By DeVinnia Moore
Living in the Ledge reporter
As the nation is becoming more diverse, Grand Ledge is still waiting for it to happen.
As of July 1, 2015, Grand Ledge’s population is 7,856. According to citydata.com 91.4 percent of that population is white.
“In terms of Grand Ledge city government, nothing has been done to increase diversity in the city and nothing has been done to discourage it,” said Mayor Kalmin Smith.
Ekow King, a director of the University at Albany said this makes Grand Ledge’s level of ethnic diversity extremely disproportionate to the state and national population. King has expertise in many things one being diversity.
“Having a town where 91 percent of the population is white in a country that is increasingly diverse sets Grand Ledge up for failure,” said King.
According to the United States Census, 62 percent of the U.S. population and approximately 76 percent of the Michigan population identifies as European-American (white).
“There are many factors, some historical and others more contemporary, that would have an impact on the levels of ethnic diversity in a community,” said King.
Said Mike Hill, professor University at Albany, and the author of the book After Whiteness: “Sometimes small towns are resistant to change.”
“The real question is how can a town expect to grow with out seeking diversity?” said Hill.
Smith said the town does plan to grow, As the Lansing urban area expands to the west and as the population of Grand Ledge grows, the city will undoubtedly become more diverse.
“Grand Ledge has a very small minority population that I expect will increase as the Lansing metro area expands west,” said Smith. “How soon that happens depends on the economy and the availability of housing.”
Smith said Grand Ledge is historically a rural agricultural community 10 miles west of Lansing. It has evolved into a suburban community with many people living there but working in Lansing.
“There hasn’t been any effort by the city government to determine or control who lives here. The fact that the city has not grown for some time is a factor,” said Smith.
Smith said currently the city is landlocked with very few options for expansion. The city did receive additional acreage from the township recently and expects a number of $200,000-plus homes to be built over the next few years.
However, Grand Ledge does have pockets of diversity, notably its schools.
“The Grand Ledge School District is more diverse than the city because it is a lot bigger and includes much of Delta Township which borders Lansing and has a larger minority population,” said Smith.
According to publicschoolsreview.com the Grand Ledge High School diversity score is 24 percent compared to the Michigan average of 26 percent. This means that although the high school is more diverse than the city, it is still less than the state’s overall average.
“Grand Ledge High School covers more than the City of Grand Ledge; most students come from the west of Lansing,” said Beverly Winstanley, President of the Grand Ledge School Board.
“I believe we have great diversity because we cover such a wide footprint,” said Winstanley. “We have not had any complaints on race; we have a comfortable and nurturing environment.”
King said a diverse community prepares children for a future where in order to be successful, you must be able to work effectively with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.
“Part of what makes small city strive is staying relevant,” said Hill. “The city can give grants to small business, for underrepresented groups.”
King said understanding and finding solutions will lead to a community that is more diverse ethnically.
“City officials should first do an assessment of the climate in the city. Are the members of the community interested in a greater amount of ethnic diversity? Are they resistant? Is the community openly hostile to populations of color? Are some populations more acceptable than others?” said King.
“The political, academic and business leaders must educate themselves and others on the value of diversity,” said King “And the residents must participate by recognizing and welcoming the positive change that comes with diversity in any community.”
The community can also help bring diversity into a town, King said people tend to come to places where they can provide for their families, they are also looking for communities where they feel welcome and places where their values are reflected and respected.