I have said from the beginning of the discussion on student assignment that we have a two-point crisis occurring as a result of our residential and educational isolation.
Our concentrated poverty has led Charlotte to be ranked 50th out of 50 in social mobility, increasing the likelihood of a school to prison pipeline for folks concentrated in poverty. This has disproportionately affected black and Latino youth.
Conversely, our concentrated affluence has fostered the development of a heroin epidemic that ranks Charlotte in the top 5-10 national markets for black tar heroin. As the desired customer for these cartels is young, affluent, and white, many of the youth in our suburbs have transitioned seamlessly from rampant and already lethal prescription drug abuse into our current heroin epidemic. In the most recent heroin summit, it was stated that from 2010-2014:
- The South division (SouthPark to Pineville) overwhelmingly had the most overdoses while having a 200% increase in overdoses. 91% of victims are white.
- Of our new heroin addicts, 33% or 1/3 started between age 16 and 18, in other words in high school.
What we have in our community is two epidemics stratified primarily by class and race that have been concealed in aggregate data.
If this community is going to be healthy, it needs to confront them directly and see that isolation in any form is harmful.
Big numbers for the district look good. However, we have an opportunity gap for a significant part of our low-income population.
Conversely, the test scores, state A-F grades, and 10-point real estate grades don’t evaluate the pressure, disconnection, mental health challenges and emotional unrest that makes many of our high-achieving affluent kids ripe for the heroin market.
Two years ago, Lisa Rab from Charlotte Magazine wrote an article on the lesser-discussed epidemic, which remains the magazine’s most-read article to this day.
Having worked extensively with both isolated populations, and seeing up close and personal the struggles that challenge both, my hope is that we as a community — public officials, citizens, realtors, developers, business leaders, faith leaders — take a real honest look at what is happening in our house’s foundation instead of simply continuing to readdress our landscaping.