LA is a “balkanized region”, says UC scholar, further uprisings could emerge if segregation is not addressed



A staggering 81% of metropolitan areas nationwide have become more racially segregated since the 1990s, according to results from the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley. The Roots of Structural Racism Project found that while California is diverse, residential racial segregation has changed little in the Golden State, particularly in some cities in Southern California.

Stephen Menendian, lead author of the study, says the United States has changed since the 1960s. “We have always been a multiracial country. But for most of the 20th century, we were mostly seen as a predominantly black and white country. ”

He explains that the duality changed with the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which brought more Asian and Hispanic Americans to the West Coast and Southwest. In the Bay Area of ​​California, Asians are set to become the largest plurality within a few decades.

After some growth in diversity, Los Angeles has been one of the state’s metropolitan areas to see improvements in desegregation. However, it still remains the sixth most segregated region among more than 220 metropolitan regions.

Menendian says there are several reasons for this. “It’s not just that there is more segregation. It is because there have been a lot of changes in demographics. You have… Asian and Hispanic people moving to different neighborhoods in the metro area.

The sprawl of the region also creates fragmentation. “Los Angeles is a metropolitan area dominated by freeways and cars. And in any region where cars are the predominant mode of travel, you’re going to have highways that cut communities in half. … It is a very balkanized region in the sense that there are viable racially identified neighborhoods throughout the region, ”he says.

Several other cities in Southern California remain at the top of the study’s list. the most isolated areas, including Santa Barbara, Riverside and Oxnard.

Menedian believes the main reason segregation has persisted despite increasing diversity is that a number of highly segregated and wealthy white communities have “maintained their exclusive whiteness.” The researcher says these areas are strongly white compared to populations in the state and neighboring regions.

“[While] most people in California are people of color… a lot of these cities are 60 to 70, even 80% white. And that’s what drives a lot of this segregation, ”he says.

Some of the cities listed as the most segregated also include several agricultural centers driven by seasonal migration. Many diverse groups, most often Latinos, settle in highly concentrated neighborhoods where they go to work. “You’ll see the handful of census tracts that are highly separated communities of color in what is otherwise a sea of ​​white,” Menendian explains.

The deputy director of the Othering and Belonging Institute says racial divide in residential areas is a problem. “Residential racial segregation continues to underlie nearly all expressions of racial inequality in our society.”

COVID also emphasizes the importance of fighting segregation, as it leads to health outcomes. “There have been several notable studies related to the COVID pandemic, which neighborhoods have been hit hardest by COVID, where is the highest death rate,” Menendian explains.

Additionally, with most of the students in the United States assigned to neighborhood schools, Menedian says that “separate residential models have shaped separate educational opportunities.”

So what is the solution ? Menendian says it comes down to politics and neighborhood integration. “So we can approach each of these issues in a piecemeal fashion or we can recognize that residential racial segregation is really the root cause of all of them.”

And if the issue of segregated metropolitan areas is not resolved, he says, “I think we’re going to continue to see uprisings like the ones we saw in Watts in the 1960s.”

He says the past few years have shown that “without actually promoting racial equity through integration, deliberate integration, we’re going to continue to see police violence concentrated in communities of color … we’re going to continue to see uprisings. “.

He notes that the uprisings of the past 50 years are not just about police brutality. “They were also a response to these unfair conditions that are entrenched in our metropolitan area.”


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