The PJ Tatler

Who'da Thunk It? 'Diverse' Cities Are Most Segregated

Statman Nate Silver has the scoop:

When I was a freshman at the University of Chicago in 1996, I heard the same thing again and again: Do not leave the boundaries of Hyde Park. Do not go north of 47th Street. Do not go south of 61st Street. Do not go west of Cottage Grove Avenue. These boundaries were fairly explicit, almost to the point of being an official university policy. The campus police department was not committed to protecting students beyond the area, and the campus safety brochure advised students not to use the “El” train stops just a couple of blocks beyond them unless “traveling in groups and during the daytime.”

What usually wasn’t said — on a campus that brags about the diversity of its urban setting but where only about 5 percent of students are black — was that the neighborhoods beyond these boundaries were overwhelmingly black and poor. The U. of C. has, for many decades, treated Hyde Park as its “fortress on the South Side,” and its legacy of trying to keep its students within the neighborhood — and the black residents of surrounding communities out — has left its mark on Chicago.

Liberal racism is nothing new, of course — in fact, it’s perfectly normal. Drive around white Los Angeles all day and you will rarely, if ever, see a black face, and the only Mexicans you’ll encounter will be maids and gardeners. “Diversity,” it seems, is for other people:

Chicago deserves its reputation as a segregated city. But it is also an extremely diverse city. And the difference between those terms — which are often misused and misunderstood — says a lot about how millions of American city dwellers live. It is all too common to live in a city with a wide variety of ethnic and racial groups — including Chicago, New York, and Baltimore — and yet remain isolated from those groups in a racially homogenous neighborhood.

One hates to break the news to young master Nate, but that’s the way major American cities have always been. Where does he think places like Little Italy, Chinatown, Irish Channel, Poletown, et al. came from? The fact that groups prefer the company of people who are like them over people who are not can only come as a shock to someone like Silver, raised in an environment in which neighborhoods = proof of racism.

There’s a lot of sabermetric-type number-crunching at the link, as Silver twists himself into a pretzel trying to explain a basic — and innocent — aspect of human nature.