Thursday, July 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Study: Philly's 9th most-segregated metro in U.S.

Study: Philly's 9th most-segregated metro in U.S.

If you live here in the Philadelphia area, you probably don't need to look at the control panel at the bottom to know which color code is for whites, which one is for African-Americans and which one is for Latinos. And therein lies the problem.

This new survey using the 2010 Census numbers to look at segregation in large urban areas was compiled by John Paul DeWitt of CensusScope.org and the University of Michigan's Social Science Data Analysis Network and reported tonight on Salon.com by Philadelphia journalist Daniel Denvir. It finds that nearly four decades after the tumultuous Rizzo years, a quarter-century after W. Wilson Goode and the MOVE bombing, and four years after the election of a black Philadelphia mayor (the city's third) with considerable white support, urban neighborhoods and suburban towns in our area still remain divided by race.

The survey ranked Philadelphia 9th most segregated of metro areas with more than 500,000 people, although perhaps some locals will take solace in the list of eight cities rated worse, including New York and No. 1 Milwaukee (the story takes an interesting shot at much-maligned Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who fought tooth and nail to keep light rail -- which might have promoted integration -- out of the suburbs.)

But the story casts the City of Brotherly Love in a harsh light (NOTE: Because it's a "slideshow" I can't link directly to the blub on Philadelphia -- just click through to No. 9):

"The patterns of housing segregation in metropolitan Philadelphia are the legacy of discriminatory public policies and real-estate practices that played out for most of the 20th century," says Sugrue, who chronicled the area's open housing movement in "Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North." "Though discrimination is now illegal, those patterns of segregation were so deeply entrenched that many people came to see them as 'natural.'"

According to census data, the level of segregation between blacks and whites in the Philadelphia area is declining at a slower rate than during the 1990s. And just as white city-dwellers fled neighborhoods when black families arrived after World War II, suburban whites are fleeing to exurbs as blacks and Latinos move to older suburbs.

Local media coverage of the 2010 census data has emphasized that Philadelphia grew for the first time after 50 years of decline, thanks laregly to growing Latino and Asian populations. The persistence of segregation, however, has gone unmentioned, but the warning signs are clear: Whites led growth in far-flung counties like Chester in Pennsylvania, Gloucester and Ocean in New Jersey, and Cecil in Maryland; white population declined everywhere else as blacks, Latinos and Asians moved to resegregating older suburbs.

You can look at the meaning of all this in several ways: 1) the argument that segregation is bad for society in the broad philosophical sense -- the lack of understanding, community, etc. or 2) the real-world ramifications, such as the wildly unequal public schools in the Philadelphia area. Or maybe you're OK with racial separation -- I will not be at all shocked if some people make that argument in the comments below.

Speaking of which, many of you may find this paragraph the most controversial piece of the whole article:

Discussions about race in Philly are usually met with a deafening backlash from local whites, and the comments sections of the Philadelphia Inquirer are locally infamous for the bigotry. Witness the letter to the editor written in response to this reporter's recent article on regional segregation for Philadelphia Weekly:

"Between my wife and I, we work 3 jobs in one household so we can live as far as possible from Section 8 housing. Keep your brave new world, liberal views to yourself...

Click here to read more.

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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Reach Will at bunchw@phillynews.com.

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