View from Lodi, CA: Celebrate Diversity – Ignore Poverty


We must celebrate diversity. We must embrace
diversity. We must sing the
praises of diversity.

The only thing we must not do is engage in an open,
honest accounting of the pros and the cons of diversity.

Without a doubt, the transformation of America into
a multicultural society
is one of the most compelling stories of our generation.
Immigration`s impact on the U.S. during the last four
decades is unprecedented.

Still, we can`t get a solid accounting from the
media of the pluses and minuses of the record inflow
of immigrants to America. Instead, we`re badgered to
“celebrate” and “embrace” but never to question.

In his July 14 column

“Words that mean a lot”
, Denver Post
columnist Al Knight suggested that the phrase “celebrate
diversity” be retired from print. The phrase has been
used so

often
, according to Knight, that it has no meaning.
Worse, says Knight “celebrate diversity” has become “a
poor substitute for thought on all levels.”

Stories about diversity have common denominators.
They are set at a weekend festival or an
ethnic restaurant. “Diverse” people will be enjoying
the food, the music and the games. Some academic will
say: “Our strength is our diversity.” And the organizers
will chime in, “I would never have guessed that so many
people would turn out.”

On August 11, The Record (Stockton, CA.) ran a
front-page, above-the-fold story titled “Reflection
of Diversity
.” The story, by Julie Davidow (jdavidow@recordnet.com)
was based on the findings of the Public Policy Institute
report,

“Who`s Your Neighbor: Residential Segregation and
Diversity in California.”

The story is set at

Chapala`s Restaurant
where whites, blacks, Latinos
and Asians are devouring huge numbers of burritos and
combo plates. Using the comings and goings of the
multicultural customers as background, Davidow goes on
to detail Stockton`s high ranking among cities with more
than 200,000 residents. Stockton, with a Diversity Index
of 76 is second to Sacramento with an index of 81.

Despite Stockton`s high ranking, it could even be
higher according to one of the report`s co-authors,

Hans P. Johnson
. Stockton`s Diversity Index,
according to a complex formula found in the report`s
introduction, could be a state-high 87.

The Record`s story treated the Diversity Index in
the same way that the sports page analyzes batting
averages: higher is better. Stockton is close to the top
of the chart; ergo, Stockton is a great place to live.

That assumption, strongly implied in the story, may
or may not be true. But many factors are at play in the
Diversity Index game that weren`t commented on.

Quality housing is in

short supply
in California. And affordable quality
housing is almost impossible to find. People have fewer
choices about where they will live. They may prefer to
live in a different neighborhood than the one they end
up in. 

In some ways, “Who`s your neighbor?” is a
non-starter. The conclusion that neighborhoods are
becoming more diverse is hardly startling given the
immigration and
birth patterns in California. Every year California
has 650,000 new residents. The majority are immigrants
and the children of immigrants. Caucasian birth rates
are flat. What other outcome could there be in analysis
of local community diversity?

As one who searches (in vain) for a deeper look at
the subplots of more diversity, I wondered why an
earlier report published by the same think-tank, the
Public Policy Institute of California, and authored by
one of the same researchers, Hans P. Johnson, didn`t get
a mention in most California papers.

Actually, I didn`t spend too much time wondering why
“Trends in Family and Household Poverty” [PDF]
wasn`t covered on the front page and above the fold. The
findings paint a grim picture of recent California
immigrants and their income pattern.

According to the P.P.I.C.,
poverty in California has risen in five of the six
household types—married, no children; married with
children; single parent with children; other family;
non-family and live alone. Across the nation, however,
poverty has declined in five of six categories.

California`s poverty rates have increased much faster
than other states and are 1.3 times higher than in the
rest of the country.

While the P.P.I.C. found that poverty and economic
conditions are linked in 49 of 50 states, California is
unique.

The report`s introduction states that in California,

“long-term trends indicate that increases in poverty
are more than temporal changes due to business cycles.”

In California, according to the report,

“the growing proportion of households headed by
less-educated, often immigrant, adults explains much of
the increase [in
poverty].”

If increased poverty and
wage disparity is a direct consequence of increased
diversity, as the P.P.I.C. found, then that`s a valid
topic for intelligent analysis.

If someone could explain to me what we gain by
reporting only half the story, I will be forever
indebted.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.