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Top 10 Most Segregated Cities? None of Them Are in the South.

I don’t know why conservatives are always kvetching about the census.  It’s uncovered some really interesting stuff.

Like this display, from Salon.  It’s a list of the Top 10 Most Segregated Cities in the United States.  For the record, from Most to Least, it’s:  Milwaukee, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.

In other words, Obama Country!

(Except for St. Louis.  Which makes me 90% right.  I’ll take it.)

Aside from the pungent point that, typically, the Left talks one way and lives another.  And aside from the totally gratuitous low-blow that Obama was elected by racially-segregated states, what’s really interesting here is that none of the top 10 Most Racially Divided Cities are in the south.  None.

(We can argue about St. Louis.  But as I said: I’ll take 90% right….)

This reminds me of a piece I wrote, a few years ago, for the old Newsweek International. I can’t find it online anywhere — which may explain this – but I’ll reproduce some of it here:

I was in New York last week, for my brother’s birthday party.  It was what is known as “a big one,” so I stirred myself from relaxing in Los Angeles sunshine, and headed east.

            “How was your flight?” people at the party asked.

            “Actually,” I said, “I didn’t fly.  I drove.”

            A long pause would then ensue.  Then, finally:

            “Why?”

            Which was a question, somewhere between Van’s Pig Stand in Shawnee, Oklahoma and the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee I asked myself a few times.  It was late and Interstate 40 was scarred and pocked by construction, it was raining – but in that distinctly southern way, where the raindrops simply appear in the envelope of humidity, condensing on the inside of the windshield and curling the pages of the road map – and mentally checked off the various things I was giving up by going to New York the long way. 

            I gave up the fifteen or twenty minutes of robotic typing you have to watch the airline agent do just to change your seat assignment.  I gave up the shuffling, slow-moving herd as it funnels through airport security.  I gave up the slack-jawed glassy-eyed indifference on the face of the people tasked with finding your nail scissors.  And I gave up the “snack with beverage” that somehow constitutes the bright spot of the whole cross-country airplane ordeal.

            This is a beautiful country, and I took the longest of the long ways – over two weeks to get from Los Angeles to midtown Manhattan – and the only twinge of regret I felt along the way was that however delicious a bar-b-que sandwich from Van’s is, eating one right before the six-hour stretch to Memphis is not advisable from a health and comfort perspective.   Enough said.

            Still, why?  

 

 One reason is that I live and work in Hollywood, and make my living producing (or trying to) television and movies that entertain (or try to) the rest of the country.  The chief peculiarity of this most peculiar business is that the more successful you are at entertaining ordinary Americans, the less likely it is that you will have to encounter them.  Having your finger on the pulse of the nation, apparently, can be done poolside in Bel Air, or cruising at 30,000 feet in a Gulfstream V.

            It’s a good idea, though, for the rest of us to get out once and a while and see the country we’re trying to amuse, and to meet the people who, in the long way around, pay the bills.  And with a bit of planning, you can eat pretty well, too.

            And that’s the real reason I decided to hit the road.  Fried chicken. 

            A few years ago, driving from Memphis to New Orleans with friends, we made a quick detour through McComb, Mississippi to have a meal at The Dinner Bell, an old boarding-house style restaurant a few minutes from the interstate.  We had heard about its convivial, friendly atmosphere – three or four large round tables, each with a lazy susan groaning with platters of southern delicacies, its simple all-you-can eat price structure, and its classic fried eggplant, okra, hush puppies, sweet potato casserole, buttery biscuits, and of course, flawless fried chicken.  But on that night three years ago, it was unexpectedly closed.  Disappointed and cranky from hunger, we ended up at a sad and sagging Taco Bell.  And so I had a mission:  eat at The Dinner Bell before I was old enough to make it medically unwise.

            Two weeks ago, I did just that.  It was, as predicted, perfection: delicious, carefully prepared southern classics in a place suffused with the kind of quiet happiness that comes from feeding people well, and being well-fed yourself.

            And a strange thing happened:  right there in the deepest part of the Deep South, in walked a young black man and a young white woman.  They sat down at two empty seats and tucked into their lunch.  Eavesdropping shamelessly, I gathered that this was a business lunch – he was her boss, and this was some kind of informal employee review taking place over the platters of eggplant and macaroni and cheese.  I readied myself, as a northern snob was taught to do, for Racial Tension.  I was in, after all, Trent Lott Country.  And here was a young black man and a young white woman out eating together just as free as you please.  I waited for something – nasty comments, bitter words, bigotry overt or otherwise.

            Of course, nothing of the kind occurred.  The neighborly, gracious atmosphere of The Dinner Bell – and in fact, everywhere else I went in the south – was totally unlike the spooky northern stereotype of Mississippi and Alabama.  Totally unlike what sophisticated northerners, in their bigoted snobbery, imagine when they hear the words “McComb, Mississippi.”  And I wondered how many interracial co-ed lunches were being eaten on that day at, say, the Four Seasons in enlightened Manhattan, or the Ivy in progressive Hollywood?

            Not many, I’d guess.  And that’s another reason for getting out of the airport and onto the open road.  It’s a good way to break down a few prejudices, and a tasty way to do it.  

It’s been a few years, but I’m glad to see the census has finally caught up with me.  Here’s the take-away:  the big bad south — that troubled place people are always making troubled movies about — is a lot less racist, in measurable, practical terms, than pretty much any city to the north.  Blue states aren’t “progressive” or “open” or “tolerant.”  They’ve just got better PR.

Until now.  Hard to argue with the census.

  1. kiwikit

    Sorry to be so pedantic, particularly after reading such an enjoyable article, but shouldn’t the headline

    be ‘None of them IS in the South’?  

    After many decades living in the NE and CA, I find SC much more integrated;  all people are friendly and hospitable regardless of color.  I just hope the Northern atmosphere doesn’t come down with the many blacks who are moving here.  

  2. StickerShock

     “The conclusion we arrived at was that most New Yorkers were, well, unwordly.  They knew the few congested square miles in which they lived, but somehow mistook living amongst a lot of people for knowing a lot about people.”

    There is much truth to this statement.  I live ten miles west of Manhttan, worked there for many years, & travel in frequently. 

  3. Bryan G. Stephens

    I have lived my whole life in the south so that is what I have to go one. I admit, I figured all the comments about “Yankees being rude” was just talk. Then I went to college at a school that only advertised north of the Mason-Dixon line.

    Wow.

    It turns out, the folks from the North East had some preconceived notions about how I should sound (I didn’t talk with much of an accent), and how smart people in the south were. It turned out, in fact, the NYC students were quite rude. Frankly, I did not see how someone could be that stuck up, and not know how to drive. What sort of American does not know how to drive?

    So, in short, I did not believe in the “Rude Yankee” until I met some. They sure taught me.

    The whole nation is always down on the southeast. If we are such a bad place, why is everyone moving here? Seems like Atlanta is full of people that moved here.

  4. Keith Preston
    StickerShock:  “The conclusion we arrived at was that most New Yorkers were, well, unwordly.  They knew the few congested square miles in which they lived, but somehow mistook living amongst a lot of people for knowing a lot about people.”

    There is much truth to this statement.  I live ten miles west of Manhttan, worked there for many years, & travel in frequently.  · Mar 30 at 4:16am

    This famous New Yorker cover was more an admission than a revelation.

  5. Carver

     I appraise residential real estate here in Memphis. Based on what I’ve seen from one corner of this million-person-metro area to another is that things are WAY better than even most optimists suggest. Not that there is not room for improvement but people are getting along in school, at work, in the bank and grocery lines, at kids soccer and baseball games, and even in a number of integrated neighborhoods outside the self conscious hyper-cool midtown big-D Diversity zone. But the sound of all that normality is still drowned out by the small few pro and semi-pro ax grinders. I posited a few years ago that what happened in Memphis when black and white influences merged in music is now happening here in politics and demographics. What if that exciting new thing is African American conservatism ? – (and here) Or just a place where everyone’s attitude has that irresistible smoky flavor?

  6. Bill McGurn
    C

    That reminds me of an editorial we did a long time ago in the WSJ, comparing the Queens working class neighborhood where Archie Bunker lived — one of the most diverse zip codes in the nation — to the lily white enclave where Norman Lear lived.

  7. Tommy De Seno
    C

    Rob - fascinating topic.  Modern American segregation.  Check out New Jersey.

    NJ incomes are #1 in America.  Where is the #1 poorest city in America?  Camden NJ.   How does that happen?  Segregation.

    The problem is two forms of welfare:  Wasted money on inner cities where we concentrate poverty (segregated), and therefore what comes with poverty – crime. 

    The second is “suburban welfare.”  Governments buy land to keep “open spaces” which keeps people out (segregated) and drives home prices to unreachable levels.

    Neither side will give up their welfare. 

    Bonus:  The Asbury Park, NJ school district was racially segregated in 1996 by government action which bused all the white kids out of there, leaving only the poorest socio-economic section of the district in the school ( if we conservatives hate busing, then hate reverse busing too).

    No one complains though.  The white communities no longer go to school with the black kids.  The new “black school” gets $90m annually from the State and Feds to educate 1900 kids, so they aren’t complaining either (you read that right – $90m, 1900 kids).

    State action racially segregated the school like it’s 1940.

    Extra Bonus:  One of the segregated schools is named “Thurgood Marshall.”

  8. Larry Koler
    J. C. Casteel

    … but somehow mistook living amongst a lot of people for knowing a lot about people. …

    J.C., that is the best phrase of the month (the year?). Kudos for the insight.

  9. robberberen

    This made me remember these fascinating maps published last year:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1315078/Race-maps-America.html 

  10. Matthew Gilley

    It’s nice to have confirmation of what I’ve been seeing for years with my own eyes.

  11. outstripp

    Good point Rob.  I took my son to a demolition derby in eastern Kansas, lo these many years ago, and noticed that you saw a lot more interracial couples than you ever saw at the University of Kansas.

  12. J. C. Casteel

    It’s 100%.  St. Louis is not a southern city in any respect. 

  13. Kervinlee

    I’m a white guy who lives in Oakland, California, a very racially integrated city to my mind. About 2001, I was taking a class at one of the local community colleges, and I was taken aback at learning that one of my fellow classmates, a young black woman, was moving to the deep south, Alabama or Mississippi. Agog, I couldn’t then imagine why a black person would want to move from the oh-so-progressive northern California east bay for what I thought could only be the heart-of-the-confederacy-jim-crow-south. When I expressed my astonishment, she said one of her primary motivations in moving was what she considered the more enlightened racial attitudes of southern people, white and black. Being a local yokel, I had to give her the benefit of the doubt, and take a lesson learned.

    We are a peculiar people.

  14. Troy Senik, Ed.

    Rob, your Newsweek piece is a gem. I’m generally suspicious of those who roll out the claim that they learned more from their extracurriculars than their formal education, but there’s no better way to learn the country than to do it by car. As someone who’s seen 43 states this way (and who has experienced the cosmopolitan provincialism of both Hollywood and Washington), I heartily encourage the entire Ricochet family to follow the Long Trail, wherever it may take them across the fruited plain.

  15. MBF

    The map was pretty interesting, but the commentary about Milwaukee was laugh out loud absurd.

    They actually blamed Scott Walker for racial segregation in Milwaukee because he opposed several boondoggle light rail projects while he was county executive. It is apparently also the fault of those racist white suburbanites for not agreeing to form a  “regional transit system”, which is a euphemism for ripping off the suburbs to fund transportation infrastructure in the city.

    Of course they make no mention that the city itself has been ruled for a century by Democrats and Socialists. And I mean actual members of the Socialist Party.

  16. J. C. Casteel
    Rob Long

    The neighborly, gracious atmosphere of The Dinner Bell – and in fact, everywhere else I went in the south – was totally unlike the spooky northern stereotype of Mississippi and Alabama.  Totally unlike what sophisticated northerners, in their bigoted snobbery, imagine when they hear the words “McComb, Mississippi.”  And I wondered how many interracial co-ed lunches were being eaten on that day at, say, the Four Seasons in enlightened Manhattan, or the Ivy in progressive Hollywood.

    I’ve lived my entire life in the rural southern Midwest, but my job took me to Manhattan for lengthy periods.  My partner, another bumpkin who regularly killed or caught his own supper, spent similarly long periods in the Big Apple.  I can remember comparing notes with him about our experiences–which always included some form of condescension by the natives once they learned our origins.  The conclusion we arrived at was that most New Yorkers were, well, unworldly.  They knew the few congested square miles in which they lived, but somehow mistook living amongst a lot of people for knowing a lot about people.  They believed that little of importance existed beyond the shores of that tiny isle.   

  17. CoolHand

    Good on ya for driving the long road Rob.

    I hate flying with the fury of a thousand fiery suns.

    And honestly, unless you’re flying a long ways, it ain’t much faster.

    LA to NY is faster, but the last time I flew it was from STL to Detroit, and that took just over eight hours total (only 45 mins of which was spent actually flying).

    I can drive that distance in 10.5 or 11 hrs, and nobody will touch my junk (unless I ask them nicely) or make me take off my shoes.

    With the price of gas now, the trip is probably a wash money wise, but at that time, it would have been cheaper to drive as well.

    Getting to experience the Local Color™ is just one more side benefit to the slower trip.

  18. Hang On

    I used to live in Cincinnati and was surprised to see it on the list. I lived near the University of Cincinnati in a very racially mixed neighborhood. Living there was not far from what you would see in Traffic. Drugs, crime, and not a very good life.Waking up in the middle of the night to gunfire is not great.

    And then I see the map. My view of Cincinnati was quite different than that on the map. I’m surprised some of the counties were included in the SMSA. Never knew anyone who commuted in from those areas.

    So I guess what I’m saying is, it depends at least to an extent on where you are as to how segregated you see things.

    The other thing about Cincinnati is the Ohio River. North of the river (Ohio), you’re definitely in the north. South of the river (Kentucky), you have a southern look and feel. Or so it seems to someone who grew up in the south.

  19. J. D. Fitzpatrick
    kiwikit: Sorry to be so pedantic, particularly after reading such an enjoyable article, but shouldn’t the headline

    be ‘None of them IS in the South’?  

    No. None can be singular or plural, depending on whether the writer wants to refer to one thing or many things. See Strumpf, The Grammar Bible, p. 185, and the “none” entry in Merriam-Webster’s Concise Dictionary of English Usage. 

  20. lizzie
    Rob Long

    somewhere between Van’s Pig Stand in Shawnee, Oklahoma 

    I’ve been weighing joining Ricochet for a while, but this prompted me to take the plunge.  I went to college in Shawnee and have eaten at Van’s a zillion times, it’s one of the places I must go when I’m up there.  The brisket is amazing, the curly fries, and the spicy sauce.  It’s one of those food memories that never leaves you.  

    But the subject also resonates.  As the family oddball, I was born in Chicago to a Texan family, I only lived up there for 6 months, we moved to Atlanta and always lived in the South from thereafter.  The first time I went back was while I was in college and it was the first time I ever remember seeing people treated in an overtly racist manner – I’d lived my life till then in the South & overseas.  I’ve learned that liberals love to project and I think our Northern betters are the exact same.  Those that live in the South or Texans like myself have to deal with multiracial, fairly integrated societies as a manner of course.