Want to see what segregation looks like in America today? Take a drive on New York's Long Island, one of the most racially segregated portions of the country. I grew up there, and the differences between adjacent white and minority towns can be so sharp it's as if invisible fences divide them.
Two villages, Hempstead and Garden City, lie adjacent to one another in Nassau County. Hempstead has a medium household income of $52,000. Garden City's is $150,000. Hempstead, in parts, resembles an inner city — with bodegas, laundromats, low-rise apartment buildings. Garden City is a suburban idyll, with tree-lined streets, gourmet grocery stores, and large colonial-style homes. Garden City is 88 percent white; Hempstead is 92 percent black and Hispanic (split about evenly). The transition between the two villages occurs within one block, a visual whiplash. See for yourself. Travel up North Franklin Street on Google maps.
+ Garden city is a lush wealthy suburban and very white community (the dense green patch on the top part of this photo). Hempstead is mostly minority, and much poorer. (Via Google Maps)
"Long Island is becoming more diverse, Nassau County is becoming more diverse," says John Logan, a Brown University sociologist who has been studying demographics since the 1970s. "But within Nassau County there's been hardly any change in the degree of segregation. The predominantly minority areas are becoming more minority. And the predominantly white areas are staying mostly white."