Posted on December 19, 2011

Racism Dries Up in the Desert Heat

Ann M. Simmons and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2011


[…] Lancaster, population 157,000, leads Los Angeles County in black-white integration.

A Times analysis has found that Lancaster has more blocks with a “substantial” mix–meaning that at least a quarter of the residents are white and a quarter are black–than any neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles, or any other city in the county.

Some of Lancaster’s integration probably came about by accident: Residents bought tracts in master-planned subdivisions without knowing who their neighbors would be. They “bought blind,” as Darren Parker, head of the Antelope Valley Human Relations Task Force, put it. When housing prices slumped, no one could afford to move.

The result–block after block of integrated neighborhoods and no concentrated black “inner city” to speak of–is a rare exception in the county, where, nearly half a century after the civil rights movement, blacks and whites remain mostly segregated in terms of housing.

In Lancaster, integration has been a mixed blessing. Although many residents say it has improved understanding, tensions surface periodically: In the 1990s, skinheads’ attacks on blacks drew national attention, and more recently, civil rights groups accused officials of waging “an unrelenting war” against Lancaster’s Section 8 housing recipients, who are mostly black.


Once nearly all white, Lancaster had become 20% black by 2010 as upwardly mobile African Americans from Los Angeles moved in.


Some white residents lament the area’s changes, although they were hesitant to speak openly of race. “Houses have sold, gone downhill and sold again,” Judy Kempel, a white substitute teacher, said of the neighborhood where she has lived more than 40 years. “There are families moving in with many children. Sorry to say it, but they don’t always keep their places up.”

One white teenager said he thought educational standards had dropped because of the large number of African Americans attending his school. Classes are so dumbed down, he said, that “it’s a challenge to fail.” {snip}

But blacks and whites mostly downplayed the role of race in everyday affairs.

Although students at Lancaster High School on a recent weekday appeared to socialize with others of the same race, many said they didn’t even notice the ethnic grouping.

“I don’t think race is an issue at this school,” said Shaylise Carroll, 16, an African American, as she joshed with other black students on the sidelines at a football practice. “Everybody’s friends with everybody.”