San Francisco’s Overrated Ethnic Diversity

tenderloin san francisco and image of black peopleI hate the fact that San Francisco doesn’t have a decent black middle class like Chicago and New York City do. And whoever likes to walk around and talk about how diverse San Franciso is should notice that there are very few African Americans on Montgomery and adjacent streets, which means we have a long way to go toward true diversity. Our financial district is still predominantly white with a bit of yellow & brownish shade (Asian, Indians, etc…). Just hang out on Spear and Mission during lunch and you will see exactly what I mean. It’s mostly white, blonde and uppity with a few patches of minorities here and there.

This lack of professional black people is a serious problem because it creates a vicious circle of prejudice against blacks in San Francisco – it perpetuates the stereotype that blacks belong in Hunter’s Point and in a few projects stips in Tenderloin and Western Addition, which are hardly flattering to the image of blacks in San Francisco.  As long as that’s where black people predominantly live, others will subconsciusly assume that that’s where all the black people belong in San Francisco, and so it should be. Imagine the impression of someone who just moved to San Francisco form another city or country. Imagine that they come with a completely open mind and no stereotypes about black people whatsoever. What kind of black people do they find when they come to San Francisco for the most part – thugs? crackheads? homeless? teenagers who are just standing on Market between 7th and 8th and looking lost because they don’t know what to do with themslves? When a black child walks downtown San Francisco with his mom, how many well dressed, clean-cut, professional looking black men is he going to see on the street that he could aspire to? Sadly, hardly any. Why would that child become anything other that what he sees in black adults around him? How is he going to make his mother proud by being different if he doesn’t have an opportunity to say – “I want to be like that guy.” It helps any young person having an example to follow and not just from a movie but from real life in his immediate surroundings, where that teenager could say – “If he can do it, so can I.”

I do not want to point fingers at anyone and I don’t really know who to blame for the fact that very few blacks are doing well for themselves in San Francisco as compared to other major cities, and I am not sure how it can be changed. But I do know that this phenomenon is a strong statement that we have a lot of work to do before we can be truly proud of our diversity. Simple having people of different ethnicities live in one city is one thing, but making sure that there is at least some kind of socio-economic balance among the members of different races is the diversity of a higher kind that we have a lot of work to do to get there.  For now, as long as there are reasons for stereotypes, they wont’ go away and racism will be alive and well.

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