I grew up in a state that was overwhelming white, in a city that was somewhat white, in a neighborhood that was barely white. The de facto segregation in my hometown meant that whole sections of the city could easily be identified as the barrio
or the black neighborhood or the fledgling Asian district. It was geographically convenient to pinpoint where the white people weren’t, because they were so plentiful everywhere else.
But in the United States of 2014, it’s not so simple. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “America’s neighborhoods became more integrated last year than during any time in at least a century.” This of course means we’ve achieved the mythical color-blind society where racism and ethnic conflict have been banished forever… well, not really.
You see, despite the positive move toward a more integrated society, the fact remains that “ethnic segregation in many parts of the U.S. persisted, particularly for Hispanics,” according to the Census Bureau. Yes, Latinos are still very likely to be segregated from other ethnic populations, and this has far-reaching consequences not only for Hispanics, but for America as well.
The Census Bureau states that one reason for the persistent segregation is because “large numbers of more recently arrived Hispanic immigrants are believed to be clustering together for social support.” As such, these areas are more likely to become ethnic enclaves, with all the struggles that immigrant communities have faced since the founding of America.
These issues include the continued economic stagnation of the Latino community, which is often cut off from the educational opportunities and networking benefits that the majority culture enjoys. Furthermore, making sure that all the Hispanics are in one tidy place strengthens an us-vs-them mentality, which can provide an excellent breeding ground for festering racism and mutual distrust.
Of course, some would argue that there are benefits to the continued prevalence of Latino-based neighborhoods. After all, Hispanic traditions are easier to pass down to subsequent generations if everybody in the area is Latino. And Hispanic political influence, already predicted to increase in the near future, could become more powerful as “new Hispanic-dominated districts … emerge,” according to the Census Bureau.
But at best, these points are consolation prizes. The truth is that segregation is a wince-inducing word for a reason. It has had a well-documented adverse effect on societies all over the world. America’s messy relationship with integration, of course, continues to the present day.
This time, however, it appears that Latinos are the ones who are being ghettoized. As such, it may be Hispanics who now feel the brunt of a separate and unequal society.