Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Deep in the heart of Texas
Lies the archetypical Texas city, Houston. And in the heart of Houston exists a situation that must strike terror into the heart of Gov. Rick "Nuts of Steel" Perry and his Teabagger accomplices, diversity.
In the past 20 years, Houston — that most Texan of Texan cities — has come to look more and more like the taxi drivers. Between 1990 and 2010, Greater Houston added more than 2.2 million people (PDF) and now boasts a population of more than 6 million (the city proper has 2.2 million residents). The metropolitan area has eclipsed New York and Los Angeles to become the most racially and ethnically diverse in the United States.Allahu Akbar y'all!
A joint report published last year by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas (PDF) found that Greater Houston scores highest on the Entropy Index, which measures diversity according to the presence and relative proportions of the four major racial groups (white, black, Hispanic and Asian). All five Houston counties have become more diverse over the past two decades, with increased numbers of Hispanics (from 21 to 35 percent) and Asians (from 3.4 to 6.5 percent), a stable population of blacks (about 17 percent) and a decrease in whites or “Anglos” (from over 50 to under 40 percent), though rates of residential segregation remain high.
On July 12, Houston Mayor Annise Parker hosted her third annual Iftar dinner, symbolically breaking the Ramadan fast with 2,000 guests. “We have the largest refugee, expat and immigrant population in the U.S.,” she told the crowd, praising the city’s diversity and calling for a compassionate response to young Central Americans crossing the border. It was an un-Texan speech at an un-Texan meal delivered by an un-Texan politician: Parker is a three-term liberal and married lesbian. Her nuptials, however, took place in California, for her home state doesn’t recognize her wife.
On maps, Houston resembles a spider web. Its two concentric freeways — Interstate 610 and the Sam Houston Parkway — and radiating highway spokes form neighborhoods as likely to be populated by new immigrants as longtime white, black and Hispanic residents.
The city has the highest concentration of refugees in the country, thanks to its strong network of placement agencies, job opportunities and reasonable cost of living. Since the late 1970s, the city has welcomed 70,000 refugees: Bosnians and Cambodians fleeing genocide, the Lost Boys of Sudan and Vietnamese, Iraqis and Afghans escaping destructive U.S. interventions in their homelands. According to a State Department spokesman, Houston's diversity begets more diversity. Refugees are placed in part on the basis of existing friend and family networks, which "can make a big difference in helping a refugee family successfully settle in the United States, assisting with everything from finding work to teaching American cultural and social norms." And it's not just Houston. Texas receives more refugees than any other state — nearly 7,000 in 2013 — and more than 10 percent of the nation's total.
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