More than 50 years after Martin Luther King made his famous speech ‘I Have a Dream’ looking toward a hopeful future of racial equality and integration, segregation remains an insidious issue in the United States. The spectacular failure of the ‘Equal but Separate’ pre-civil rights doctrine illustrated that true equality between races is impossible when they are separate; yet, in many cities, unofficial racial segregation still exists. This results in issues of unemployment and crime, with those living in different areas not given the same opportunities.
50 years ago, 20% of America’s urban neighbourhoods had no black residents; today African-Americans can be found in 199 of every 200 neighbourhoods, demonstrating a promising shift towards a fully integrated America. However, the average black American’s neighbourhood is 45% black. If there truly was no segregation, the average neighbourhood would in fact be only 13% black; these statistics demonstrate that there is still a long way to go.
Although the current data is worrying, there has been a slow decline in segregation across America since 2000. In the space of ten years the average black citizen’s neighbourhood has moved from 49% black to 46%, and the average white person’s neighbourhood has gone from 81% white to 79%. These changes are small, but they represent a move in the right direction.
The percentage given for each city on our list identifies the proportion of people who would have to move in order to eliminate segregation. A score above 60% on the dissimilarity index is considered very high, so all 10 of these cities demonstrate a worrying level of segregation in what most believe to be a mixed, multicultural, country. These are the ten most segregated cities in the US.
10 Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y., 69.2%
9 St. Louis, Missouri, 70.6%
8 Cleveland, Ohio, 72.6%
7 Miami, Florida, 73%
6 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 73.7%
5 Chicago, Illinois, 75.9%
4 Newark, New Jersey, 78%
3 New York, New York, 79.1%
2 Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 79.6%
1 Detroit, Michigan, 79.6%
Detroit’s segregation is so extreme that there was even a wall erected in 1940 as a barrier between whites and blacks. It has been likened to the Berlin wall by many, although unlike its German counterpart it still stands as an embodiment of racial attitudes. Although the wall no longer expressly separates races, segregation has remained the status-quo for the geography of the city. Some claim that the wall, and its inspirational murals, remains as a symbol of how far the city still has to go. Overall, Detroit stands as the embodiment of segregation within America and its residents remain, largely, explicitly separated into ethnic groupings across the city's neighbourhoods.
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