Saturday, December 27, 2008

What Chicago Says About Us All

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 12/27/2008 No comments
The Chicago Tribune is publishing a three-part series titled "Separate Chicagos" and part one is "Chicago, America's most segregated big city." It's a very introspective look into the racial make-up of one of our country's largest cities, forty years after the end of the Civil Rights Movement and on the eve of the inauguration of our first black president. Some of the info in the article is surprising, but then again it's not. As the article surmises, discriminatory practices and prejudice once spawned segregation, but now that's replaced by personal preferences and economics.

I've had this exact conversation with friends recently about how voluntarily segregated our society seems to increasingly be, and I was speaking particularly about Charlotte since this is where I live. I pinpointed how when I go to events, they're usually nearly all-white or all-black in attendance, and these are events that aren't targeting any particular race. The reasons, again, are personal preferences and economics.

I think that was certainly the case as to why there seemed to be fewer than 20 blacks out of about 700 people at the Power Breakfast I attended last month. This popular annual business event, put on by the Charlotte Business Journal, was open to the public. Tickets cost $65, which is where the economic factor comes in. But I believe personal preference trumped that because, albeit a much smaller event, about 75 blacks attended the State of the African-American Business Breakfast held a couple of weeks later. This event was put on by Black Pages.

I could talk a lot here about the intertwining of race, economics, politics, and all the things that contribute to our social patterns, but I'll defer to the experts, which is why I suggest you read the Tribune article. Part one of the series talks mostly about the segregation of neighborhoods, which is where most segregation is sprung. Where you live influences where you shop, hang out, eat dinner, who your neighbors and potentially friends are, and where your kids go to school.

Here are a few interesting excerpts from the article that show how diverse and racially complex Chicago is:
  • Blacks make up about 35 percent of Chicago's population of nearly 3 million and are largely concentrated on the South and West Sides. Whites make up nearly 28 percent, largely located to the north and in slivers of the South Side, while Hispanics, about 30 percent of the population, are scattered to the Northwest and Southwest Sides of the city center.
  • To truly integrate Chicago, 84 percent of the black or white population would need to change neighborhoods, the data show.
  • The calculations paint a starkly different picture from the ones broadcast across the nation during Barack Obama's Election Night rally last month, when his hometown looked like one unified, harmonious city.

And the article briefly references Charlotte: "Another factor that separates Chicago from other places is its age. Older cities in the Midwest and Northeast were established before restrictive housing policies were outlawed. Experts say more newly developed cities—such as Austin, Texas; San Jose, Calif.; and Charlotte, N.C.—are likely to see higher levels of integration."

And in case you were curious, this is Charlotte's population breakdown according to the 2007 American Community Survey performed by the U.S. Census:

  • 50.3% White
  • 34.9% Black
  • 10.6% Hispanic or Latino
  • 4.4% Asian
Now ask yourself, where do you go that you see these numbers reflected in you every day life--neighborhood, work, church, school, social events?

Click here to read part one: "Chicago, America's most segregated big city."


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