Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Coming to a farmer's market near you
June 11, 2008 12:50 PM   Subscribe

As Oregon struggles with diversity, one young man from Corvallis takes a cue from Improv Everywhere and invites you to meet a black guy. [via swpl]
posted by Stynxno (57 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Heh. Including the obligatory NO NO IT'S OKAY WE HAVE BLACK FRIENDS quote from a white couple.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:07 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm glad someone's finally talking about how ostracized the Norwegians are as a people.

It's also funny looking at people's reactions to the ImprovEverywhere guy, because really, the only acceptable response to him is "hello, how are you doing?" Everything else comes off as patronizing or worse. There's a lesson here.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:09 PM on June 11, 2008


Weird. My physical therapist and I talked about the lack of diversity in Seattle a few weeks ago. Apparently there is a historical reason for Seattle lacking diversity, which may happen to be the same reason it's true for Portland:

In a nod to the conference venue, he mentioned that Oregon’s history was particularly heinous: “I don’t think there was a town in the state that wasn’t a sundown town,” Loewen noted. “The only place in the state you could live if you were black was in the center of downtown Portland.”
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:11 PM on June 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


Good to see the Times' obsession with Portland proceeding apace.
posted by dersins at 1:12 PM on June 11, 2008


“The only place in the state you could live if you were black was in the center of downtown Portland.”

Except that was illegal until the 20's.
posted by dersins at 1:15 PM on June 11, 2008


It's also funny looking at people's reactions to the ImprovEverywhere guy, because really, the only acceptable response to him is "hello, how are you doing?"

That's just crazytalk. Another perfectly appropriate response would be belting out, "Black man, black man, where have you gone to?"
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:36 PM on June 11, 2008


Ashland has several African Americans.

Which, yeah, coming from Milwaukee, my first few months here I thought I was the victim of some huge, weird Candid Camera thing.
posted by everichon at 1:38 PM on June 11, 2008


My physical therapist and I talked about the lack of diversity in Seattle a few weeks ago.

I don't know what part of the city you live/work/play in (my guess is somewhere north of the Ship Canal), but down in southeast Seattle there is plenty of diversity. Scores of different languages are spoken in the Rainier valley - 73 different ethnic groups call it home. Historical reasons aside, you've got to ask yourself what it is about your life that makes you think there's no diversity here.
posted by boydmain at 1:46 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


“I think it’s degrading. It’s a little bit low class,” Naasko said. He added that he wouldn’t set up a booth saying for people to meet someone in a wheelchair, like him.

That's the spirit.
posted by three blind mice at 1:48 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Brings to mind the recent episode of This American Life: Talk to an Iraqi where an Iraqi student sat in a booth and engaged in discussions with passerbys.
posted by ericb at 1:56 PM on June 11, 2008


*passers-by*
posted by ericb at 1:57 PM on June 11, 2008


Historical reasons aside, you've got to ask yourself what it is about your life that makes you think there's no diversity here.

That's a pretty snotty way to put it, especially when the actual demographics of the city support the contention that Seattle isn't particularly diverse:
In the census[4] of 2000, there were 563,374 people in Seattle. In the interim measurements of 2006, there were 582,454 people, 258,499 households, and 113,400 families residing in Seattle. The racial makeup of the city was 67.1 percent White, 16.6 percent Asian, 9.7 percent African American, 2.38 percent from other races, 1.00 percent Native American, 0.50 percent Pacific Islander, and 4.46 percent from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.3 percent of the population[cite]
Let's compare that to an East Coast city like, say, Philadelphia:
As of the 2004 Census estimations, there were 1,463,281 people, 658,799 housing units, and the racial makeup of the city was 45.0% White, 43.2% African American, 5.5% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 5.8% from other races, and 2.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.5% of the population. [cite]
In the face of those statistics, it's pretty hard to argue that it's the fault of someone's lifestyle that they perceive Seattle to be lacking in diversity, especially if they've come from a place like Philadelphia.
posted by dersins at 1:58 PM on June 11, 2008


I think I would hold out until I could meet THE black guy.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 2:04 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll say it again for the one millionth time......as a single black man in his late 40's..I never traveled because I was never sure about the places I ended up in.
posted by doctorschlock at 2:11 PM on June 11, 2008


my guess is somewhere north of the Ship Canal

My partner and I live in the southern part of Capitol Hill. I work in the city and he works in the International District.

In the face of those statistics, it's pretty hard to argue that it's the fault of someone's lifestyle that they perceive Seattle to be lacking in diversity, especially if they've come from a place like Philadelphia.

Thanks, dersins, that's quite a succinct way to put it. Relative to West and Center City Philadelphia, from which I moved six months ago, Seattle does not seem as diverse. I was surprised, if disheartened, to hear a Seattle native openly lament this without any input on my part.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:12 PM on June 11, 2008


In the face of those statistics, it's pretty hard to argue that it's the fault of someone's lifestyle that they perceive Seattle to be lacking in diversity

Now compare your numbers to the US average and see if you find any problem with your own argument.
posted by effbot at 2:12 PM on June 11, 2008


How does a state struggle with diversity?
posted by docpops at 2:33 PM on June 11, 2008


In the face of those statistics, it's pretty hard to argue that it's the fault of someone's lifestyle that they perceive Seattle to be lacking in diversity, especially if they've come from a place like Philadelphia.

Those statistics show that, apart from the difference in proportion of African Americans between the two cities, there is almost the same level of diversity.

Here's the thing with Seattle - there are two parts to the city. The very very white northern half, and the diverse southern half. And the only people you ever hear bemoaning the lack of diversity here are, unsurprisingly, those who choose to live/work/play in North Seattle (and that includes Capitol Hill).
posted by boydmain at 2:37 PM on June 11, 2008


Now compare your numbers to the US average and see if you find any problem with your own argument.

I don't need to. My argument was that somebody moving from Philadelphia would perceive Seattle as lacking in diversity. If you insist, though, the US average is:
* White alone: 73.9% or 221.3 million
* Black or African American alone: 12.2% or 37.1 million
* Asian alone: 4.4% or 13.1 million
* American Indian or Alaska Native alone: 0.8% or 2.4 million
* Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander alone: 0.14% or 0.43 million
* Some other race alone: 6.3% or 19.0 million
* Two or more races: 2.0% or 6.1 million
- snip -
...Hispanic or Latino of any race: 14.8% or about 44.3 million.[cite]
So, Seattle is somewhat less white than the the US as a whole, and significantly more Asian. It is also significantly less black, and significantly less Hispanic.

Note as well that the US as a whole includes great swaths of rural areas with little or no minority population. If you're really claiming Seattle has a diverse population for a large city, then you are either mistaken or trolling.
posted by dersins at 2:37 PM on June 11, 2008


Those statistics show that, apart from the difference in proportion of African Americans between the two cities, there is almost the same level of diversity.

Wrong. One of those cities (Seattle) has a majority ethnic group (whitey) which comprises over two thirds of the population. The other DOES NOT HAVE a majority ethnic group. That's a pretty significant difference.
posted by dersins at 2:39 PM on June 11, 2008


And the only people you ever hear bemoaning the lack of diversity here are, unsurprisingly, those who choose to live/work/play in North Seattle (and that includes Capitol Hill).

I guess that confirms it, I'm a whiny hipster yuppie scumbag. You win, buddy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:45 PM on June 11, 2008


bah semantics - I guess it's my ecology training, but I always make a distinction between diversity and abundance, the former being how many different groups there are, and the latter being in what proportion they exist. When 73 ethnic groups live in your neighborhood, even if whitey is the majority, it's hard to argue there's a lack of diversity.

My daily experience of Seattle is that it's extremely diverse, and it chaffs me to see people essentially denying the truth of my experience through what can only be a lack of it on their part. Not trying to 'win' - just representing the south side.
posted by boydmain at 3:00 PM on June 11, 2008


I don't know a single black person. Or Jewish person (I think). I don't really worry about it. Why is this a big deal?
posted by eurasian at 3:17 PM on June 11, 2008


When 73 ethnic groups live in your neighborhood, even if whitey is the majority, it's hard to argue there's a lack of diversity.

For some people, diversity = percentage of african-americans.

(I was about to tell an anecdote here, but I'd either offend a bunch of americans or end up in "I have a black neighbour"-territory if I did that, so I'll leave that for another day.)
posted by effbot at 3:18 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Coming to Seattle from Londion I'd call it extremely white, especially what you're calling North Seattle. The exceptions seem to be historically black areas like the CD.

Also, and I don’t know if there’s really a PC way of putting this, but in the downtown areas where homeless people gather close to all of them are black, which is a difference that really shocked me when I got here. Not sure what that’s all about.
posted by Artw at 3:23 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


You haven't been in a white city until you've visited a small Canadian town small pdf. None-white population: 5%.

It's spooky-white around here.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:28 PM on June 11, 2008


In the face of those statistics, it's pretty hard to argue that it's the fault of someone's lifestyle that they perceive Seattle to be lacking in diversity, especially if they've come from a place like Philadelphia.

Actually the black/white stats are pretty close compared to the rest of the country. Nearly 10% black vs. 12% black overall. And you have a lot more Asians.
posted by delmoi at 3:33 PM on June 11, 2008


This is the REAL Spooky White.
posted by not_on_display at 4:03 PM on June 11, 2008


Diz-ayum.

(And before I start: no, I most definitely do not think that diversity = percentage of African Americans. There's got to be more to it than that. Let's move on.)

There's something about the "Why aren't you living in [name your diverse part of the city in which you live], where it's more diverse?" sentiment that bothers me--especially when it's used to imply that it's totally within your/one's control when it comes to where you end up choosing to live. Yes, to a degree, if you want diversity around you, move to a place where diversity exists. If. You. Can. But "as a person of color," I can think of any number of times when I've had to sacrifice my desire to live in a more diverse area/environment for one in which I'm seemingly the only Negro in town.

Maybe you'd prefer to get your undergraduate degree at a Historically Black College; you receive a full ride at a small Ivy in New England. The job market requires you to go to where the jobs are, and sometimes the jobs aren't close enough to Southeast Seattle (for example) for you to do the "live where you want to, commute to where the office is" commute. Et cetera, et cetera.

(Poof! Instant Diversity Concentrate! Hey, this "diversity" thing has to start somewhere, usually when the first ethnic person/group moves right next door. Insert "There goes the neighborhood!" joke here.)

And I'm sure that no matter what your ethnicity, you have, too. No? Sometimes life just so happens so that between work, the commute and family, you're running into the same folks all the time, and it just so happens that most of them happen to be vanilla. Or chocolate.

I don't really care about the percentages. (To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, I don't confirm or deny diversity by referring to percentages; I refer to my gut.) I can be in the most diverse city imaginable in terms of what the statistics show, but if I'm living in a certain neighborhood within that city (for whatever perfectly justifiable reason), I could end up thinking that something's a little, um, lacking. (My people, my people.) That's not to deny boydmain's experience (South Side represent!); it's just to assert that there's (possibly, probably even) more to my lacking diversity in my environment than simply laziness (or racist tendencies--not to say that boymain was making that point, but it felt a little bit that way).

eurasian wrote: I don't know a single black person. Or Jewish person (I think). I don't really worry about it. Why is this a big deal?

Although as a Negro/African American/Black (damn, this gets confusing) I cannot imagine having reached this point in my life (late 30s) being able to state something along those lines--I don't need to explain this, do I?--, I'm tempted to say...why is it a big deal, so long as your overall life experience (and understanding) is in stereo?

And now I'll go back across the street to my stoop and get off your porch.
posted by t2urner at 4:10 PM on June 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm an Irish Jew and I have a very close black friend who is part native American. We could come by any time y'alls are throwing a party. But you have to buy the liquor. And it better not be no Protestant whiskey.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:21 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know a single black person. Or Jewish person (I think). I don't really worry about it. Why is this a big deal?

In general, people who don't know any members of <cultural/ethnic/racial group> are more likely to believe a negative stereotype and participate in discrimination against <cultural/ethnic/racial group>.

It's much easier to say "we don't serve your kind here" if you don't know any of their kind.
posted by GuyZero at 4:21 PM on June 11, 2008


he mentioned that Oregon’s history was particularly heinous

My husband's relatives who lived in Portland got officially marked as "octoroons" in the 1920 Federal Census -- because it didn't matter to the census taker that they were from what was then Italy (formerly Turkey) and as recent immigrants couldn't possibly have been the descendants of the American South's peculiar institution -- no, what really mattered was their swarthy skin color.

And then it happened to them again in Portland in the 1930 Federal Census, only "octoroon" wasn't a valid choice that year, so the census taker legally declared their race to be "Turkish"., But that later got rejected by someone else (the census taker's boss?), who crossed that out and wrote in "White" on the sheet.

Neither of those scenarios happened to his relatives in any other area of the United States, as far as I can tell.
posted by Asparagirl at 4:24 PM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


guyzero, i would disagree. i think it's much *easier* to embrace difference if you've never experienced it. i know that in my 97.5% white upbringing (as stated here) it was a whole lot easier to kumbaya than it was the first time many years later that i drove past a group of blacks in a public park and one of them hurled 'white bitch!' at me. for a few dazed seconds there, i started to understand stereotypes i'd pooh-poohed up until that time.

and fwiw, i think it took a whole lot of guts for jeff oliver to do what he did. inviting complete strangers to chat, based solely on the color of one's skin, could have a very different result in other places.
posted by msconduct at 4:44 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Blazecock wrote: I guess that confirms it, I'm a whiny hipster yuppie scumbag. You win, buddy.

Not to comment on whether or not you're a whiny hipster yuppie, but I would like to ask if you've ever actually looked around the Capitol Hill area with open eyes. The whole place feels like a living lifestyle advertisement for... well, a broad range of lifestyle products for everything from North Face to Etsy to Trader Joe's. Street-team buzz marketers must be incapacitated by non-stop orgasms as they walk down the street, ogling all the fresh trendsetting.

Not that I'm not jealous as fuck of the quaint, tree-lined streets, the brisk wind and rains with periods of excruciatingly bright, happy sunshine, the "walk-to-everything" lifestyle, the killer espresso and coffee joints, the bars, the fresh seafood, the Trader Joe's, the cheap electric buslines, the parks with cool art and events, the arts and culture, etc, etc, etc.*

It's like it's not even real. You live in the land of OZ, man, in the Emerald City. It has a certain practical luxuriousness found in few places in the world. And this is coming from someone who lives in San Francisco, which has much of the benefits listed above - but with a lot more stress, dirt and generally uncontrollable weirdness.

*On one trip there in the space of 24 hours I had some of the best espresso I've ever had, followed up by lunch at a microbrew pub with not one but twenty-odd original and fucking delicious beers and ales, washed down by a pile of fish and chips that... well... seeing fish of such high quality like that all breaded and fried almost made me cry, even though it was fucking delicious. The next day I had what amounted to the best Pad Thai I've ever had. (Thai Tom's? Up by the University? ZOMG. Can I have another "level 6 spicy"? Keep the phone handy, I might need an ambulance.)
posted by loquacious at 4:57 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seattle is bothe exceedingly divers, and not very diverse at all. You're all kind of right, and kind of wrong. Yes The south end/central district of Seattle Is home to many different peoples and languages. Growing up In Rainier Valley, my neighbors and friends were as diverse a group as one could hope for.

With that said, I can think of any number of streetcorners in Seattle where the number of non-whites you'd see passing by you in the course of a day, you could count on one hand, and even then they're probably working in some capacity, or passing through. So many of the places that would draw you to Seattle, the things that make it a uniquely great city are lily-white. The music scene, The arts, restaurants and cafe's, and so on, and so on...

Whatever diversity Seattle has, is doled out sparingly, mostly concentrated to a few small areas, and has very little impact on the overall culture of the city.

And it's not just a Black/White thing. My favorite Neighborhood in NYC is Greenpoint, Brooklyn, which is not "lots of different people" diverse, but there's nothing like it back home, that's for sure. If I hadn't moved to Brooklyn, I never would have known that I have a natural affinity with my Polish Brothers and Sisters.
posted by billyfleetwood at 5:07 PM on June 11, 2008


Damn it loquacious now I need fish & chips & beer.
posted by everichon at 5:14 PM on June 11, 2008


Oh, and to un-derail:

Portland's obvious defacto segregation was very strange feeling to me. When I lived there I spent a fair amount of time taking Tri-Met through the central and NE quarters.

Los Angeles has similar segregation - but it's not the same. In Los Angeles, though there is undeniable racial tension and justified anger - it seems to be very energetic, aware and often even hopeful. In the Crenshaw in places like Leimert Park you can find all kinds of cultural happenings from drumming sessions to dance, or even Black Power militants giving speeches or chanting. All above and beyond the impressive array of busy stores and businesses that cater almost exclusively to the black community.

In Portland the atmosphere was outright oppressive - and even worse, it seemed like the black community had grown complacent and depressed under this oppression. The tension and resentment seemed palpable to me, but the worst thing was it felt to me (by comparison of other cities like LA, SF or Oakland, all of which have their own various problems with community segregation and racial tension) that the black community in Portland had simply given up or didn't have the resources or will to fight the recent gentrification of the NE quarter of Portland.

When I was there a couple of years ago, I could actuall see and identify pre and post-gentrified streets. Chain stores and condos going in along the Tri-Met rail line, older business being forced out. On one street there'd be a coffee shop and new apartments, and just across the way an older business sat alongside older row houses, and so on.
posted by loquacious at 5:19 PM on June 11, 2008


shut-up loquacious you're making me homesick.

Here I am ranting about Seattle's lack of diversity, and now you just made me run through a mental list of the thai, chinese, and vietnamese restaurants there that are head and shoulders above any thing NYC has to offer.
posted by billyfleetwood at 5:24 PM on June 11, 2008


Not to comment on whether or not you're a whiny hipster yuppie, but I would like to ask if you've ever actually looked around the Capitol Hill area with open eyes.

Since you ask, I have, and there's certainly a dreaded hipster stretch in some parts of it, but not being hip I don't get to hang around the local coffee shop without knowingly being an outsider. While I might go a couple days between shaves, I don't get to wear eyeglasses for the sake of irony, and I don't ride a fixie. I have done a fair amount of biking around the city, though I wouldn't say I've explored all of it.

But the rent in the area where I am is relatively cheap, at least the part where I live for being close enough to bike to work. My little nook is quiet, peaceful and green, with not much violent crime (knock on wood) except for that murder over New Years Eve. Not sure what any of that has to do with diversity, or how Capitol Hill puts me "north of the canal", geographically speaking, whatever that code means to the locals, but there it is.

I still think the Seattle I've seen in my travels is nowhere near as diverse as when I lived in Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, I lived and worked with people of all kinds of backgrounds and experiences, and that's the simple truth of how that city is made up, demographically. That a Seattle "lifer" confirmed what I observed here only makes that seem more true, sadly, and that the city has a more recent history of racism might have exacerbated a longer-term demographic problem. Still, Seattle is historically a young city, I've only been here half of the year, and I'm sure there are other Seattlites who may think differently depending on their own situations.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:30 PM on June 11, 2008


msconduct, I'm going to have to say...this is probably a "You're both right!" thing. I clearly remember being the first person of color to attend my elementary school. I was all of ten. Not a single classmate would speak to me; I later discovered that it was because they were afraid that I had a knife/gun on me and that I was one comment away from (this was way before then, but still) Columbine-ing the class.

The first student who spoke to me was a girl in the hallway; she was in first grade. She greeted me by waving excitedly and saying, "Heey, Nigger!"

I kid you not.

And it was that same year that I sang "Kumbaya" as part of the school's chorus. I was happy because [1] my teachers let me be part of the group, and [2] I was able to play an instrument. Just about everyone's parents were there for the occasion. My single parent head of household was at work. We sang "Kumbaya" so well that the parents specifically asked us to sing it again. Twice.

It was only while reminiscing a few years later that I realized what an African American boy...in the center of the front row of an otherwise all-white chorus...playing the bongos while we sang "Kumbaya" must have looked like.

Embracing difference, indeed.

I get your (older, wiser) public park experience, too: I've been mugged twice, on both occasions by folks just like me.

(What's that Chris Rock bit? The one where he says, "I love black people, but I hate..."? Exactly.)

So I guess I'm saying, either experience ("I grew up in a diverse environment!"/"I don't know a single [ethnic] person!") can eventually lead to the same, narrow-minded, racist/sexist conclusion...or to the existence of someone who just wants the world in perfect harmony. Or something like that.
posted by t2urner at 5:34 PM on June 11, 2008


The racial make-up of my city, according to City-Data.com -

Races in Idaho Falls:

* White Non-Hispanic (89.4%)
* Hispanic (7.2%)
* Other race (3.8%)
* Two or more races (1.6%)
* American Indian (1.3%)
* Black (0.6%)

Is this diverse?
posted by Falling_Saint at 6:19 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was curious, so:

- Seattle statistics.

- Comparison to other cities.

- Cleveland statistics.

- Milwaukee statistics.

Seattle doesn't fall that far out of the range. If you want to bring up a more important topic, we should be comparing how ethnic(segregated) the cities are.
I'm sure Seattle would fare a little better.

By the way, having lived downtown for a number of years I can say with complete certainty that this statement:

but in the downtown areas where homeless people gather close to all of them are black,

is complete bullshit.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:26 PM on June 11, 2008


Not that I'm not jealous as fuck of the quaint, tree-lined streets, the brisk wind and rains with periods of excruciatingly bright, happy sunshine

Ah, Sunbreaks.
posted by cashman at 6:39 PM on June 11, 2008


I am surprised at how much people have been jumping on Blazecock over Seattle's diversity, it seems like no-one bothered to read his links, which were both superb - much, much more interesting than the original post (so thanks to BP and to the OPP, well... sorry - it's an OK post, really.)

I would recommend reading this, found (and excerpted) in BP's first link. I'm going to repeat the excerpt...

Seattle thinks of itself as a liberal city, one that has a reasonable record of racial integration. But we are also a city with a short memory. One of the things we have been forgetting is that only a few decades ago, Seattle was a sharply segregated city. It was a city that kept non-whites out of most jobs and most neighborhoods, even out of stores, restaurants, hotels and hospitals.

... Until the late 1960s, Seattle north of the ship canal was a "sundown" zone. That meant that virtually no people of color lived there and it also meant that African Americans were expected to be out of the area when the workday ended. After dark, a black man in particular was likely to be stopped by the police, questioned about his business and informed that he had better not be seen in the neighborhood again.

North Seattle was not alone. Queen Anne, Magnolia and West Seattle also were sundown zones. The suburbs were even worse. Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Bothell, Bellevue, Burien, even White Center, vigorously and explicitly excluded people of color. But the ship canal was a special kind of boundary, an unmistakable dividing line between the part of Seattle where anyone might live and the part of Seattle that was off-limits to those whose skin was not white.

Until the early 1950s, North Seattle was also home to Coon Chicken Inn, which for almost 20 years stood as a beacon of bigotry on Lake City Way Northeast. Whites of a certain disposition made it a hugely popular restaurant and no one could drive along Lake City Way without noticing the massive grotesque "coon" head and the big-lipped mouth that served as the restaurant's front door.

posted by pascal at 7:54 PM on June 11, 2008


Like I said it made me curious. So much so I'm going to print out the article and show it to a friend of mine who has lived in Seattle all his life. Being that he's 73 and black he has quite a few stories, but I've never heard any of this. I'm curious to hear what he has to say about it.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:09 PM on June 11, 2008


"Lack of diversity" is just another way of saying "too many white people." The population of the city of Detroit is over 80 percent black (according to the 2000 Census), making African-Americans the overwhelming majority, yet no one ever decries the city as lacking diversity.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:33 PM on June 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


I have nothing to offer about seattle, but I live in Helsinki..

People here are white as the driven snow. Like transparent white. All of them.

I, on the other hand, am a slight shade of green or olive. My wife is pink.

We stick out.

I think they have a few black people in the whole country, but In 4 months I have seen like 3.


Just anecdotal support.
posted by Lord_Pall at 10:02 PM on June 11, 2008


t2urner wrote: There's something about the "Why aren't you living in [name your diverse part of the city in which you live], where it's more diverse?" sentiment that bothers me--especially when it's used to imply that it's totally within your/one's control when it comes to where you end up choosing to live....

Nice comment you wrote there, and I agree entirely with it all. My snark that started this derailment wasn't meant to imply that people who complain about a lack of diversity should move to where there is diversity. Nor was I implying that people who live in homogeneous communities are racist because of that. All I was saying was that before people make blanket statements about their larger community, they should actually inform themselves of what they speak.
posted by boydmain at 10:06 PM on June 11, 2008


It's been something rather frustrating to me. The 'new' 'hip' towns that are supposed to be the 'new best thing' are invariably very upper-middle-class-white. These include Seattle, Portland, Boulder, and Austin. So, those of us living in the large swath of medium-sized industrial towns across the South, Midwest, and Northeast are told, over and over again that it's our lack of 'tolerance' and failure to embrace 'diversity' that are the reasons for our economic stagnation. Richard Florida time and time again says that rock bands and gays are the secret for economic success, but, apparently, Mr. Florida hasn't noticed that New Orleans is full of rock bands and gays, and has the highest murder rate in the US and a damned near dead economy.

And, mind you, I'm not blaming anybody here, but, it's fair to note that all of the new 'boomtowns' in the US seem to be overwhelmingly white, western, and young. Florida, and others, like to point fingers at 'old and backward' towns east of the Mississippi, but, never manages to acknowledge that there are huge demographic differences in place.
posted by The Giant Squid at 10:41 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


In the time I spent in Corvallis as a college student, it never occurred to me that Corvallis wasn't diverse until my junior year when I noticed that Shay, my physics lab partner, was literally the only African American person in all of my 300+ student science lectures. So, yes. Jeff Oliver is doing a good thing for Corvallis. And those quotes from local students? This is why I'm glad to be long gone with my degree.

Although there was no outright racism that I was ever aware of in that town, there was a perhaps self-reinforcing segregation among social groups that at the time seemed to me like something you'd expect in "one of those racist states," and not in good old Corvallis. After moving to San Francisco and living in the inner Mission for a couple of years, I have to say that I only see the same racial separations that I saw in Corvallis, although the divisions are possibly more apparent due to the increased concentrations. I see asians calling black kids niggers, blacks mostly not interacting with the hispanics, and white people living and bumbling around in a very diverse neighborhood with the misconception that everyone is getting along fine and feeling a sense of of pride about that idea, while being just tolerated by the majority. Maybe this is as good as it gets, and I'd have a different feeling on the issue if you caught me on a sunny afternoon in Dolores Park, but I'm starting to believe that it's going to take longer than we thought for skin color to become a non-issue, even in a place like this.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 11:05 PM on June 11, 2008


I dunno, man. I've met black people. They're nothing special.
posted by klangklangston at 10:12 AM on June 12, 2008


but in the downtown areas where homeless people gather close to all of them are black,

is complete bullshit.


How so? I’m walking through the areas between Pioneer Square and the I-District and seeing this every day. I’m not sure that the disturbing ethnic slant is quite so strong around, say, that park just north of Pike Place Market, but it’s still there.
posted by Artw at 10:49 AM on June 12, 2008


I live in Portland, and I have a black friend. He says it is cool if I buy in NE.

Also, we both agree that the most interesting thing about the NYT article is that it quotes Khaela Maricich. 35% of the Blow's songs are 100% awesome!
posted by thinman at 11:32 AM on June 12, 2008


All I was saying was that before people make blanket statements about their larger community, they should actually inform themselves of what they speak.

Giving some statistics to a crowd of people is giving statistics. It doesn't inform anybody in the way that you are pushing it.

How so?

I used to live in the International District up until two years ago. There are a series of small (very small) parks that lead to the large one you are talking about. I've walked through these areas and the other places that transients tend to gather, I've met and talked to some of these people. Like I said I can tell you with certainty that not all the homeless are, as you put it, close to all of them are black.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:55 AM on June 12, 2008


It’s not specific to Seattle but the One Night Counts at homelessinfo.org seem to be a good source of information on Homelessness in king county. The report for last year puts the percentages at 38% white, 35% Black. That’s compared with a 75% white general population. Those numbers go up and down a bit, with Black occasionally being in the lead over White, but proportions seem to remain the same back to 2000.

Here’s an article on the anthropology of street people in Seattle – it notes that homeless people tend to stick together with people of the same race or ethnicity. It also mentions the "an overrepresentation of people of color: African-American and First Nation, American Indian people."

So, yeah, it’s possible "close to all" overstates things, though I still say it’s valid for the areas I’ve passed through, but there is still a shocking disproportionality there that strikes you at a glance.
posted by Artw at 2:24 PM on June 12, 2008


As a Portland resident, I hear a lot of complaints about how the city has no diversity, and I have to say that I find that to be untrue.

The middle school I went to in Nashville, TN was a magnet, and it was mandated that its population be 35% minority. The Pakistani kid who sat next to me for four years of gym was really bitter that Pakistanis (or Indians, or whatever non-black group you can think of) were not considered to be a minority, despite the fact that there are far fewer of them than there are African Americans in Nashville. He had to enter the white lottery and face a much higher chance of rejection to get in, because "minority" = "black" in America.

Just from anecdotal evidence, my last workplace was almost 1/3 Tibetan, and my current workplace has a very high Samoan population and a very high Asian population. Between the two places, there were only two black employees, but in both environments, there was plenty of what I would consider to be diversity. There was certainly a lot more diversity than there was when I lived in Nashville, which has a much higher African American population, because the experiences that the native Tibetans bring to the table are totally different from the experiences the native Samoans bring to the table, whereas the culture and values of the African Americans I went to school with were very similar to mine for the most part.

Are white people the majority of Portland? Oh, easily. But you can't even say that "white people" is a heterogeneous population, because there are big neighborhoods here of, for example, Eastern Europeans or Russians, who have a different culture and don't necessarily use English as their primary language. Yes, we all have white skin, but that doesn't mean we're the same ethnic population.

We aren't as cosmopolitan as a New York or a Philly, that's true, but I also don't think we're anywhere near as heterogeneous as people suggest.
posted by Kiablokirk at 3:55 PM on June 12, 2008


I don't actually know much about Oregon (well, I like some bands from Portland and as a fan of sustainable development, the concept of Metro makes me happy) but as a person of color (yeah, forget all you transparent folks) I have instant credibility in this discussion.

All I can say is,
I find it hard to believe that this guy could have won election thanks only to the 12 black people in the state, but hey, I could be wrong.
posted by Octaviuz at 4:00 PM on June 12, 2008


« Older The record has finally been set for an Onion artic...  |  U.S. 9th District Court of App... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments