Black, white, and increasingly irrelevant

by pkerkstra on June 8, 2011

After leaving the Inquirer, I spent five months on a project for PlanPhilly in eastern North Philadelphia, a neighborhood where black and Latino Philadelphia meet. It was a fascinating place, and I learned a lot covering the story. One of the lessons was this: City Hall doesn’t reflect the city any more. Philly’s power structure is so stuck in the old black/white dynamic of the past that it’s ignored – at its own peril, I think – the changing demographics of the city. If it weren’t for growing Asian and Latino populations, the city would have lost a lot of residents over the last ten years. Anyway, I looked at this issue for the Inquirer. Excerpt:

For most of Philadelphia’s history, the tense, delicate balance (and imbalance) between black and white has shaped and defined the city.

Political power, economic conditions, the city’s unique culture; all of it has flowed from the interplay between these two Philadelphias.

But it’s not that simple anymore. The latest census figures – which say 21 percent of city residents are now neither white nor African American – make it foolish to view Philadelphia through the binary racial prism of the past.

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