Beyond Black And White In Seattle

A reader writes:

Aaron Renn says that "progressive cities" like Portland, Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, and Denver having less African Americans than the national average "raises troubling questions."

Seattle has a small black community, but very large Asian and Indian communities (from India).  The conclusion that everyone who is not black is white makes his article not about diversity but his own narrowness of view.

Another writes:

Moved to a Seattle suburb two years ago from Nashville, TN.  At first, I was struck by the lack of African Americans--and in particular, black-owned businesses.  There is an odd, "let's not talk about race attitude here"...which comes from a "we're beyond it" place, but often smacks of "not wanting to deal with it." HOWEVER, Seattle has quite the diverse population:  the 4th largest Asian population in the U.S.  And, mixed marriage is so commonplace it goes virtually unnoticed.  (Can't say that about the South--where "miscegenation" still turns heads). And speaking of diversity, estimates for Seattle's gay population vary but are placed as high as 12.9%.

According to these numbers from 2005, Seattle's black population is 8%, with an Asian population of 14% and Hispanic population of 6%. Another reader addresses the bigger picture:

The idea that all American cities should have a set percentage of blacks is not only a fundamental misunderstanding of the word “diversity,” as Joyner notes, but a surprisingly ignorant of history and people in general.  Did I miss the part of my history class where there was a post-slavery migration of blacks to Denver (little more than a village of cowboys and railroad workers in the 1860s)?  Or the part about the plantations in Minneapolis?  Of course those cities don’t have as many blacks as Pittsburgh.  There was no reason for freed slaves to travel to Seattle or these other cities – many of which were barely on the map at all in 1865.  Like all migrating peoples, African-Americans followed geography, opportunity, and personal connections. 

The pathways originally blazed by the underground railroad didn’t go through Austin or Portland, they went through what is now the rust belt, what was then the locus of industry.  So, yes, if one ignores history, culture, community, economics, and physical geography, blacks should have spread out evenly throughout the United States.  And Arizona and North Dakota should have the same number of Latinos, San Francisco and Des Moines should have proportionally sized Chinatowns, and St. Paul and New Orleans should have equal number of people with Scandinavian heritage.