We hear that it’s white people—who’ve had a pretty good run in the U.S.—who will become the minority of tomorrow. We hear about Asians and Latinos arriving in larger numbers, often taking over neighborhoods once dominated by African Americans.
We hear about it, but we rarely see it.
In a superb piece for Los Angeles Magazine, mapping guru Eric Fischer, who has shown us everything from the world’s distribution of its languages to its geotags, charted the shifting demographics of the L.A. area.
His visualization is beautiful—a pointillist take on racial population densities—that beyond a legend (white people aren’t depicted in white, and black people aren’t black) needs little explanation at all. Rather than piecing together stats and percentages, you can actually see the changes happen.
Over 20 years, Monterey Park, the first mainland American city with an Asian majority, grows from a field into a forest, dotted in rich green. (See the enlargement above.) There’s a marked red to yellow shift in the pigments around San Fernando Valley, where Latinos are now the largest ethnic group. And you can also see as Latinos take over Compton in what has been labeled "black flight." Compton was a calling card for an entire movement of black hip-hop artists in the '90s, and now it’s 65% Latino. A touchstone of black inner-city identity has now been completely transformed:
If there’s one thing that’s particularly depressing about this map, it’s not really found in a story of which race ends up where, but in the fact that, over 20 years of so-called progress, these segregated pockets aren’t melding. Rather, they’re shifting in color. From the map’s perspective, nothing about the socioeconomic structure itself is fundamentally changing. No one is necessarily doing better or worse. And tolerance for one’s neighbors doesn’t seem to have improved.
Our colors aren’t blending. We’re just all switching spots.