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Charlottesville Regional Equity Atlas Project Aims to Provide Greater Visibility into Geographic Disparities

Jericho Casper



Screenshot of Michele Claibourn from the New America webinar

August 6, 2020 – As the three-year anniversary approaches of the Unite the Right rally, a shocking display of white supremacist and neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 11 and 12, 2017, the city is attempting to reckon with the lasting consequences of its long history of slavery and racism.

The Charlottesville Regional Equity Atlas project is one of many steps being taken. The project, which is a collaboration between the University of Virginia Library, the Equity Center, and the broader central Virginia community, aims to produce a community-centered engagement tool.

This equity atlas makes data about local disparities more accessible, by mapping data and information to offer a visual aid to inform individuals about geographic inequity and opportunity.

It further serves as a tool for leaders and advocates to advance social and economic goals and helping citizens hold decision-makers accountable.

In a New America webinar on Wednesday, Michele Claibourn, the director of Research Data Services and Social, Natural, and Engineering Sciences at the University of Virginia Library, detailed that Charlottesville is home to an extremely wealthy population, surrounded by vast pockets of inequality.

Claibourn reported that 25 percent of households within the regions mapped, do not earn enough income to support basic needs.

Wealth in Charlottesville, a city which possesses one of the highest wage gaps in the nation, has historically been unequally distributed by race, leading to lasting structural inequalities.

According Claibourn, Charlottesville is home to one of the largest achievement gaps between Black and white students nationally.

Charlton McIlwain, leader of the Public Interest Technology Alliance at New York University, detailed that racial inequity is tied to access to technology.

While the equity atlas is a stride toward designing technology with racial justice in mind, some believe that the university has yet to

Structural inequalities are furthered by the University of Virginia population, which necessitates vast inequality within the region.

University operations take land, labor, and employment, but restrictions on admissions and access limit opportunities for upward mobility, said Claibourn.

No matter how much community service is done by their students, these critics ask, can universities ever really be good partners to their communities?

Claibourn said that the data gathered for the mapping project has not been used to inform university policy, including wages it pays to service workers.


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