Friday, July 17, 2009

The Diversity Dodge

"Diversity" is a word that is frequently thrown into the collective face of the Inner City neighborhood, most recently in the Mayor's opening remarks at the July 9 ICCA meeting.

With Census data in hand, it's time to ask some measured questions regarding neighborhood diversity.

Here is a breakdown of race and ethnicity from 1970 through 2000 for our neighborhood, Parker-Gray, as well as the adjacent Del Ray and Rosemont neighborhoods. Del Ray is represented by two census tracts, 13 and 14, which are separated by Mt. Vernon Avenue, while Rosemont is tract 15 and Parker-Gray is a historic district largely centered in tract 16. (Click here to view the 2000 Census tract map for the City.) Totals for the City of Alexandria are also included.

Three important facts stand out.

First, although the white population of census tract 16 rose dramatically since 1990, our neighborhood remains highly diverse. Not surprisingly, the 2000 Census reveals that the community has twice the percentage of black residents (45%) as the City of Alexandria has overall (22%). Even if the 2010 Census shows the African-American population dropping again to 30% or even 25% of census tract 16, which is likely given changes in the neighborhood, we would still be ahead of the City average which has been stable at around 22% for the last three decades.

Second, there was a surge in the black population in East Del Ray from 1970 to 1980, and in West Del Ray from 1970 to 1990. Yet by 2000, the African-American populations in those neighborhoods had once again shrunk. The black population in West Del Ray fell by half, in East Del Ray by a third.

Mayor Euille lives in West Del Ray and black activist Lenny Harris resides in East Del Ray. Where is their indignation regarding the ethnic changes occuring in their own back yards? Why do they come here and repeatedly hector us?

Third, other than death the reason that Parker-Gray has lost black population is that African-Americans (as well as Hispanics) live less segregated lives today than they did 40 years ago immediately after the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Nothing illustrates this more succinctly than this graphic from the City's Consolidated Plan for Housing and Community Development FY 2006-2010, which notes there are now more census tracts in Alexandria with African-American and Hispanic populations than ever before (p. 13).

So the Growler once again asks the question: why are we in Parker-Gray being bludgeoned with diversity when Del Ray or Rosemont are not?

And who benefits from a return to segregation? Low-income housing advocates maybe? But not public housing residents. The 2008 Braddock East Advisory Group was presented with ARHA statistics indicating nearly all of the tenants of public housing in the Braddock area are black.

"Cui bono?"