Something called the Social Science Data Analysis Network has been organized at the University of Michigan's Population Studies Center under the direction of Dr William H. Frey. SSDAN's primary focus seems to be racial distribution in America, and the ramifications thereof.

One statistic compiled by SSDAN through its CensusScope facility is the degree to which neighborhoods are segregated by race. I pulled up the Oklahoma City metro numbers, and they weren't too surprising — I have, after all, lived here more than twenty-five years — but a few things did jump out at me.

The White/Black Dissimilarity Index, for instance, is 60.5, which means that if whites and blacks were to be evenly distributed throughout metro neighborhoods, 60.5 percent of whites would have to move. On the national scale, this seems to be about average: Gary, Indiana comes in with 87.9, while Jacksonville, North Carolina shows a mere 31.7. Similarly-derived numbers are available for Hispanics, Native Americans, and other groups.

What all this means is unclear. I don't think anyone seriously expects three-fifths of the white residents of this area to move for the sake of racial balance, nor can I see how any benefits (other than to moving companies and real-estate agents) would accrue if they did. Still, the numbers are there, and when there are numbers, there are irresistible temptations to crunch them. And I have a feeling that the Census, maybe not in 2010 but probably in 2020, will start qualifying the racial classifications by fractions in an effort to cover those of us who think of ourselves as mutts and don't really give a fig about these things.

Then again, because we don't really give a fig, we don't count. It's those "caring" people behind pressure groups that want this data. A government truly devoted to racial neutrality wouldn't even ask questions about race on its Census, because the numbers wouldn't mean anything and couldn't be used for political purposes. Of course, we don't have such a government; instead, we have a government that gathers this data because there would be screams from those pressure groups if they didn't. Whether or not its destination is a place worth going — indeed, whether or not it has a destination at all — the Diversity Train rolls on.

The Vent

22 September 2002

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 Copyright © 2002 by Charles G. Hill