citizens,” he said, adding OU’s first African-American student, John Newton Templeton, graduated in 1828.

“Given the increases (in presence) over the years, African Americans feel that there is a strong community in the area,” he said.

The two largest minority groups in Athens are African-Americans, making up 4.4 percent of the population, and Asians, making up 6.1 percent, according to the 2010 U.S. census. The African-American population is far below the Ohio average of 12.2 percent.

Minority populations have increased since the last census in 2000. In the city of Athens, the African-American population rose 0.6 percent over the last decade while the Asian population increased 1.5 percent during the same period, according to the census.

Bridges said he does not think there are major racial divisions in Athens but added that it is not a “perfect situation.”

“You might find one or two students who think we still need to do more, but we have made strides,” he said.

Schmieding said he and the community relations commission are working to continue the progress.

“We are about to undertake a campaign in the city to promote discussions about issues of race and diversity,” he said.

The commission will also have posters and workshops to get more people involved in diversity issues, he added.

Schmieding said the progress they have already made is important because racism is still a problem in Athens.

“We are kidding ourselves if we think racism is not a problem,” he said “It is a problem everywhere.”

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