Ethnic Segregation Is Alive and Well in the So-Called ‘Melting Pot’ of New York City

Walter Ellis, Telegraph (London), March 21, 2012

New York has long prided itself on being the melting pot of America.

The image is a precise one. In metallurgy, different metals, heated until they melt, fuse together into an alloy with its own specific properties. Bronze is an obvious example, made from blending copper and tin. Demographically, the image suggests that over time different races gathered together in a single place will fuse, so that the end result is a homogenous community.

So how’s that working out in New York?

According to a new study by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative, market-oriented think tank, segregation by race has fallen noticeably in recent years and all-white neighbourhoods in the city are “virtually extinct”.

Anybody who lives in New York will tell you this is nonsense. The liberal Center for Urban Research, after examining the report’s findings, concluded that segregation was in fact alive and well.

“Single-group predominance is still the prevalent residential pattern across New York City,” the CUR observed. “Despite the popular characterisation of New York as a melting pot, many neighbourhoods in the city for years have seen little racial-ethnic diversity and are dominated by one or another of the major race/ethnicity groups.”

I live in Brooklyn Heights, a genteel neighbourhood noted for its mix of handsome nineteenth century brownstones and well-constructed, expensively maintained apartment blocks. Not a single black person lives in my building, which has more than 70 apartments. The only obvious latino is Edmundo, our building superintendent, or caretaker.

I’m pretty sure that no black or latino person, other than servants, lives within half a mile of our front door. Non-whites bus in and bus out. Our local supermarkets are staffed almost entirely by “minorities”—the women mostly black or hispanic, the men often from Eastern Europe. Our post is delivered by a black woman. Michael, who mops the corridors in our building, is from Jamaica. Black and hispanic men deliver groceries and takeouts.

All of the small army of nannies in the area are black women. They walk the streets by day, pushing prams containing white babies as if auditioning for a role in The Help. By late-evening, once the little ones are put to bed, they are gone. At my local, Italian-owned restaurant, none of the regulars who gather round the bar from six to seven-thirty, is black.

When I leave the Heights and enter Brooklyn-proper, the change is immediate. Now the streets are filled with African-Americans, Orthodox Jews, Mexicans, South Asians, Chinese and Koreans. I have stopped trying to get service at the local branch of my mobile phone company because the black staff there ignore me and call only minority customers up to the counter. Here, the banks are 100 per cent staffed by “ethnic” tellers. The stationer’s is Orthodox, and closed on Saturdays. There is a row of Arab delis—including the incomparable Sahadi’s—and several hardware stores owned and run by, I would say, fifth-generation Italians or Irish.

Every set keeps to itself, and at close of business everyone returns to their own neighbourhood, where difference isn’t an issue. (Click here to see a picture of the new ethnic neighbourhoods in New York—and click here for a more detailed ethnic breakdown.)

Taking the Subway in to Manhattan, I am often struck by the number of ethnic Chinese I see on the train. Nearly all are from districts further out, in north Brooklyn and Queens, that are predominantly Chinese. The younger, more prosperous of these speak, I am told, Mandarin. The over 70s—or most of them—converse in Cantonese. This reflects the fact that newer arrivals from China are overwhelmingly from the North, a fact that has left the previous generation, few of whom ever learned English, linguistically stranded.

South Koreans live in their own up-market areas. At weekends, a boardwalk overlooking the East River is where Korean newly-weds like to have their wedding photographs taken. Russians congregate in Brighton Beach, a suburb near Coney Island, where English is considered a foreign language. We don’t have many Indians, Pakistanis or Bangladeshis near us, but Little India in Jackson Heights is the place to go for a well-spiced curry or a hit Bollywood movie.

African-Americans live in a string of mainly impoverished ghettoes that radiate out from Court Street (marking the Brooklyn Heights border) into areas that I only catch a glimpse of when travelling by cab to JFK airport. In the winter, groups of men wearing an improbable depth of layers gather around street braziers, drinking beer. They are either homeless or else waiting for their womenfolk to come back from cleaning white people’s homes or sitting for eight hours at a check-out counter.

There are, of course, middle-class, even upper-middle-class blacks. Barack and Michelle Obama are far from being the only upwardly-mobile black couple in America. Television and magazines like to stress how far a people, most of whose ancestors were slaves, have come since the civil rights era of the 1960s and ‘70s. But 150 years on from abolition and 50 from the end of formal segregation, more than half of blacks in Brooklyn still live on the economic margins.

Even Europeans, though more likely to marry out (within the overall white community) still hang on to their areas: Italians in Staten Island, Ukrainians in the East Village, Poles in Williamsburg, Germans in Yorkville, the Irish in a green belt that weaves in and out of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Only the English, having long since identified themselves as “American,” lack an ancestral home.

White New Yorkers like to point out the cosmopolitan nature of their city. I have sat around dinner tables at which the guests—all of them high-earning white professionals—describe with relish their country’s “unique” ethnic heritage. America, they will tell you, is built on immigrants.

They are not wrong. What they don’t tell you is that nobody has lit a fire under the crucible and that the metals tossed into the melting pot will not be transformed into New York alloy any time soon.

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  • CidMartel

    I can’t say that I agree completely with the data in this article. Yes there are still ethnic enclaves but they are not as solid as they used to be or as segregated as this article would have you believe. Things are changing in the city, downtown Brooklyn is over run with liberal hipsters and Harlem is now filled with white yuppies. Arthur ave. in “da Bronx” which was always known as Little Italy is now a mix of Italian, Mexican and Albanian. Bensonhurst is now know as the Gaza Strip, Yorkville is not German anymore and hasn’t been for years. This article was written by a non NYer or a transplant. 

  • From what I have read Harlem has a growing white and Hispanic population. In fact, there are more Hispanics in Harlem than there are Blacks and the future of Black political representation of that area is being threatened.

    • CidMartel

      East Harlem (aka Spanish Harlem) has been almost exclusively Puerto Rican since the Italians started moving out after the projects were built on 2nd Ave in the 50’s. The whites (aka pioneers) are moving to central Harlem south of 135 st. and they are starting to be resented by the natives as invaders who are driving real estate prices up. An interesting and developing dynamic…

  • radical7

    This person needs to visit Harlem. He will see all sorts of diversity- White rollerbladers , interracial couples, starbucks on every corner, tanning shops  and all.

  • sbuffalonative

    As someone who lived in NYC, I can tell you that although I daily walked the streets of Manhattan and passed every kind of race, ethnicity, and culture, in my personal life, I had ZERO interaction with non-whites.

    When forced by circumstances to deal with non-whites at work or in private life, I was cordial but I never struck up a friendship with non-whites.

    • benvad

      Your speaking the truth, but every New Yorker pretends otherwise to save face.

  • Like recently when Mayor Bloomberg had one of his media representatives
    fly across the country to Arizona to brow- beat (interview) some city or
    county officials as to why they didn’t have restrictions on carrying or
    owning certain types of firearms.

    Bloomy blames Arizona, Tennessee and Virginia for New York City’s crime problem.  He has no other choice, because he can’t blame the real perpetrators:  Nine in ten NYC homicide suspects are either black or Hispanic.  However, blacks and Hispanics in New York City can and do cast votes for Mayor of New York.  People in AZ, VA and TN can’t, so that’s why he will blame AZ, VA and TN.

    Blaming others and rationalization is something we all do to one extent or another.

    • The reason why we in TN get blamed is because NY hoodlums get their guns from TN and VA which have loose gun laws.

  • Merriweather

     Sestamibi, when I was young, my family lived in Norwood, or “Bainbridge” as the Irish called it. One of the biggest and proudest Irish neighborhoods ever. We moved outta there in the mid 90s after the neighborhood went to hell. Moved up to the Yonkers – Woodlawn border. But even that is now changing.

    • CidMartel

      South East Yonkers is shot too, its starting to look like Mt. Vermin now.

  • So is San Francisco where the only people who want enforced diversity are white liberals.  Asians hate the blacks and Mexicans hate the gays.  You’ll never hear about this because the media of SF won’t let anyone on the secret.

  • CidMartel

    Norwood? I’m White Plains road, we probably know each other! 

  • Kurt Plummer

    Couple thoughts…
    1.  How does the geographic shift relate to total numbers of whites in The City?  I have a feeling that as the world becomes ‘more diverse’, so too will the diversity act like a stopped up toilet, forcing whites to the margins where not only the cost of real estate but commuting forms a narrow containment zone around the wonders of multicult America.
    2.  How does the fragmentation reflect total population -growth-?  If the segregation of like to like is truly that fierce (and growing more so as white sub-ethnies run away) on a time-plotted expansion (think cancer) then what we are seeing is the islanding of cultures reflected in the ‘Bowling Alone’ paper which could be seen as a Darwinian strategy to create terrain isolates that preserve gene lines.

    People forget, all too often, that _true diversity_, as speciation to new norms, occurs most often in isolation of specific population groups.  So that inbreeding can force the mutations of positive change to the surface.  This is as true of NYC as it is the Galapagos Islands -but- where the lizards and the birds of the latter need minimal access to pan-metro resources as citizens of The City do, and further as they live in a largely non-predated environment, they are protected.

    Pushing people into similar microcosms of familiarity as a **false** sense of security in a _hostile_ racial as cultural, closed, environment is asking for them to be butchered, backs to the wall.

    ‘Escape From New York’ had nothing on this because it essentially made everyone a criminal.  But we are not of that ilk.  And those who are will feed on us as lions to the zebra.

  • Marc B.

    Liberals must segregate themselves from large non-white populations to maintain the fantasy that is their world view. 

  • benvad

    It’s so true! The main proponent of letting the 3rd world into Canada was a pal of Fidel Castro & a trust fund millionaire who spoke with a fake French accent even though his dad was a working class Quebecer.

    I noticed that he never lived in a ghetto like a Cartierville or St Laurent in Montreal. What a Dick.

  • benvad

    Good

  • benvad

    Well they can’t afford to live there anymore. Hopefully they’ll head back to the South from where they came. Southerners know how to deal with them anyways.