Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Last Call For Counting Diversity In The Counties

A new look at US Census data by Randy Olson for The Atlantic shows the five most racially diverse counties in the US, and the five least diverse.  I was surprised by the former:

The 5 most diverse counties in the U.S., according to Olson's calculations, are:
  1. Aleutians West Census Area, Alaska (31.4% white/non-Latino, 5.7% African American, 15.1% Native American, 28.3% Asian American, 13.1% Latino, and 6.4% other)
  2. Aleutians East Borough, Alaska (13.5% white/non-Latino), 6.7% African American, 27.7% Native American, 35.4% Asian American, 12.3% Latino, and 4.4% other)
  3. Queens County, New York (27.6% white/non-Latino, 17.7% African American, 0.3% Native American, 22.8% Asian American, 27.5% Latino, and 4% other)
  4. Alameda County, California (34.1% white/non-Latino, 12.2% African American, 0.3% Native American, 25.9% Asian American, 22.5% Latino, and 5.1% other)
  5. Solano County, California (40.8% white/non-Latino, 14.2% African American, 0.5% Native American, 14.3% Asian American, 24% Latino, and 6.2% other)

Alaska's a tough place, where you have to count on your neighbors.  It takes a special kind of person to live and work there, and I guess you don't really have too much time for worrying about race and culture.  Queens in New York and Alameda and Solano in California make a lot of sense, Queens is the heart of the Big Apple's melting pot and Alameda contains most of San Francisco bay's east side. Solano County covers the suburbs north of the SF bay towards Sacramento. Definitely areas with a lot of different cultures and people with major cities in and around.

On the other side of that coin are the Appalachians and plains states:

And the 5 least diverse: 
  • Tucker County, West Virginia (100% white/non-Latino)
  • Robertson County, Kentucky (100% white/non-Latino)
  • Hooker County, Nebraska (100% white/non-Latino)
  • Hand County, South Dakota (99% white/non-Latino and 1% Latino)
  • Owsley County, Kentucky (98% white/non-Latino and 2% Latino)

As to what surprised Olson the most? "As a Michigander," he writes, "I’m the most surprised to see how diverse the Upper Peninsula is. I thought only crazy white people lived up that far in Michigan."

Two Kentucky counties among the five least diverse in the nation is arguably the least surprising fact I've read all week.

Anyway, why is this important?  Those diverse Alaska counties are being used as part of an argument that Sanders's big wins in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state over the weekend are proof that Sanders has large support from non-white voters. Raw Story's Katie Halper:

Leslie Lee III is a writer and English teacher from Baton Rouge, LA, who lives in Yokahama, Japan with his wife Kelly and their dog Taco. His writing ranges from essays and articles on politics and Japanese wrestling, to the novel he is working on with his father about Kentucky’s Black coal miners. But according to some sources, Lee does not actually exist. He’s a figment of the imagination. Because he’s both Black and a supporter of Bernie Sanders.

The nice thing about the notion of the unbearable whiteness of being a Sanders supporter is that it doesn’t need to be based in reality. On Saturday, for example, CNN attributed Sanders’ landslide victories in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington primaries to the whitey-mcwhiteyness of the states:

These caucus states — largely white and rural — are the type of places Sanders traditionally does well. In order to win the nomination, he must replicate this success in other, more ethnically diverse states that hold primaries, as he did in Michigan last month. In theory, it’s possible. But the reality is tough.

Likewise, in theory, it’s possible to portray these states as white. But the reality is tough. Because they’re not. Washington state is literally the seventh most diverse state in the Nation. Two (if not three) of the five most diverse counties in the country are found in Alaska, which CNN itself described as “the most diverse place in America,” in an article in January. And Hawaii, according the Pew Research Center,

stands out… more than any other state… when it comes to its racial and ethnic diversity… The Rainbow State has never had a white majority. In fact, non-Hispanic whites, the largest group in most states, account for only 23% of the population, according to 2013 census figures.
But you know the old adage, necessity (to correct irresponsible journalism and media bias) is the mother of (viral) invention. And So, Mr. Lee launched his epic #BernieMadeMeWhite hashtag, mocking the idea that all supporters of Sanders are white.

Well, basic math could tell you that of course Sanders has some women and non-white voters backing him, simply because he's managed to close within 10 points of Clinton in the very diverse Democratic party.  But the argument once again from Sanders supporters is that the votes of Southern red state Democrats don't really count and shouldn't count in a Democratic primary, and that Bernie's winning the "real" states, making him somehow...I don't know, more magical or something?  It's coming across as a massive dismissal of a lot of voters that the Sanders folks believe should not have a say at all in the process, support that Sanders would need in a general election.

Whether it will be enough support going into the final primaries this spring, we'll see.

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