City Desk

Pretty Map Answers Ugly Question

Just how segregated is D.C.? Sure, there's no shortage of think tank reports and concerned white papers that answer that question. But it's one thing to know about segregation in the abstract; it's another to see it depicted visually. Which is precisely what Eric Fischer has done with data from the 2000 Census. Prompted by a map of Chicago produced by cartographer Bill Rankin, Fischer  drew up maps of racial housing patterns in D.C. and 39 other cities. You can see above, as Fast Company noted in writing up the maps, that the District and its surrounding region "has a stark east/west divide between white and black."

Reading the almost cheerful map is simple:"Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Gray is Other, and each dot is 25 people."

The demographics it represents, though, are a decade old. When this year's Census is finally crunched, the map may look different—more green near Rockville, for instance, and more orange in the inner-ring suburbs in both Maryland and Virginia.

There is also likely to be a little less blue in the District. As gentrification churns on, that small erasure will do nothing to ease the fears of a black community that already feels under attack in a city whose rising cost of living makes hanging on difficult.

In August, Harry Jaffe used his Examiner column to once again scoff at a conspiracy theory that has become known as "the Plan":

"The Plan" is a persistent conspiracy theory among many blacks in the District. It assumes that whites have had a plan to take back the nation's capital city since the advent of home rule in the 1970s, when the city started electing blacks to local office. The white power structure is bent on moving blacks out and whites in, and it will always control the levers of power.
But if such paranoia seems  laughable,  it reflects a reality that's easily illustrated in bright colors.
Image by Eric Fischer via Flickr under Creative Commons license
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  • LOL

    I see a butterfly and a waterfall.

    Could they give me some boundaries or something.

  • Brahmin

    I think the racial issues are overblown.
    Black people care about green and their very plush way of life that only could exist here in Washington DC.

    We African Americans in Washington DC have education, a political system that supports free enterprise and a middle to upper class lifestyle and Fenty went into an all out assault of that. Other African Americans move here--because the seeming lack of glass ceiling.

    And here was Fenty deciding ---when the government needed
    office paper--that is was simpler to go to Staples/Office Depot despite the fact that the local company is minority owned, employed local paper and in some cases cheaper with better customer service. Fenty was a threat to Utopian Way of life. A mecca to black intellectual advancement---the Huxtables on steroids, he had to go.

    And when minority businesses were already bruised and lipping due to his policies he fired such and suchs daughter/son to add extra injury. This is a political no no by any means, but he is Fenty so he did it in mass. He tossed out the Howard law, Harvard MBA, London School of Economic grads of prominent people with years of industry to replace them with newly minted DC residents with questionable background in politics and almost no experience in the field they served. He had Legislative Directors with no education, no hill experience and no knowledge of the council. He had head of offices who were once someone's assistant last week---for people who lived through an era where blacks had to be the best even to be considered this was too much to take. He had to go yesterday.

    But the straw that not only broke, buried and burned the camel and his back---is Fenty was inaccessible to hear anyone's concerns. His team of assistance kept Fenty's line of communications locked and closed. I tried to email the mayor per his request at his government email and was told how out of line I was by the assistant who answered his mail.

    I understand why whites voted for Fenty.Demographically speaking they are younger an new to the District. People want schools to work. The people who are coming here want to make DC their home long term. That is admirable.

    And Rhee is selling them a story of results, although school enrollment has gone done, test scores are spotty, and she is wasting money at the central office.

    But as a young engaged woman, who owns a home in the District I want great schools for any future kids-and the thought of moving to Virginia is not appealing. I would have voted for Fenty if his magic dust on the school system actually worked--even despite his arrogance, theft of tax payer money, Peter Nickles and crazy press interviews.

  • noodlez



  • Ward 5

    I'm with you noodlez and quite frankly tired of reading about the same crap.

  • Charlie

    Thanx fer the map. It is really interesting. Like others, I found it difficult to see what I was looking at without any identifying street maps. Here is a link to a larger versions with some street information. However, this is also a bit difficult to make sense of since the dots (each of which is 25 people) are so dense.

    Here is the Flickr page of other cities.

  • JM

    Maybe, just maybe, people segregate themselves because they like to live with others that share the same culture, values, and socio-economic status. We've all drunk the "integration" Kool-Aid since the 1960's, but people vote with their feet, and most people prefer not to live in integrated neighborhoods.

    Maybe we should stop the tut-tutting about how segregated we are, and focus on improving the quality of life in all sections of the city, whether they are majority white or majority black.

  • Charlie

    Oops. Forgot the second link.

  • etta

    I moved her over thirty years ago and from New Jersey. Ther were few opportunties for blacks in New Jersey. I love DC and I do not like the facts that whites are back they do not want to live with blacks. Fenty made it possible for them to push more blacks out and make many blacks lose their jobs. It has always been a segragated city and we were happy where we were act and now they want to take that a way from the masses because they do not want to be around blacks that is the reason they left the city in the sixties.

  • Kathy

    Most of us -- if not part of some foreign delegation -- are AMERICANS, folks. And as Americans -- no matter your race or ethnicity -- if you are comfortable in your home environment, WHY should anyone assume that you want to uproot yourself just to satisfy some sociological need to integrate such a map?

    The availability of the choice is what matters, not whether people actually uproot themselves.