50 million individuals of Hispanic heritage, 16.3% of our population, now live in the United States, according to the 2010 Census data, a milestone in the long-forecast change in national demographics that will create a non-white majority in this nation by mid-century. The Hispanic population is now the second largest racial/ethnic group, expanding by more than 40% in the last ten years while the nation’s overall population growth rate was 9.7%.
Judging from the comments on the CNN.Com website and others, this news is stoking the ugly flames of bigotry and racial hatred in certain quarters, renewing calls for higher, stronger fences across the southern border. Curiously, there seem to be few calls for fences across the much larger and longer northern border. (Eh? Maybe those nice Quebecois don’t want to come here anyway.)
The Census report has some equally startling data about the change in racial composition of the District of Columbia, where the African American population is now barely 50%, a substantial decrease from ten years ago. A sidebar article on the changing face of the Bloomingdale neighborhood, just across North Capitol Street, is revealing.
The changes taking place in D.C. are not just about race, but perhaps even more urgently about social class. But as the impoverished mostly Black residents have been displaced from the core of the city, our most marginalized citizens certainly have not disappeared. They have simply moved farther to the margins, across the river and on to the edges of far southeast and northeast DC, and on into parts of Prince Georges County.
We can report all kinds of fascinating statistics about the changing demographics of our city, region and nation, but some statistics remain urgent and clear: D.C. continues to sport one of the highest poverty rates while also boasting one of the highest per-capita income profiles of major metropolitan areas; D.C. boasts one of the most well-educated populations in the nation along with an astonishingly high adult illiteracy rate. The bimodal distribution of wealth and education, poverty and illiteracy in our city demands continuing attention. The Census data also reveals that D.C. remains one of the most segregated cities in the nation, a fact that also tracks with poverty, deficient schools, a lack of access to decent health care and high unemployment.
So, while we’re enjoying lattes on the newly gentrified sidewalks of Bloomingdale, let’s remember that for too many residents of our city and region, any potential good news in the Census report is elusive. You won’t know the good news if you can’t read, can’t afford an internet connection to get the news, or are preoccupied with the threats of cutbacks in social services that cities and states are now imposing on those who can least afford to lose more, the people who live in poverty each day.