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The White City
October 26, 2009 9:41 AM   Subscribe

"Imagine a large corporation with a workforce whose African American percentage far lagged its industry peers, sans any apparent concern, and without a credible action plan to remediate it. Would such a corporation be viewed as a progressive firm and employer? The answer is obvious. Yet the same situation in major cities yields a different answer."
posted by revgeorge (128 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is this the right place to say "correlation is not causation"? Also, he's cherry-picked cities and counties. Living in the SF bay area, I recognize Contra Costa county as the bay area exemplar is an odd choice.

And "hip" and "progressive" to whom? Perhaps black hip and progressive people would pick hip and progressive cities that have more black people.
posted by lothar at 9:50 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The numbers about Minneapolis in that study are completely wrong. More accurate versions can be seen here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Minneapolis

Also, this study doesn't take into account the large number of immigrants from countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and so on.

What is the agenda of this piece?
posted by localhuman at 9:51 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The author certainly never even looked at Spokane, my lovely city. By his metric, this should be the hippest place in the universe -- an astounding 5% of the population is black or latino, with a few other ethnicities thrown in to the mix, and nearly 90% of households are white. It's a shame that we also happen to be just a few miles from the place where the KKK used to have strongholds in the north Idaho panhandle, and are about as far from progressive as anyplace can be.
posted by hippybear at 9:56 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well-educated, rich cities tend to be more progressive. Black people tend to not be rich.
posted by DU at 9:56 AM on October 26, 2009


Am I the only one who thinks this article is chock full of misleading statistics and crude assumptions?
posted by MasonDixon at 9:57 AM on October 26, 2009 [13 favorites]


I believe that cities that start taking their African American and other minority communities seriously, seeing them as a pillar of civic growth, will reap big dividends and distinguish themselves in the marketplace.

I’m not sure it’s fair to say that cities without huge minority populations are de facto ignoring them. Yes, some policies may lead to kinds of economic segregation and exclude low-income communities, but to say that they are not taken seriously is a big leap.

As for the regional differences, I think the most striking example is the Austin v. other Texas cities. I’m more inclined to give the Northern cities some slack due to geo-historical details, but it doesn’t answer everything.
posted by Think_Long at 10:00 AM on October 26, 2009


Am I the only one who thinks this article is chock full of misleading statistics and crude assumptions?

You are not alone, sir.
posted by HumanComplex at 10:00 AM on October 26, 2009


Also, this study doesn't take into account the large number of immigrants from countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and so on.

What is the agenda of this piece?


Localhuman, read the article please.
posted by Think_Long at 10:01 AM on October 26, 2009


The author has simply (very simply) redefined 'diversity' as 'percentage of African-Americans.' You could pick another ethnic/racial group and get some very different-looking graphs. For instance, two of his 'progressive', 'white' cities -- Denver and Austin -- have a Hispanic/Latino population of 34%, while two 'traditional', non-'diverse' cities -- Cincinnati and Cleveland -- have Hispanic/Latino populations of 1.2% and 8%.
posted by grounded at 10:06 AM on October 26, 2009 [13 favorites]


"It's easy to have Scandinavian policies if you have Scandinavian demographics."

Here the author claims that ones ethnic heritage heavily determines ones political views and priorities. That seems startlingly racist to me.
posted by jedicus at 10:06 AM on October 26, 2009 [16 favorites]


No mention in the article of Pittsburgh, which the Economist recently ranked the #1 city in the US to live, and where the racial breakdown is 27% black to 68% white, way above the national average.

Way to cherry-pick your examples there, Newgeography...
posted by ubermuffin at 10:09 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


The comparison of a corporation's workforce diversity and a city's population diversity makes no sense at all. There are so many logical and statistical errors in this piece I struggle to find anything good or useful about it at all.
posted by rocket88 at 10:10 AM on October 26, 2009


Seconding geohistoric for northwestern cities. There's a reason for the large percentage of African-American residents of Rust Belt cities: well paying industrial jobs that did not involve sharecropping for your former owners. Getting to Oregon, which only became a state 2 years before the civil war, involved either an arduous trek across the continent or a pricey ocean voyage around Cape Horn.

And it's not just Oregon:

13.4% USA African American Population Percentage
6.2% California African American Population Percentage

And, of course, it's my understanding that Asians are actually a minority as well. I think there's some of them in San Francisco, right?
posted by leotrotsky at 10:12 AM on October 26, 2009


Seems like the author is trying pretty hard to prove why Portland isn't as cool as everyone thinks it is. And choosing Contra Costra country for the "San Francisco" area is a pretty odd choice indeed.
posted by GuyZero at 10:15 AM on October 26, 2009


It's a short article on a worthwhile complex subject. 2+2=4, Mandelbrot set, discuss. Good luck Metafilter. And yes, tellingly omitted my beloved ex - San Francisco.
posted by vapidave at 10:17 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


And, of course, it's my understanding that Asians are actually a minority as well. I think there's some of them in San Francisco, right?

And there are a "handful" of Indians/South Asians in the South Bay. As in, the top movies on Netflix for my zipcode are all Bollywood films. But not many black people, true. For whatever that's worth.
posted by GuyZero at 10:17 AM on October 26, 2009


Article seems made to get ad revenue.
posted by scrowdid at 10:18 AM on October 26, 2009


"Getting to Oregon, which only became a state 2 years before the civil war, involved either an arduous trek across the continent or a pricey ocean voyage around Cape Horn."

Yeah, but let's not pretend that cities in Washington and Oregon didn't have some wildly racist policies that also discouraged migration, i.e. sundown laws.
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, cities are totally equivalent to corporations.
posted by Aquaman at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Between 1890 and 1940, there came what I call “the great retreat,” said Loewen. Throughout the west and north, small towns and large cities — some as large as St. Louis and Omaha — expelled their African-American populations. 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 10:19 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is the agenda of this piece?

Localhuman, read the article please.


I read the article and I couldn't figure out if he was saying that these cities were progressive because they were white, or that you shouldn't call them progressive because they're white.

(Disclaimer- writing from progressive (i.e. < 1% black) VT)
posted by MtDewd at 10:20 AM on October 26, 2009


The author wrote a little more on this on his own blog.
posted by enn at 10:20 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


What is the agenda of this piece?

I'd say that the argument is basically that cities that don't share the demographics of Portland, Seattle, et al shouldn't be surprised when policies that worked in those places don't work for them. This makes sense, but the author seems intent on undercutting his credibility by playing fast and loose with his statistical comparison (IMHO, not being a statistician or anything....).

I'm all for calling out Seattle as not really deserving of the "diverse" label (especially when applied to Seattle north of the ship canal), but simply saying that cities without large numbers of African Americans aren't diverse is a little ridiculous. Los Angeles, which is estimated to be 9.9% African American is also below the national average, so by the logic in this piece LA is also a "white city". That toward the end the discussion is expanded to include a comparison of foreign born populations in the suburbs of rust belt cities versus the city limits of "white" cities seems like a bit of a non sequitur. Why not just compare the greater metropolitan areas of both types of cities? Or, overall, if one wants to label some cities as "white" why not just look at census figures of non-latino white people in various cities. I'm sure that would do the same work that the author is trying to do (i.e. identify Portland, Seattle and their ilk as disproportionally white, college educated, etc.).
posted by nangua at 10:21 AM on October 26, 2009


As far as I can tell, he's only counting population within the physical city limits which is a pretty useless and arbitrary number since cities with a small footprint are going to much different demographics than ones that incorporate the surrounding suburbs.
posted by octothorpe at 10:22 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


My take away from the piece is that most American cities are lamer than Toronto.
posted by chunking express at 10:22 AM on October 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


And for all of you hung up on the word "progressive:"
When I say “progressive”, I don’t mean it in a left-politics sense – Midwest cities like Cleveland are very blue, for example – but rather that places like Portland and Denver are held up as exemplars that other cities should be imitating in terms of urban policies. I actually happen to be a big fan of a lot of what they are doing and think a lot of it worthy of adapting to other places. I’ll even go so far as to say that changing land use and transportation policies in our urban cores is an absolute imperative if we expect that Midwest cities are ever going to regenerate themselves.

But I am troubled that cities who share a lack of African Americans as a core feature in common are considered the model.
posted by enn at 10:22 AM on October 26, 2009


Why can't poor black people be more progressive? You'd think that not being able to afford cars they'd care more about cycle lanes and local, organic farmer's markets.

/sarcasm
posted by MuffinMan at 10:22 AM on October 26, 2009


What about the fact that according to the 2000 census, Portland had roughly 6.6% of its population as African American, while Oregon overall had only 1.6%. Portland is one of the blackest places in Oregon.

http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/41/4159000.html
posted by shen1138 at 10:25 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cities with small footprint and separately incorporated suburbs = Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh...

Hey! A trend!
posted by leotrotsky at 10:26 AM on October 26, 2009


Upon closer inspection, the article uses county demographics instead of city, which is definitely misleading. Here are the black/white ratios you get if you just look at city census data (from census.gov):

Austin: 10% / 65%
Denver: 11% / 65%
Minneapolis: 18% / 65%
Portland: 7% / 78%
Seattle: 8% / 70%

For every city, you get around a percentage point difference from the county data in the article, and as localhuman says, Minneapolis is way off (the article suggests it's only 11% black).

Also note that the US is roughly 80% white, so except for Portland, these cities are in fact more diverse than the national demographic average (considering Latinos and other groups as grounded says).

If there is any story here, it's that some cherry-picked examples of "good cities" have fewer black people than the national average, but the article is far more manipulative than it is persuasive.
posted by ubermuffin at 10:26 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The conclusions the article's authors come to are spectacularly bone-headed. The issue isn't that the young and educated middle-class are running away from black people - the issue is that blacks are being excluded from the educated middle class, mostly because of inadequate educational and community resources, so they can't come along to the fresh new 'burgh. They don't have the same social networks built through school or professional contacts required to set up shop in a new city, because they are going to "Black Schools" - from church-run daycare right through inner-city public schools to post-grad college. These institutions are most assuredly not equal to those enjoyed by white kids.

The solution is to abolish the local school board, and put school funding on a state level. Minority and lower-class kids are being robbed of their future when Soccer-Mom schools can fundraise whatever is needed for the rich kids, while giving nothing to the poor kids one town over.

You need to get minorities out of the inner city and into the social support structure of the suburbs, and then their kids can go gentrify someplace cool.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:26 AM on October 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


But I am troubled that cities who share a lack of African Americans as a core feature in common are considered the model. Far better would be truly diverse cities like NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, and Miami – but those Tier One cities simply can’t be imitated by much smaller places.

San Francisco's population is about 800k. Portland is 500k. Seems unfair to say Portland is a "much smaller" place.

It makes me feel that he hand-picked cities for this comparison (Portland in particular) and does call into question what he's trying to prove here.
posted by vacapinta at 10:28 AM on October 26, 2009


San Francisco's population is about 800k. Portland is 500k. Seems unfair to say Portland is a "much smaller" place.

Well, this too is cherry-picking, since the greater Bay Area is much, much larger than the greater Portland area.

His blog post does make more sense, with this as the core thesis in my reading of it:

any civic strategy that doesn’t involve African Americans is a loser

Ok, that's fair. I don't really see how there's a black-people civic strategy vs a white-people civic strategy but I'll admit that my ignorance doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
posted by GuyZero at 10:31 AM on October 26, 2009


White people city plan like this, but black people city plan like THIS. Amirite?
posted by Jugwine at 10:39 AM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


"My take away from the piece is that most American cities are lamer than Toronto."

Wait. There are cities outside of Toronto?

shen1138: "What about the fact that according to the 2000 census, Portland had roughly 6.6% of its population as African American, while Oregon overall had only 1.6%. Portland is one of the blackest places in Oregon."

This was going to be my criticism. The author compares percentage of a population in a narrow area vs. the entire country. I didn't have any numbers but from what I've seen travelling around Oregon is a heck of a lot whiter in general than many other states. The lack of black people in Portland vs. the American population is mostly historical rather than anything to do with it's progressiveness. I'd bet Cubans are also under represented by that metric.

Slap*Happy writes "The solution is to abolish the local school board, and put school funding on a state level. Minority and lower-class kids are being robbed of their future when Soccer-Mom schools can fundraise whatever is needed for the rich kids, while giving nothing to the poor kids one town over."

While not without it's problems that is how it works here and the disparity between have and have not schools is much, much less than what it appears to be in the States.
posted by Mitheral at 10:41 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even if he is right, which is far from clear, his conclusions are not implied by the observations. He doesn't bother to ask why people consider these to be model cities, and instead asks whether this is a progressive justification for white flight. But if you look at indicators like crime, education, mass transit, life expectancy, etc., then do these cities hold up? I don't actually know, but the author doesn't bother to look. In addition, I don't even understand points like this:
Civic leaders in city after city duly make their pilgrimage to Denver or Portland to check out shiny new transit systems, but the resulting videos of smiling yuppies and happy hipsters are not likely to impress anyone over at the local NAACP or in the barrios.
Really? Why not? Are you telling me that black people don't like good mass transit? Please explain!
posted by Edgewise at 10:44 AM on October 26, 2009


Building off what ubermuffin said....

African Americans are not the only minority in this country, nor does their sole presence in a population make it "ethnically diverse". Most of the cities that show up on those "hip" lists are at least 25% minority. That minority may or may not be African American.

Here's a list of the cities that have been labeled "hip" youth magnets over the last few years. That image is from the WSJ: "'Youth Magnet' Cities Hit Midlife Crisis.

Most of the cities listed actually have large minority populations, IF one does not cherry-pick "core counties".

Phoenix is 34.1% Latino, 5.1% African-American

Seattle is 13.1% Asian, 8.4% African American

Riverside, CA is 38.1% Latino, 7.4% African American.

Charlotte, NC is 38.7% African American

Austin is 30.5% Latino, 10% African American

Dallas is 35.5% Latino, 25.9% African American

Houston is 37.4% Latino, 25.3% African American

Portland is 6.3% Asian, 6.8% Latin, 6.6% African American

Tampa is 19.3% Latino, 26.1% African American

Raleigh is 7% Latino, 27.8% African American

Las Vegas is 23.6% Latin, 10% African American

Denver is 31.7% Latin, 11.1% African American

Sarasota is 11.9% Latino, 16% African American

Sacramento is 21.6% Latino, 16.6% Asian, 15.5% African American

Tucson is 35.7% Latino, 4.3% African American

San Antonio is 58.7% Latino, 6.8% African American

Kansas City is 6.9% Latino, 31.2% African American

Cape Coral is 8.3% Latino, 2% African American

Des Moines is 6.6% Latino, 8.1% African American

There may be a problem here but frankly, I'm not seeing it. The author seems to be manipulating data in order to make a point.
posted by zarq at 10:46 AM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


I call statistical shenanigans. Just browsing through the demographic information available for the cities he lists on Wikipedia, there are all kinds of different ways that you can break down that information. It makes a big difference what areas are included in the actual city and what is considered a metropolitan area. Also, how did he select for hipness and traditionality? That list of cities seems like he selected it with his thesis in mind. The fact that he throws out the biggest cities as gimmes makes me sure that he was trying to fit the data to his thesis.

Until we come up with an objective measure of hipness, I'm pretty sure any further study in this area is going to be a bunch of making stuff up.
posted by jefeweiss at 10:49 AM on October 26, 2009


This lack of racial diversity helps explain why urban boosters focus increasingly on international immigration as a diversity measure.

American binary race theory is really quite shockingly racist at times, isn't it?
posted by Artw at 10:50 AM on October 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Whether the cities in which I have chosen to live could be praised as "progressive, urban, and hip" has never been a factor in my decision-making. Strangely, I have been far more affected by family considerations, housing costs, and availability of jobs in my field.

Something I apparently have in common with a lot of African Americans.
posted by timeo danaos at 10:53 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's definitely worth it to read the blog that enn linked to. Especially for the long quote at the end. He even addresses my primary concern in the of the piece:

As you might expect for such a topic, that post generated a bit of polarized reactions. Some of the critics suggested that “not black” doesn’t mean “white”. True enough. But that’s also why in the article I note how urbanist discussion in recent times has increasingly emphasized immigration as the prime metric of diversity. It helps divert people from an inconvenient truth.

And I take it that the inconvenient truth he means is that even though cities with similar overall minority numbers can be very different. A city where that minority population is primarily African American is going to need an different strategies from cities with where it is primarily immigrants.

Even in the blog though, his tone isn't doing him any favors. It's really hard to walk away from either piece without feeling that he thinks that Seattle or Portland are somehow lesser cities than Chicago, Cleveland, etc.
posted by nangua at 10:53 AM on October 26, 2009


Well, they are both really tiny compared with Chicago.
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on October 26, 2009


lothar: Is this the right place to say "correlation is not causation"?

No. The author's argument is that cities typically considered "progressive" have not taken actions to increase their friendliness to African-Americans. Ultimately, their lack of diversity is a result of inaction, not correlated action.

ubermuffin: No mention in the article of Pittsburgh, which the Economist recently ranked the #1 city in the US to live

I've never heard an American source hold up Pittsburgh as a paragon of good urban politics. More often, Pittsburg in this country is thought of (unfairly) as a dirty industrial town. Not coming in with those biases, it's not surprising that the Economist has a fairer take. Still, the article is about the cities that US urban planners label "progressive." In that sense, it's entirely fair to compare them to other entities subjectively labeled progressive like companies.

The author's point, I think, is that good urban design is not just pretty urban design, it's just urban design - plenty of affordable housing, for example.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:57 AM on October 26, 2009


American binary race theory is really quite shockingly racist at times, isn't it?

At times? A lot of Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians would beg to differ.
posted by watsondog at 11:04 AM on October 26, 2009


I believe that cities that start taking their African American and other minority communities seriously, seeing them as a pillar of civic growth, will reap big dividends and distinguish themselves in the marketplace.

I work in city government in one of those rust belt cities that is 40% black. I don't know how our black mayor or our nearly 50% minority city counsel isn't taking them seriously, engaging them, seeing them as a pillar of civic growth.

I have access to stats on the net too. I also can make startling revelations about how horrible our best cities are. Did you know, the same progressive cities don't want black people to ride bikes?

Latinos don't count.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:05 AM on October 26, 2009


Pittsburg in this country is thought of (unfairly)

It is pretty dirty.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:08 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


you know if you ignore all the minorities every group is mostly white
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 AM on October 26, 2009


The author's argument is that cities typically considered "progressive" have not taken actions to increase their friendliness to African-Americans

Yes, I agree that that's his argument.

He presents a lot of convincing statistics that there are fewer than expected African-Americans. He never actually says what they "actions to increase the friendliness of these cities to African-Americans" are. He then suggests without any more evidence that these undelineated actions are the cause of the population discrepancy. Is there any other evidence that these cities have done nothing to engage with their African-American populations?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:09 AM on October 26, 2009


But you could also interpret Chicago as a sort of meta-city; an accidental geographical aggregate of smaller communities (Hyde Park, Lakeview, Logan Square, etc).

Chicago in particular is a good example because it's so spread out, compared to say a port city like Boston or Seattle. And the steady decline of the CTA just means it will get more balkanized.

because in Meta-City I AM THE LAW!
posted by Rat Spatula at 11:10 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Stupid, axe-grinding article.

There is probably a good point to be made about the impact of racial diversity on progressive policies but this article does not make it.
posted by kathrineg at 11:11 AM on October 26, 2009


What make the author think he can automatically tell my political affiliation by the color of my skin?
posted by kanemano at 11:19 AM on October 26, 2009


What make the author think he can automatically tell my political affiliation by the color of my skin?

What makes you think you can automatically tell what the author's thesis is by not reading the fucking article?
posted by enn at 11:20 AM on October 26, 2009


I think he's trying to say that black people just want dirty, old transit systems rather than the shiny new ones that hip white cities prefer.
posted by snofoam at 11:21 AM on October 26, 2009


Also, Portland's light rail doesn't have enough bass.
posted by snofoam at 11:22 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


In that case Seattle really needs to talk up the number 7 bus, and point out it's general faliure to get other options past the talking phase. Our light rail doesn't even connect to the airport, for fucks sake.
posted by Artw at 11:26 AM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


adamdschneider: "Pittsburg in this country is thought of (unfairly)
It is pretty dirty.
"

Good thing that I live in Pittsburgh and not Pittsburg.
posted by octothorpe at 11:27 AM on October 26, 2009


What I get is he's trying to say Portland, for all its progressiveness is still racially segregated and racist but the article doesn't hit on the correct points to argue this thesis.

The line how can a city define itself as diverse or progressive while lacking in African Americans, the traditional sine qua non of diversity, and often in immigrants as well just fills me up with rage. One reason that the city is 'lacking' is because the only people dumb enough to move here are whites that are willing to sacrifice money for lifestyle with such high unemployment.

If one was to better pinpoint racist policies of Portland here are a couple:

As of the 2000 census, three of its high schools (Cleveland, Lincoln and Wilson) were over 70% white, reflecting the overall population, while Jefferson High School was 76% non-white. The remaining six schools have a higher number of non-whites, including Blacks and Asians. Hispanic students average from 3.3% at Wilson to 14.9% at Roosevelt.

The attempt by the Skinheads to make Portland, OR the HQ for a new white nation back in the 90's.

The unemployment rate for African Americans in Oregon has consistently been double that of white Oregonians, even in good times. Black unemployment probably is now close to 24 percent.


Also, what right minded black person would WANT to move here with a marshmallow hip hop station and the #1 rapper in the city being Cool Nutz.
posted by wcfields at 11:30 AM on October 26, 2009


Portland has Spinnaface, too.
posted by jbiz at 11:41 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well this is kinda obvious. The same thing applies to countries. Those with low populations of black people (Scandavian countries, Canada etc) rank higher on the quality of life scale then those with high populations of black people (pretty much any country in Africa, other then those with a significant non black population and Botswana).

But otherwise it's a pretty good rule of thumb, though I'm sure there will be many mefi apologists (who probably have never left their state) who will argue otherwise.
posted by carfilhiot at 11:53 AM on October 26, 2009


"If you take away the dominant Tier One cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles"

If I could disregard data anytime I wanted, I could "prove" anything.

Also, interesting to have not included Washington, D.C., a city with a. >500,000 people, b. majority of population is "minority," c. about as progressive-as-it-gets transportation policy.
posted by General Malaise at 11:55 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who thinks this article is chock full of misleading statistics and crude assumptions?

You are not alone, sir.


This.

The article conflates a lot of bad data with a poor understanding of history and politics and completely ill-defined terms. Also diversity in an of itself does not equal progress. The South was very diverse in the 1850's. That didn't make it progressive.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:00 PM on October 26, 2009



Portland has Spinnaface , too.


And fuck yes Spinnaface!
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:01 PM on October 26, 2009


Alright, I'm going to try to interpret this guy on his own terms.

From what I can gather, it seems the impetus for the piece was someone asking, "Hey, why is light-rail service not catching on in the Rust Belt?" Maybe he was out with friends for drinks? Maybe someone said something like, "Well, it is weird, isn't it? I mean we've got a lot of people in this area who don't drive. You'd think viable mass transit would really catch on."

He may be personally familiar with delegations that traveled to Portland, or he may have just googled exemplary cities and been drawn to Portland.

Then he tried to guess why policies that are supported in Portland are not supported in other cities. What seemed most obvious to him was the ethnic makeup of these cities.

Boom. Blog post.

So setting his errors aside, some of his assumptions might bare confronting. It does seem to be the case the the least diverse countries on earth are the ones ranked highest in education and quality of life. (Finland, Japan, for example). You can choose to (1) ignore this obvious correlation, (2) stick your fingers in your ears and scream "lalala correlation is not causation lalala," or (3) confront this reality and figure out what to do about it.

I imagine that relatively few people choose option (3) because they somehow believe that admitting the least diverse countries are the most successful is somehow ipso facto a blow to diversity. But I imagine that everyone sharing a small set of genes is not really the cause of success. Instead, I would guess that shared values, similar lifestyle, or something cultural is at play. (This is, I think, the point the article is shooting for despite faults).

So once you realize that, maybe you draw lessons? Maybe you focus on shared cultural elements? Maybe you attempt to isolate new shared elements? Or maybe you attempt to discern methods for coping with a lack of shared elements while still living together in harmony?

I would imagine his point is ultimately just to assert that Portland doesn't have the same set of initial conditions as other cities, and therefore other cities should seek unique solutions, rather than attempting to squeeze themselves into preexisting albeit successful molds.

So who wants to be my hero and point me to links the offer solutions for the unique issues facing diverse communities?
posted by jefficator at 12:03 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The author announces his agenda pretty directly. It just doesn't make much sense.

I didn’t write that piece to bash Portland – well, not just to bash Portland – but also as a call to arms for Midwestern cities to figure out how to make their African American communities a key plank in their civic growth strategy. It’s a weapon those other cities simply can’t copy or match.

If you think Portland is all the poorer for not having a vigorous Black community, fine. But why link that to the effectiveness of policies? Which of Portland's policies wouldn't work for Black people? Comprehensive zoning, encouraging mass transit and bikes, recycling, or strong libraries and parks?
posted by msalt at 12:09 PM on October 26, 2009


It does seem to be the case the the least diverse countries on earth are the ones ranked highest in education and quality of life. (Finland, Japan, for example).

I can think of one good counter-example. Even its president is Black! And it's all rich and shit.
posted by msalt at 12:11 PM on October 26, 2009


A very muddled article. What a shame, because there are interesting questions raised, with no obvious (to me) answers. And here, let me throw this in, striking closer to home, metafilter.

I went to two mefi meets. These were not random meets, but "important" or "big" ones, one where Matt himself was present, and one was the 10 year anniversary one. This is in Los Angeles.

At neither of these did I see any black people. Two big caveats: I came early, but left before midnight on both occasions (so some may have come later), and I may have missed somebody (in which case, mea culpa, and please ignore this post). Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that there's a fair number of African American mefis, with many active posters. Los Angeles is not exactly an obscure city - some mefites travelled from other states to attend the meetings. The African American population of LA is some 10%. There were probably - a rough guess, and could easily be wrong - at least 100 people who attended over the duration of the meets. By rights, you'd expect at least some African American presence. And yet.

It would be hard to argue that metafilter is not a "progressive" site with mostly progressive members. It would be hard to argue that it is not a diversity friendly place with diversity friendly members (and by diversity I mean it in the broadest sense, including gender and sexual orientation etc.). Neither meet had fees, and were not held in some expensive venue - so presumably the economic aspect was not a factor. It was after work hours. It was very informal with no set "theme" or purpose beyond hanging out, so presumably there were no subtle exclusionary cultural barriers. And yet.

I wouldn't even venture a first guess. I have no explanation.

Now granted, this may seem tiny and unimportant and statistically insignificant - but perhaps it can be a small signal that we are dealing with immensely complex issues when we discuss the nexus of cities and ethnic participation and so on. It's easy to throw out theories, but I suspect the answers are not so simple - and this article seems to me to recklessly rush to conclusions based on not much valid reasoning at all.
posted by VikingSword at 12:15 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Neither meet had fees, and were not held in some expensive venue - so presumably the economic aspect was not a factor.

You're forgetting:
a) Internet access required to even know about the meetup
b) A $5 joining fee. Paypal or credit card, please.
posted by vacapinta at 12:21 PM on October 26, 2009


You're forgetting:
a) Internet access required to even know about the meetup
b) A $5 joining fee. Paypal or credit card, please.


You're forgetting this part of my post:

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that there's a fair number of African American mefis, with many active posters.

Given that Los Angeles is not a small city, that 10% of it is African American, that the absolute numbers of them in Los Angeles are fairly big compared to many smaller cities, and that many mefites travelled to the meets from other states, I still think that's significant.
posted by VikingSword at 12:26 PM on October 26, 2009


Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that there's a fair number of African American mefis...

I think you are wrong. As far as I can tell, MetaFilter is spectacularly White. Visible minorities make up 50% of Toronto, but both meetups here that I've been to have been overwhelmingly White.
posted by chunking express at 12:29 PM on October 26, 2009


(My point being, I think the number of minorities that come out to meetups probably matches the number of minorities participating on the site.)
posted by chunking express at 12:32 PM on October 26, 2009


No. The author's argument is that cities typically considered "progressive" have not taken actions to increase their friendliness to African-Americans. Ultimately, their lack of diversity is a result of inaction, not correlated action.

Then he should have looked at the change in diversity since those progressive policies first went into effect. Because all he's showed is that some cities, by some definitions, are currently less diverse than some other cities. If you want to show an increase or decrease in anything, you need trend lines. Not a hard concept.
posted by one_bean at 12:32 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nthing the wtf about blacks being the sine qua non of diversity by which to measure progressivism. Having grown up in Texas, it always boggles me that Latinos/Hispanic folks just don't exist to some people.

According to data cited by Wikipedia, Austin is just barely majority-minority now (49.9% non-Hispanic whites). You can call Austinites a bunch of yuppie sushi-eating limousine Prius liberal hipsters and the charge will ring true for many of us, but the racial issues I see are more complex than a simple absence of minorities. There are all sorts of race and class issues and historical injustices that keep it from being that simple.

What really blew my mind, though, was in the blog post enn pointed out, where the author referred to my hometown, Houston, as "for blacks". Houston's a bigger city than Austin, Dallas, or San Antonio, and may have a larger black population, and may even be the black-friendliest city in Texas (a claim I'm certainly in no position to evaluate), but to say it's "for blacks" boggles me. It's so at odds with the civic culture I grew up in and participated in until I moved away 6 years ago that I can't do anything but boggle at it.
posted by immlass at 12:33 PM on October 26, 2009


those that show up at any given meetup must be a really small fraction of the active membership, so much so that you could not even begin to surmise conclusion's about mefi's demographics from any single meetup in any point in time.
posted by Think_Long at 12:35 PM on October 26, 2009


On rereading that comment about "for blacks" I see he's quoting an Austinite. I can still tell that guy has never lived in Houston if he really thinks Houston is "for blacks" by anything but comparison.
posted by immlass at 12:35 PM on October 26, 2009


I think you are wrong. As far as I can tell, MetaFilter is spectacularly White. Visible minorities make up 50% of Toronto, but both meetups here that I've been to have been overwhelmingly White.

Well, since I don't have access to the relevant statistics (and I doubt anybody does), all this is speculation. As a counter-example to your example of Toronto - here in LA there were many Latino and Asian American mefites at both meets. So there. Of course, maybe you are right about your rather sweeping characterization - but it strikes me as profoundly counter-intuitive. This site is not centered around ethnicity in any way at all - it's just "best of the web". This is not "heraldry in Scandinavia" or something where you'd expect any particular ethnicity to gravitate toward. It's as eclectic as it gets "best of the web" and everyone can post or read. Plus, again, it's very diversity friendly. I can't help but think you are wrong and unfair to call it "spectacularly white".
posted by VikingSword at 12:37 PM on October 26, 2009


These cities have never been black, and may never be predominately Latino. Perhaps they cannot be blamed for this but they certainly should not be self-congratulatory about it or feel superior about the urban policies a lack of diversity has enabled.

It's this, the last two lines of the article, that just SLAYS me.

Read it again. Now turn the sentence around and read it from a different angle. "The lack of diversity ... has enabled ... (good) urban policies." (emphasis mine)

In other words, because these cities didn't have black folks, they've been able to have good urban policies. If you have black folks, it will be harder to have good urban policies.

Which is ... you know ... the opposite point of the entire essay.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:42 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


The one survey someone ran a while is down. Sucks. Anyway, at the time, "The model metafilter member is a straight white male."
posted by chunking express at 12:46 PM on October 26, 2009


I wonder if the author is trying to get at something like this, the study by Robert Putnam that suggests that diversity is actually inversely correlated with measures of civic engagement. I haven't read the study closely enough to really form my own opinion about it, but it sounds like lack of engagement could certainly underlie barriers in planning, getting support for, and implementing public works projects that actually have an impact. More would have to be done to get people to move outside of their comfort zones and get involved with their communities (broadly defined). So this would suggest that targeted efforts to improve relationships across racial lines might be more vital to (or even a prereq for) increasing the collective social capital of a "more diverse" city.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:51 PM on October 26, 2009


The one survey someone ran a while is down. Sucks. Anyway, at the time, "The model metafilter member is a straight white male."

Yeah, I'd like to see that survey. Still, let's note that this was from over 5 years ago, and metafilter itself is just past 10 years. A lot of things change on the internet in 5+ years. I can see how perhaps it may have started out in one way due to perhaps more internet heavy users being white back in the day, but again, it's been over 5 freakin' years, which is an eternity on the net. Regardless, I hope you're wrong.
posted by VikingSword at 12:53 PM on October 26, 2009


Most of the cities listed actually have large minority populations, IF one does not cherry-pick "core counties".

I would think it is actually very useful and vitally important to the point of the original link to cherry-pick certain locations -- particularly if they are less diverse and receive public services (transit, police/fire/hospital, education) to the exclusion of other regions that may be disproportionately diverse, i.e. significantly deviates from the city's background mean diversity.

Examining the inequity in services would absolutely get to the core question of how to plan a city that is both "progressive", in name, and actually progressive, in fact.

Portland may have lots of fancy green-colored bike lanes, but where are they? Portland may have fancy new trolleys(*), but where are they run? Much of the city's reputation outside its boundaries rests on how it is bike-friendly and mass-transit friendly. How is the city's budget allocated to making these resources available to all? I don't know the answers to these questions, but without a doubt they are very important to addressing the larger thesis.

Seattle may not be mathematically diverse, depending on one's perspective. But to its credit, its services seem much more fairly available than in some cities I have lived. In one example, I know of few other American cities that issue ballots in multiple languages. Most of the country seems to take an "English-only" position on democracy. On the other hand, public transit feeds the local economy by making minimum wage labor viable, and yet it is not fairly distributed across the region.

A city may earn the superficial label of "progressive" from having media-friendly services, but where are those services and who enjoys their benefits?

This kind of nuance may or may not be reflected in the original link, but the reasoning itself is sound and defensible. And if the methods are correct, the results could suggest improvements that other cities can consider making.

(*) With computers that die when the trolley is in the middle of a tunnel, requiring a five-minute wait in silent darkness while the head car reboots.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:53 PM on October 26, 2009


"And, of course, it's my understanding that Asians are actually a minority as well."

In my experience, most West Coast folks view Asians as the other white meat.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:54 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


In one example, I know of few other American cities that issue ballots in multiple languages.

Under the Voting Rights Act, any jurisdiction with more than 5% of the population speaking a single non-English language must offer ballots in that language. Maybe Seattle is offering ballots they don't have to, but they might just be complying with the law.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:07 PM on October 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


In my experience, most West Coast folks view Asians as the other white meat.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:54 PM on October 26 [+] [!]


In my experience, some West Cost folks view Asians as 'white' insofar as they are not 'Black', which is kind of the whole binary race thing. They're not 'white' in the sense that they're not treated differently, because they are.
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:23 PM on October 26, 2009


Portland may have lots of fancy green-colored bike lanes, but where are they? Portland may have fancy new trolleys(*), but where are they run?

Portland's bike lanes and transit system are highly-accessible anywhere in the city. The light rail has fewer routes due to the huge expense, but the most recently opened lines -- the last two of four total -- have been run to more 'middle-class' parts of the city.

With a little searching, you would have discovered these transit and bike map resources.

As a regular user of both systems I can assert that Portland's reputation as a bike/transit-friendly city has been earned, and is not just a product of good PR.

And yes, they are fancy. And no, they aren't called 'trolleys.'
posted by JohnFredra at 1:27 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a long thread over at Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog where the author addresses, not that well, some of the criticisms.
posted by ofthestrait at 1:28 PM on October 26, 2009


Localhuman, read the article please.

Think_Long: read his link. The article says Minneapolis is 90% white, while wikipedia says it's only 67% white. That's a pretty big difference. The stats for Austin are way off if you separate out Hispanics. New York, Chicago, and LA are IGNORED. The problem with this study is that the data is hugely skewed in order to get the wanted result.

(They also talk about Minneapolis having more "foreign born" then "African American" without mentioning how many of those people are from... Africa).

As far as I can tell, he's only counting population within the physical city limits which is a pretty useless and arbitrary number since cities with a small footprint are going to much different demographics than ones that incorporate the surrounding suburbs.

It's worse then that, he's going by county not city limits! I'm pretty sure the census counts whole cities too.

Also like immlass said. Having a lot of black people does not make a place "Black Friendly."
---

If you're wondering about the demographics of metafilter, one place to look is the profile photo index (most of the pictures aren't pictures of the poster, but many are. Also, the page may kill firefox while it loads, fyi)
posted by delmoi at 1:31 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good thing that I live in Pittsburgh and not Pittsburg.

I know, right? I was going to make fun of him for misspelling it, but he did spell it correctly in the preceding sentence, so it's obviously just a typo. I grew up in Steubenville, OH and spent a good deal of time in Pittsburgh, and still visit it on occasion.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:37 PM on October 26, 2009


Portland is well known in certain circles for having police who issue DWB (driving while black) arrests. Even the wealthy Trail Blazers are not exempt from the hassle experineced by peopel of color especially if they drive "nice" cars.
posted by Cranberry at 1:45 PM on October 26, 2009


ok, experienced by people is better
posted by Cranberry at 1:46 PM on October 26, 2009


There's a long thread over at Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog where the author addresses, not that well, some of the criticisms.

He appears to be arguing that white people commute like this and that black people commute like this.
posted by Artw at 1:47 PM on October 26, 2009


Up here in Canada, we discovered that the most important thing to have on your resume when searching for a job in Toronto was an European name.
posted by Pseudology at 1:54 PM on October 26, 2009


Even the wealthy Trail Blazers

I was seriously about to make a "Jail Blazers" joke, but then I realized it wasn't 2002 anymore.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:57 PM on October 26, 2009


According to the US Census Bureau, San Francisco's population is 7.8% black, compared to Oakland's 35.7%. California's population is 6.7% black.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:01 PM on October 26, 2009


“ ‘It's easy to have Scandinavian policies if you have Scandinavian demographics.’
‘Here the author claims that ones ethnic heritage heavily determines ones political views and priorities. That seems startlingly racist to me’ "

Easy mistake to make. Historically heavily Germanic and Scandinavian populations have never been associated with right wing policies. *cough*
posted by Smedleyman at 2:05 PM on October 26, 2009


Localhuman, read the article please.

Think_Long: read his link. The article says Minneapolis is 90% white, while wikipedia says it's only 67% white. That's a pretty big difference. The stats for Austin are way off if you separate out Hispanics. New York, Chicago, and LA are IGNORED. The problem with this study is that the data is hugely skewed in order to get the wanted result.


Oh I definitely agree about the suspicious statistics, esp. regarding Minneapolis. My only point was that the author did include the Somali and other refugee populations under his specious "foreign-born" umbrella, whereas Localhuman suggested that he ignored them entirely. He didn't ignore them, he just unilaterally dismissed them.
posted by Think_Long at 2:07 PM on October 26, 2009


With a little searching, you would have discovered these transit and bike map resources.

That wasn't my point.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:27 PM on October 26, 2009


Was your point that bike routes can be presumed to be racist?
posted by Artw at 2:29 PM on October 26, 2009


Was your point that bike routes can be presumed to be racist?

Yes, absolutely. You're spot on.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:38 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


That wasn't my point.

It was my understanding that you were making a pointed inquiry into to the allocation of Portland's transit resources. Those maps show -- and quite clearly, I think -- that those resources are allocated in an egalitarian way. What did I miss?
posted by JohnFredra at 2:41 PM on October 26, 2009


Your favorite city is racist.
posted by tkchrist at 2:43 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those maps show -- and quite clearly, I think -- that those resources are allocated in an egalitarian way.

It's a nice map, but the "egalitarian" part is not an obvious conclusion.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:44 PM on October 26, 2009


Yes, absolutely. You're spot on.

Looking at the routes or discussing them with someone familiar with them would seem helpful in determining whether you assumption is a good one then, right?
posted by Artw at 2:44 PM on October 26, 2009


determining whether you assumption is a good one then, right?

I was not making an assumption, Artw, I was asking a question.

If we're focusing on public transit, specifically, perhaps something like a time-lapse map that shows how resources are allocated as years pass, along with average wage per region, etc. might help with some answers, or at least a more informed direction to take the original link's thesis.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:49 PM on October 26, 2009


Trust me, if Portland is anything like Seattle they will have probably have done a ton of research on that sort of thing and mulled over every possible detail and tried to make it fair for everyone possible.

TBH Seattle does a bit too much of that sort of thing, so we end up with stalled planning processes and no actual construction, like the monorail.
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on October 26, 2009


...In fact I'm not even sure why Seattle is part of this conversation: While it's certainly very white (well, white and assorted not-counting "foreigners") but it's shit on transit. For bikes the Burke Gilman trail is nice, but that's about it - I'd say most of Seattle is actually pretty bike-hostile.
posted by Artw at 3:23 PM on October 26, 2009


But another way to look at it is simply as White Flight writ large. Why move to the suburbs of your stodgy Midwest city to escape African Americans and get criticized for it when you can move to Portland and actually be praised as progressive, urban and hip?

If all migration of white people looks like white flight, you aren't thinking clearly enough to attempt writing a piece of such self-described magnitude.

Many of the policies of Portland are not that dissimilar from those of upscale suburbs in their effects. Urban growth boundaries and other mechanisms raise land prices and render housing less affordable exactly the same as large lot zoning and building codes that mandate brick and other expensive materials do. They both contribute to reducing housing affordability for historically disadvantaged communities. Just like the most exclusive suburbs.

Newsflash: people of all ancestries like to live in nice places, for various values of "nice." When you're trying to pick apart others for not being "progressive" enough, you probably shouldn't make locally-controlled land use regulation your target. The historical ignorance, it burns.

Civic leaders in city after city duly make their pilgrimage to Denver or Portland to check out shiny new transit systems, but the resulting videos of smiling yuppies and happy hipsters are not likely to impress anyone over at the local NAACP or in the barrios.

"Hey guys I just figured out how to make unwarranted assumptions isn't this cool"
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:00 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Trust me, if Portland is anything like Seattle they will have probably have done a ton of research on that sort of thing and mulled over every possible detail and tried to make it fair for everyone possible.

And if it was like Seattle they would wring their hands, vote six times, spend billions, and not built shit.
posted by tkchrist at 4:05 PM on October 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


TBH Seattle does a bit too much of that sort of thing, so we end up with stalled planning processes and no actual construction, like the monorail.

ooops. Yeah. That's what I meant.
posted by tkchrist at 4:06 PM on October 26, 2009


It does seem to be the case the the least diverse countries on earth are the ones ranked highest in education and quality of life. (Finland, Japan, for example). You can choose to (1) ignore this obvious correlation, (2) stick your fingers in your ears and scream "lalala correlation is not causation lalala," or (3) confront this reality and figure out what to do about it.

What?

You are conveniently forgetting most countries in Africa. While they have lots of black people, they don't have lots of diversity (the way it's being discussed here). Likewise many countries in Southeast Asia. And Central Asia. And, I dunno, Russia, say, where the life expectancy is 66 years.

So, no, the least diverse countries on Earth are not in fact ranked highest in education etc.
posted by rtha at 4:08 PM on October 26, 2009


so we end up with stalled planning processes and no actual construction, like the monorail.

/me fights hard against his basic instincts to link to the obligatory Monorail song.

oh, damn.
posted by hippybear at 4:14 PM on October 26, 2009


Well, this explains why Milwaukee isn't a progressive city - too many black people (~40%). Now Madison, there's a Progressive with a capital "P" city, they've obviously been able to keep the number of African-American residents low enough (6%) to maintain their status as a progressive bastion. Progressivism = racism, LOL Hippies etc...
posted by MikeMc at 4:17 PM on October 26, 2009


tkchrist - Yup!

Now, if some evil authoritarian had come along and, say, done the blindingly obvious thing and linked up downtown, the airport, Capital Hill and Ballard, without consulting anyone, we'd be in much better shape. But it wouldn't be very Seattle, and someone would be complaining that it only really served the places that people liked going to.
posted by Artw at 4:19 PM on October 26, 2009


/slams down shutter on Monorail Cafe at hippybear.

Actually the light rail will be quite nice... once it actually goes somewhere. And still no one has got this thing that it's actually nice if your various types of transit connect with each other.
posted by Artw at 4:21 PM on October 26, 2009


The solution is obviously forced relocation for all citizens of the planet.

We do this based upon a random number generator lottery keyed into an individuals phenotype that will then arbitrarily place them, evenly distributed, on a given geographical location by latitude and longitude.

By my estimates with current technology it will only take about four hundred years to press-gang and forcibly redistribute the entire population of the planet.

Though it will only take about three hundred years for the entire concept of race to become essentially irrelevant due to interbreeding and death by asteroid.
posted by tkchrist at 4:21 PM on October 26, 2009


Well, if we're going by quotas and we're going globally, everywhere that isn't mostly Chinese is racist.
posted by Artw at 4:24 PM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Now, if some evil authoritarian had come along and, say, done the blindingly obvious thing and linked up downtown, the airport, Capital Hill and Ballard, without consulting anyone, we'd be in much better shape. But it wouldn't be very Seattle, and someone would be complaining that it only really served the places that people liked going to.

This was one of the reasons we originally bought that god awful place in White Center/West Seattle was the "strategic" promise of Lightrail/Monorail. But nooooooo. Seattle cannot get it's collective shit together without pleasing every idiotic interest group on the planet. Good thing we sold that money pit ahead of the curve for a nice tidy sum and got back to Capitol Hill.
posted by tkchrist at 4:27 PM on October 26, 2009


In my scheme West Seattle would get a big catapult, and there's be a net somewhere in SoDo.
posted by Artw at 4:34 PM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Portland's mass transit is distributed as well as any city's could be. The first expensive light rail line connected Hillsboro (historically rural, and 18.9% Hispanic, 6.5% Asian, 12.67% other non-white races), and Beaverton (13.8% Hispanic, 12.6% Asian, 14.8% other non-white) to downtown Portland. The second to last connected NE Portland (the historically Black neighborhood) and North (poorer, increasingly Hispanic.) The latest went to the south suburbs, poor and white.

Our mass transit is focused on less affluent areas. Because wealthy people drive more and don't need it. Duh. Don't all cities do that?
posted by msalt at 4:54 PM on October 26, 2009


Our mass transit is focused on less affluent areas. Because wealthy people drive more and don't need it. Duh. Don't all cities do that?

Depends. Most cities that I've taken public transit in tend to favor the "hub" approach, where all of the buses and trains radiate out from downtown in various directions and the farther you get from downtown the more spread out the coverage gets. So whether those cities cater to poorer areas is usually an accidental result of whether the poor areas are close to downtown or not.
posted by squeakyfromme at 5:50 PM on October 26, 2009


"It does seem to be the case the the least diverse countries on earth are the ones ranked highest in education and quality of life."

...

"You are conveniently forgetting most countries in Africa. While they have lots of black people, they don't have lots of diversity"

Black people in Africa don't consider themselves to all be part of the same group, even within the same country. That's one of the big problems there -- Europeans came in and drew a bunch of national boundaries without regard to the differences between the sub-ethnicities and tribes. So groups that hated each other were grouped into one country and expected to somehow run a government together, and other groups were split across multiple countries thus making it difficult for them to work together as they might have otherwise been inclined.

I recall reading some economics journal article once about how tribally homogeneous school districts in Kenya receive more local financial support than tribally diverse school districts. So yeah, even in Africa, lack of diversity seems to lead to more investment in education.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:51 PM on October 26, 2009


Follow-up on how diverse Africa actually is: "There are an estimated 2,000 languages spoken in Africa." So yeah, it's not just one big homogeneous group of "black people."
posted by Jacqueline at 7:19 PM on October 26, 2009


Um, according to the original article they'd be in the "foreign" category, and therefore white and undiverse.
posted by Artw at 7:30 PM on October 26, 2009


Maybe what's going on in some of the "progressive cities" is George Clinton in reverse: vanilla cities and chocolate suburbs. There's nothing that says black people have to live in cities. It's only suburban segregation that made it so.
posted by jonp72 at 7:31 PM on October 26, 2009


Well, this explains why Milwaukee isn't a progressive city.

Who says Milwaukee isn't a progressive city? Former mayor, John Norquist is the president of The Congress for the New Urbanism, ground zero for progressive urban planning ideas.
posted by afu at 8:08 PM on October 26, 2009


it's not just one big homogeneous group of "black people."

I know. I was trying to make a not-very-clever point about how homogeneous societies all have awesome standards of living. I do know that Africa is made up of many people representing different ethnic/language/tribal groups, and they regard themselves as quite diverse, although from the "outside" it may not appear that way. Likewise, Russia and even Japan seem homogeneous from the "outside" although their citizens would recognize many (and to them, significant) differences amongst them.
posted by rtha at 10:44 PM on October 26, 2009


This is like Stuff White People Like with statistics and stuff.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:39 AM on October 27, 2009


This article resonated with me and I think it's because I live a Cincinnati, a city that is fairly racially diverse--according to Wikipedia, the city is 52.97% white and 42.92% black. (Yes, I'm just referring to the black/white binary, but there has been a huge influx of Latinos. I'm interested in seeing our Census results next year).

Anyway, on paper, our city is diverse. But everyone who lives here know the reality is different. Cincinnati is very segregated, we have a few race riots in our history and this is a place where progressive views come to die. He's right, the local NAACP and Republicans are fighting to keep us from building a streetcar and our mayor was attacked mercilessly for visiting Portland to see how their's worked. This is a city where people tried to stop the construction of a building that would be taller than the current tallest building in the city.

Is so-called progressivism destined to be white? I never thought of it before. I'm glad this article makes me think of it.
posted by girlmightlive at 5:40 AM on October 27, 2009


If you have black folks, it will be harder to have good urban policies.

Which is ... you know ... the opposite point of the entire essay.


I got that from the introduction. Then he backed off in the middle, but returned to it at the end.

Nope, no racism there! (Where's that sarcasm tag when you need it?)
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:15 AM on October 27, 2009


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