Monday, December 30, 2013

Most segregated, Chicago is? Or as close to integration as exists in U.S.?

One of my pet peeves is those people who always try to tag a label of “most segregated” when it comes to Chicago’s population.

Diverse or segregated?: Mexican Independence ...
They’re usually people who come from communities that are so overwhelmingly white (with people who like to say they’re “American” and not make any other reference to their ethnic origins) that the issue just doesn’t come up.

WHEREAS CHICAGO LITERALLY is a place where just about every ethnicity on Planet Earth can be found. And the city’s historic character has always been one of various neighborhoods representing ethnic states – of sorts.

The late newspaper columnist Mike Royko may have put it best in “Boss,” his biography of one-time Mayor Richard J. Daley, when he stated that the ethnic state-neighborhoods got along with each other about as well as they did back in the old country.

And in some cases, he wrote, they developed new prejudices to go along with the ones they already had.

I’m not denying the truthfulness of any of this back then, or the fact that it continues to exist to a degree in 21st Century Chicago.

BUT I COULDN’T help notice a study done by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. They literally compiled a map of the United States that can show you the racial breakdown of just about every community across the mainland (no Alaska or Hawaii).

It confirms a Chicago with a predominant white north lakefront and Northwest Side, with predominantly black West and South Sides. As for the southwest and northwest, there are strips that separate the white from the black comprised of the growing Latino population.

And all throughout, but usually not in the black portions of Chicago, there are visible dots that indicates pockets of people of Asian ethnic origins.

... South Side Irish, or ...
But to what degree is an ethnic enclave an example of racism and segregation – except to those people who would prefer that the particular group in a given neighborhood didn’t even exist!

THE COOPER CENTER map for Chicago was very predictable to someone who was born here (in the South Chicago neighborhood, and lived at various points in Pullman, the East Side, Belmont Heights, Ravenswood and even a summer on the Near North Side) and has lived his life moving back and forth from other cities.

Although looking at maps of places like Detroit (where 8 Mile Road is literally the dividing line between black and white) or Atlanta (where it seems like the majority is African-American, with Latino and Asian pockets mixed in with white people who live separately), Chicago comes across as having quite a variety of people.

Even Sacramento, Calif. – the capital city that the study calls a “well-integrated large city” – seems to be integrated because the Asian population mixes in with both white and Latino neighborhoods; while having a lack of black people overall.

Chicago definitely isn’t a black or white place like some other cities (such as St. Louis, where it appears black people are grouped on the north side and white people are to the south – Chicago’s negative image, so to speak) in our nation appear to be.

IN FACT, LOOKING at the United States as a whole (rather than zeroing in on specific cities), the nation comes across as a mass of blue (for white people) in the eastern half, with multicolored dots that pretty much indicate cities of significance.
To the west, the map is largely colored in white; as in vast areas that are so sparsely populated that not enough people live there for any race to register.
So when I hear people argue that my wonderous home city is so segregated, I can’t help but wonder if they’re merely revealing their own hang-ups with regards to race.
We as a society have a long ways to go in terms of true integration -- and it's not helped by certain elements who are determined to thwart such efforts.
... Bud Billiken parades?
BUT I CAN'T help but think that a city well on its way to being 30 percent black, 30 percent white, 30 percent Latino and the bulk of the rest being Asian has already taken significant steps toward that direction.
Maybe it's the rest of the U.S. that has to catch up to us!


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