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Nadra Kareem Nittle

Do You Live in One of America’s Most Segregated Cities?

By April 4, 2011

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Results from the 2010 census reveal how much ground's been broken in race relations over the past decade. For example, multiracial youth are the fastest growing segment of young people, and interracial marriage is rising rapidly in a region where it was once hotly contested--the American South. But not all of the census data on race relations brings good news. The findings on residential racial patterns show that the U.S. remains overwhelmingly segregated.

Thanks to white flight, housing discrimination and job losses in inner cities, to name a few, blacks, whites and Latinos all too often live apart in the United States. Midwesterners are more likely than any other regional group in the U.S. to live in racially divided cities. Six Midwestern metropolises (with urban cores of at least 500,000) have the dubious distinction of making America's most segregated city list, as compiled by CensusScope.org and the University of Michigan's Social Science Data Analysis Network. I've reprinted the list below. Does your city appear?

10. Los Angeles

9. Philadelphia

8. Cincinnati

7. St. Louis

6. Buffalo, N.Y.

5. Cleveland

4. Detroit

3. Chicago

2. New York

1. Milwaukee

So, why was Milwaukee named the most segregated city of all? Like other cities on the list, Milwaukee's history includes zoning ordinances, restrictive covenants and realtors which functioned collectively to keep blacks away from whites. But Milwaukee stands out for having "the lowest rate of African-American suburbanization of any of these larger cities," Professor Marc Levine of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, told Salon.com. While African Americans all over the nation dwell in both suburbs and urban centers, a staggering 90 percent of black Milwaukeeans live in the city. The fact that suburban whites oppose the creation of affordable housing on the city's outskirts, not to mention public transportation that would connect the city to the suburbs, only adds to the problem.

"I think there are still some people who don't want to live with people who have different skin colors than theirs," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told the Chicago Tribune.

Not all of the cities on the list were considered segregated because of where blacks live in relation to whites. Take New York and Los Angeles, for instance. In both cities--the United States' largest two--Latinos live in highly segregated neighborhoods, according to the report. Meanwhile in Detroit and Chicago, both extremely racially divided, the Latino population is booming. And in Chicago's North side neighborhood of Rogers Park, there's a mix of Latinos, blacks, whites and Asians. Too bad Chicago's also the city known for building the 14-lane Dan Ryan expressway, in part, to physically separate black and white neighborhoods.

So, ten years from now when the next census is conducted, will the major U.S. cities  remain largely segregated? Yes, says activist and columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson. He remarked in a recent editorial:

"The painful truth three years after the election of America's first black president is that there are far too many policy makers, political leaders, and many whites that still think that segregation is too much a longstanding, even immutable, way of life in America to ever change."

Your thoughts?


April 4, 2011 at 1:17 pm
(1) Veronica says:

That’s a damn shame. So even in 2011, we still haven’t overcome. How long would it take for us to do just that?

April 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm
(2) Hans says:

You know, I am wondering about this. On my little Caribbean island about 75% of the people (think or feel that they) are black, about 15% are “original” whites and about 10% are latino’s. The past 10 years there is a rising animosity against the non-black inhabitants. The black majority thinks or feels that they are in some way subordinated to whites. By there own black leaders? I (white) was talking about that with a black aquintance of mine, a guy that I respect very much. He thought long about it and said to me: You know, I hate to say this, but I think that everywhere whites are living, even in relativily small numbers, they create a white world. We blacks don’t belong there. I don’t wanna think like that, but that’s what I experience.
Immediately I thought about the opposite views of Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey. Was Garvey right all the same?

April 5, 2011 at 6:54 pm
(3) Robert says:

Hi Nadra…

So LA makes the list… Not surprised. When I moved here from NYC, I lived on the west side. First thing I noticed was how white LA was. Then I noticed that it wasn’t white. It was segregated. White neighborhoods, African American neighborhoods, Latino neighborhoods, Asian neighborhoods. Every group had its neighborhood. Thai, Armenian, etc. It was weird.

I moved to Koreatown a few months later and have most of my 25 yrs in either Koreatown or Hollywood. Both areas are mixed. Asian, African American, Latino, White, recent immigrants from all over the world seem to end up in Koreatown/East Hollywood. That’s the way I like it.

But, I know people who live on the west side (and in west hollywood) and rarely ever see a person of color. They rarely see a person of a lower social economic class either (except for bus boys and CVS clerks… whom are invisible to them). I can barely tolerate these folks.

April 5, 2011 at 6:56 pm
(4) Robert says:

But there are lots of people I have difficulty tolerating. Like lots of the folks in silver lake, hollywood hills and Los Feliz. Aging Hipsters. Scientologist enclaves. Want-to-be-Hollywood hanger-ons. And now there is… thanks to my ex BF… a christian commune of straight white aging-frat hipster boys who are frolicking on an estate in Los Feliz… (sounds like the story line of a gay porn movie… but that is his repressed gay issue… not mine)

All this people tend to talk the liberal talk but not walk the walk. They donate 2 minutes of time to sign an on line petition, proclaim they are saving the world and then sit back with some lattes and sushi. Not my kind of people… but then… I have worked in the social service field for 20 plus years. Changing the world actually takes work, dedication and time. Not promoting your art work under the guise of philantropy.

In the end, LA is an interesting city… odd really. I prefer it to the all white new england town that I grew up in. It really is what you make of it. Who you invite into your life. And how honest, open, respectful and introspective you are. LA forces to examine your assumptions strengthen your values and then leave.


Interesting as always.


April 27, 2011 at 6:23 pm
(5) Kelli says:

I’m not even CLOSE to being surprised. The current racial climate in our country is indicative of this reality. As long as we don’t live, work, play, love and yes, worship with one another we will never truly KNOW the other and begin to trust. I pray that, in time, we will.

June 27, 2011 at 8:51 am
(6) herc says:

The US will NEVER come together, unless so called “minorities” will fight and gain respect thru FORCE! The riots are the only things that made changes..and these Caucasians are warlike and the only things they ever understand is force and violence..then talks to make them wake up! I just get ready and wonder when these coming years the racial wars will start and those that are here..get what they so richly deserve…;-)

July 9, 2011 at 8:14 pm
(7) Joy says:

I’m not surprised either. I been to Chicago, St. Louis, Indiana but not the others. But in that whole area I noticed how segregated things were.

I was a bit surprised by L.A., having never been there. But when you look at it it’s pretty obvious.

I don’t think the answer is force and riots. We should be ahead of that by now. I just think people need to stop with the preconceived notions and stereotypes.

I think many people breed this very thing by isolating themselves within their own race. I live in Denver and although it didn’t make the list, I believe it has a connection with the midwest cities that did make the list. I mean, SE Denver is most Black and Hispanic whereas the rest is White, then more pockets of Hispanics on the west side.

I lived in Miami, another city that surprisingly is not on the list. the Chicago Dan Ryan Expressway sounds similar to the I-95 separating the Black west side from the more affluent east side. Although the main separation was Biscayne Bay. But it wasn’t as drastic.

Personally, I am losing the desire to wait for things to change in this country. From what I have heard over the years is that it seems places like Toronto, Scandinavia, France, Amsterdam…have less of that going on. Because their history is different. And I would be interested in finding out.

August 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm
(8) Brega says:

If you look at the recent trend in Milwaukee, you can see why it is still segregated. Look at all of the young African American youth that are creating these mobs and attacking white folk. Or just look at all of the violence that goes on in the City of Milwaukee. Most Intelligent people be they black or white don’t want to live around the shootings, drug dealings, fights, robberies, burglaries, and just plain ignorant youths that are perpetrating these acts. So YES whites do flee the city so they don’t have to put up with that crap. Not to say Whites don’t commit crimes but, its not something they want to live with.

November 6, 2011 at 5:13 am
(9) Dam Ba says:

A lot of this so-called de facto segregation is plain ole ‘folks of the same ilk wanting to be around similar folks’. It has always been that way, and it is that way all over the world. I remember when I was traveling through France with a friend. We had a target to get into Paris by a certain time but got lost for a while. Finally, we realized that the hotel in front of us (in Paris) was our forced choice, as it was Midnight. So, even though it looked old and decrepit, we went in and registered. We looked around the lobby and the few people there looked like they were from Tangiers or Libya, and on the way up the elevator to our room, we saw more of the same. I would bet that only Muslim or Arab Christians, or whatever, were staying there. It’s human nature to want to re-create the past, hang on to old ways, while venturing into new prospects.

November 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm
(10) Jack says:

I still think that white European women are the most attractive. Black hair, brown eyes, and brown/black skin is boring. It is the most common feature in the world.

The different shades of blond and brown and red hair and the eyes that can be any color of the rainbow, blue, green, hazel, light to dark brown, and grey. That is what I call diversity.

Black and brown is not diversity.

January 18, 2012 at 8:10 pm
(11) Caucasoid says:

Surprised to see New York in this top ten as I’ve been NYC resident for about 15 years and always prided my home city on being “less racist” than the rest of ‘em. Perhaps the “boroughs” (what we NYers call everything but Manhattan) is where the segregation is, but likely this is more attributable to how real estate works under a wave of ethnic migration than anything else. One afternoon getting coffee & lunch in midtown, or a ride on the 7 or JMZ train will tell you we’re unequivocally a melting pot.
I consider myself lucky to have seen much less racism coming from either side (majority or minority) than I have in the other cities I’ve lived in, namely Cleveland and Pittsburgh. It was bad in Pittsburgh but worse in Cleveland, (mind that most of the people I knew in Cleveland were from its western suburbs, and of European descent.) Despite it being a northern city with a fairly high number of universities and liberal (sub)culture, there’s still seems to be an immensly strong distrust between blacks and whites. Even in 2011 it seems to be a deeply entrenched cultural problem. Any thoughts on this?

January 31, 2012 at 12:37 am
(12) Dan says:


Unless you fight and gain “respect” through force, huh? To what end, forcing us to cohabitate with you? So, now we aren’t allowed to choose to live around who we wish, but must be violently forced to mass integrate?

So, you think that we deserve your violence for giving you neighborhoods in our formerly civil and great cities, which you summarily outgrow and destroy through violence and criminal behavior? That wasn’t enough? We further deserve your violence?

How about this: you don’t need violence to achieve your goals. Raise your group culture to the point where we feel both safe and respectful to your culture naturally, and then integration will happen. Until you repress both your violent and entitled notions, as well as group predilections for promiscuity, drugs, anti-family behavior, and raise your family culture to the point where your children are both polite and have a natural respect for education and community resources, then integration and “respect” will never occur.

Maybe that’s the difference. Your idea of gaining respect is holding a gun over someone’s head. The current majority’s idea of respect is quite different.

January 31, 2012 at 12:46 am
(13) Dan says:


Yes, I have some thoughts on the distrust between whites and blacks, and the deeply entrenched cultural problem. On the very superficial surface, we share a similar culture. Directly below that surface, the cultures couldn’t be more different.

Both groups prefer their own culture, have a right to that culture, and distrust behavior or media that threatens that culture. Culture runs deep, and is of the highest value to the group that creates it. It is something to be revered and preserved, and every group has a right to it. Threatening the culture threatens the people. From a white POV, black culture has been severely degraded (from a family oriented perspective) and threatens the mind and safety of our youth. We don’t want it, and many of us wish to separate its influence completely from our lives. Its influence is pervasive, and is antithetical to many of the values that we hold high.

July 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm
(14) terri says:

Only one thng will makee happy and that when it all comes to an end and christ comes too earth and reclaim this world, then there will be no hate or you live where and we live their, as far as concern i like to have th right to live where i like and keep to myself. I hate this world. SCREW RACISIM AND THE PEOPLE THAT SUPPORT IT.

August 14, 2012 at 10:58 am
(15) James says:

Im a latino but I will say this until the gang culture is stamped out. I dont see desegregation happening anytime soon. Why would white folks want to live in places like Compton?? I can understand the white POV. Cause I dont want my kids to grow up around bloods, crips, and Latino gangs. I know that the majority of black and latino Americans are hard working decent people. But gangs seem to breed around our minorities communities. I don’t want my kids to “live” in what I see on the 6 ‘o clock news everyday. I don’t want to live anywhere around gangs or crime. I grew up in a rough latino area in LA and I told myself I would never raise my kids here. After college I moved to a rural area in Texas pop 5000 people and it’s like 90% white. We have no violent crime, no gangs, and everyone is nice and neighborly. Worst crime here is the occasional high school party. Being Latino was no deal at all we were welcomed with open arms. But white people fear living in large minority areas. Who could blame them? I’m a minority and I fear living in one too!!

December 1, 2012 at 10:21 am
(16) Drew says:

Ok so let me get this straight. You condemn people for moving away from places that have humans piled on top of each other fighting and stealing what they can get then trying to ensure that cord that ties you to this cesspool is cut is a bad thing? Poor rich black or white only a glutton chooses to live in that and only a fool writes an article saying this is a problem. There are plenty of resources available for anyone in the ant hill to up and move to a better/smaller place.

January 23, 2013 at 10:55 am
(17) Jay says:

We non-minorities have to be super careful about what we say and do or we are labeled racist. Now our decisions about where we live are also racist?

Exactly who is keeping minorities from moving next door to them? How is that even possible? Live wherever you can afford to live.

If you can’t afford to live where you want, guess what? That’s not because of racism. That’s life; work some sort of job that will pay you enough so you can afford to live where you’d like.

Nobody is owed anything by anyone, and the attitudes of resentment and entitlement are stifling not only to those that are the targets, but also the growth and development of those in possession of those attitudes. Think about that for awhile.

July 24, 2013 at 10:59 pm
(18) dan says:

whites are a dominant culture

August 23, 2013 at 6:56 pm
(19) whitey says:

Milwaukee here I come. Thank heavens

December 14, 2013 at 11:47 am
(20) Rock N Roll says:

Segregation is a better way of life. People want to live amongst those that are like and similar. We all have our own ways of living & how we act and present ourselves.

January 24, 2014 at 10:30 pm
(21) The Realist says:

It’s not about skin color anymore; trash comes in all colors. If you want to lead a trashy lifestyle you’d better not try to move into my neighborhood. And please, don’t even think of hiding behind the race card; I could care less what you might think of me. On the other hand, if you want to live a relatively civilized life, I could care less what you look like; join us.

February 20, 2014 at 11:56 pm
(22) Sarah says:

I grew up in the Chicago suburbs but spent 3 years in Florida.

While I lived in Jacksonville, I got used to the greater blend of different people living and working together there.

Now I’m back in Chicago. Near my old suburbs. In a costly one bedroom apartment that makes it hard to save. Getting back to work around here… I was at first shocked to realize I would hear more often now, sexist comments and hints of racism.

Anyway… I would like to live in more affordable housing, yet still be close to the city. Unfortunately, I noticed that all the areas with cheap rent have higher crime. Some really ugly… I would like to say I’d move to those places if they ever became safe places to live in.

Instead… I’m beginning to consider moving to less populated areas with the lower costs of living that tend to go along with lower incomes. Cheap rent by the city doesn’t mean much if it kills you.

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