Friday, May 11, 2012 3:13 PM
Available From Detroit Documentary Productions
There are few cities that
have experienced American history as dramatically as Detroit. During most of the 20th
had a reputation as a model city, and during World War II, as an arsenal of
democracy. Through the 1950s, the city’s largely integrated industrial
workforce supported a prosperous middle class. At its peak population level in
1950, the city’s median household income was a third higher than the nation’s. With
these facts, Deforce begins a
heartbreaking history of decline and violence that not only helps explain Detroit’s current crisis,
but also deeply challenges our understanding of poverty, urban politics, and
Deforce is a legal term
meaning unlawfully holding the property of others—in a larger sense,
displacement, alienation, loss of meaningful community. This idea of deforce,
the film argues, is central to Detroit’s
history, and the larger urban American experience. This is particularly true in
poor black neighborhoods, where police violence, a lack of basic municipal
services, and pervasive blight have damaged any connection to a larger
community. Today the effects are vividly felt in a city with a higher murder
rate than wartime Iraq or Northern Ireland.
And while it’s tempting to view Detroit as
remote or anomalous, Deforce situates
it well within the history of suburbanization and the 21st century
politics of urban America.
At the same time, for all
its devastating perception, Deforce
does not succumb to defeatism. Residents interviewed for the film talk as much
about the city’s resilience as about blighted structures or food deserts. And
it’s in this feeling of resilience that the film places much of its forward
momentum, rather than in particular goals or proposals. There is an
unmistakable sense that, even if displaced or alienated, Detroiters feel strongly about where
they come from.
reluctance to offer specific solutions is unfortunate, but it shouldn’t
overshadow the larger narrative. In exploring the deeper roots of Detroit’s ongoing crises,
the film asks difficult questions of its audience that seek to break down a “conspiracy
of silence about urban issues.” The implication is that urban communities
across the United States
suffer from some of the same illnesses, and it’s only by addressing these in a
direct and meaningful way that we can begin to move forward.
Monday, October 24, 2011 11:43 AM
Racial segregation literally breaks a city into separate, isolated chunks. In the worst cases, neighborhoods are wholly delimited by the descent of its denizens, rather than its topography or history. This is how a metro area comes to resemble an archipelago—a series of homogeneous islands connected by proximity and late-night bus routes. Even still, it’s often hard to imagine the extent of segregation in a city when you weave between its neighborhoods on a day-to-day basis. Though they may be in the heart of the hustle and bustle, smaller inner city communities can be staggeringly isolated from each other.
Sensing the urgency of this lingering social issue, software developer Jim Vallandingham programmed a data visualization that shows many of the top 10 most segregated cities breaking apart along racial lines. Take, for example, St. Louis, Missouri (pictured above). In Vallandingham’s animation, the mostly black core of St. Louis is abandoned by the first-ring suburbs, leaving a vast cultural moat between neighborhoods. Exurbia, for all of its sprawl, remains a tightly knit (or at least similarly skin-colored) community. (Pro Tip: The program runs much better on the Google Chrome web browser.) On his website, Vallandingham explains the math behind his data visualization:
[I]f a ‘mostly white’ tract is connected to another ‘mostly white’ tract, then the connection is short. If a city had uniform proportions of races in each tract, the map would not move much. However, longer connections occur where there is a sharp change in the proportions of white and black populations between neighboring tracts. These longer connections create rifts in the map and force areas apart, in some ways mimicking the real-world effects of these racial lines.
To some extent, Vallandingham’s program rehashes some foregone conclusions about race, demographics, and urban life, but it does so in a more visceral way than your average infographic. Not that static images can’t be powerful—for evidence, check out the segregation maps by Eric Fischer, Remapping Debate, and the University of Michigan Social Science Data Analysis Network.
Images courtesy of Jim Vallandingham.
Thursday, February 10, 2011 1:17 PM
The United States has branded itself a “melting pot” since the eighteenth century, but we all know that metaphor has never really fit. Segregation is a perennial issue and, chances are, your city still has a nonverbal understanding of where different ethnic groups live, work, and worship. Through recent mapping and analysis, we are more and more able to discern where those fine lines of segregation lie.
Last September, Utne Reader reported on the infographics created by Eric Fischer that illustrate racial segregation in America. Fischer used data from the 2000 U.S. census to pinpoint the density of racial groups in the 40 largest metropolitan areas, with striking results.
Now, using new 2005–2009 Census Block Group data, Remapping Debate has created an interactive map that allows users to zoom in on segregation in their state, their city, and their neighborhood, even down to their block. Although only African-American, Latino, and white groups are represented, the map is a dramatic statement on modern segregation at a local level.
Image courtesy of Remapping Debate.
Friday, September 24, 2010 1:08 PM
It’s easy, almost commonplace, to see racial segregation on a small scale. Hispanics shop at this grocery store, white people shop at that one. Blacks live in this neighborhood, Asians in the neighborhood down the street. But a broader, city-wide picture of racial segregation is harder to discern.
Using data from the 2000 U.S. census, Eric Fischer made infographics of the 40 largest metropolitan areas that map the density of racial groups with vivid colors. Each dot represents 25 people, and each color represents a different racial group. Red dots signify white people, blue dots signify black people, green dots are Asians, etc. From Fischer’s graphics it’s clear that measures to encourage racial integration have, in most cities, not been effective.
Above: a map of New York City broken down by racial groups.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, home of Utne Reader, is moderately integrated in the two urban cores, but lacks diversity in its sprawling suburbs.
What Long Beach, California lacks in density, it makes up in integration.
Detroit is rigidly segregated.
(Thanks, Fast Co. Design.)
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