Last fall, there were several pieces published in the Hartford Courant and CTMirror related to the many strengths and challenges Connecticut has faced over time and what is driving our population to stay here or leave. Regardless of side of the debate, each author also recognized the potential of our state despite the challenges in our way. After every piece, I found myself having the same debate with myself that I’ve been having for the last five years: whether  I should leave Connecticut for good.

Stephanie Luczak

However, absent from these fight-or-flight debates was a critical race lens at the center of the debate. One of the reasons that I find myself wanting to leave Connecticut is because of the drastic racial inequalities our state faces and our state’s consistent inability to confront this challenge.

I witnessed and experienced these inequalities firsthand growing up in Connecticut. As a native of New Britain and a product of the city’s public education system, I noticed early how I was sometimes treated differently than my peers of color and simultaneously, how different New Britain public schools were compared to more affluent adjacent towns.

For example, in middle school, I was hand-selected to participate in a Gifted and Talented program (despite average grades and test scores) that was comprised of a majority of white, middle-class students, who were then funneled into AP classes and higher education. In 12th grade, I attended a basketball game where the almost-all white students from the competing team chanted “SAT scores” from the stands.

While the segregation across the state, along with these examples, are not new information to nearly anyone, my frustration with state leaders is the inability to give up power to transform our communities. Every legislative session, forward-thinking ideas emerge that would position Connecticut as a leader of progressive change across the nation. But, one way or another, these ideas never make it to the governor’s desk, and even when they do, they are not strongly implemented with a critical race lens at the center. As a result, this watered-down approach not only perpetuates the status quo, but increases the growing dissatisfaction with the quality of life among many of Connecticut’s residents, despite one’s race or Zip code.

A recent analysis of publicly available data shows that Connecticut must give up this approach in order to do better. The results are appalling, and the end results impact everybody in Connecticut. When examining education, income, incarceration, and home ownership together, Connecticut comes in 4th as one of the most unequal places for Black Americans to live. The data confirms much of what we already know to be true, but when examined and ranked collectively, shows us how much work we have to do. Moreover, when considering the inextricable links between education, income, and home ownership, we must prioritize systemic changes and reparations to help close these extreme gaps in our state.

As a state that tends to tout itself as a progressive, we have a long way to go to ensuring that Connecticut can be a place where every resident can thrive. When we can become a state that creates more access to opportunities such as high-quality education, meaningful wages, and home ownership for everyone rather than relying on race and Zip code to determine the access to these opportunities, we will be a state that is inclusive, equitable, and prosperous. That is the state that I want to live in, and that’s the potential that I know Connecticut has.

Stephanie Luczak LMSW lives in Meriden.

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5 Comments

  1. Dear Ms Luczak,

    I appreciate your concern. However, your desire for politicians to correct this issue, is somewhat misguided. The place to address inequality, is at “Ground Level”. How well do you and your “white” student peers integrate with other students of color? Do you befriend them? Do you welcome them to your home? Do you invite them to your parties? Do you have them over for dinner? Do you go to their homes for dinner? Do you go t7uheir parties? Do you invest your time in mentoring, and tutoring younger students of color?
    I grew up in a highly integrated environment, and never looked at other children around me, as Latinos, African Americans. Asians, etc…they were simply my friends. Don’t look to politicians to fix what divides us…break the barriers as a child…break the barriers for life.

    1. I know Stephanie Luczak personally and I can share with you that she is able to enthusiastically and authentically answer YES to every question you just posed. Stephanie is a change maker at the personal, local, state, and national level. You keep an eye out for her, because she will be breaking barriers you’ve never even dreamed of.

      1. Dear SZ,
        I hope you are right. I have met too many individuals who are eloquent with the words, and familiar with the programs, but lack the will and capability to roll up their sleeves, and get their hands dirty. As it relates to my accomplishments. You would be surprised, but this is not about me, and I don’t like to brag.

  2. Connecticut manages to avoid dealing with many challenges it faces by having some of the worst administrative data of any state in the nation. I asked an expert a few years ago to look at State data–he ranked CT among the four worst in the nation, with Mississippi among others. Just start with demography–we were the only state in the nation with no Census liaison for five years and when we did revive the State Data Center, it was a small, underfunded office. Today it resides as an appendix without any significant professional staff. As a result, we know little about our population dynamics–which sharply undercuts our ability to develop and implement policies.

    The pattern is that, even when we do an excellent analysis–e.g. the tax incidence study–we are so appalled at learning how regressive our tax system is, we NEVER repeat the analysis. Connecticut is a state that fundamentally doesn’t want to know–about almost anything. The result is a broad inability to address critical challenges.

  3. Welcome to the real world. Maybe you were placed in the gifted program because you showed potential and were not a discipline problem. If you want to spend your time looking for racism you will find it, but reparations would only create more problems. Stop the identity politics, which is itself racist, and look for qualities in all persons. We all only have the one life to live, stop trying to get some people to subsidize others. It’s not a good solution.

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