June 14, 2009

Why is our Green City so White?

Today, I posted a Boulder/green/LOHAS-related blog to Facebook and received the following “riddle.”

what’s the definition of a boulderite? someone who would rather hug a tree than a person of colour.
Waylon Hart Lewis
Actually, as I always say to city folk when they visit, we have a fair amount of diversity, with a strong, vibrant Latino community…and part of the reason we (sadly) don’t have the kind of diversity you see many cities in US is Colorado was, proudly, never a slave state.

That said, Boulder is getting more and more expensive—a side effect of our otherwise-visionary height restrictions and love for Open Space—which is sending our middle and lower classes and young people fleeing to Denver…sad.

Oh, and you think we’re so green? We don’t even have recycle options all along our lovely, green bike path, or in many of our parks, or on most of our mall or at the popular Vic’s and Pekoe shopping centers…we have a long ways to go on that count, too.

Victoria at 12:29pm June 14
well stated Waylon

So why is fair-minded, liberal, progressive, dying-to-be inclusive Boulder so White?

Answer: it’s not.

It’s an accusation that’s bothered me for years. Why? Because, well, it’s glaringly true—especially since all those Californians moved here following the ’89 SF earthquake and tried to turn our rough-around-the-edges Beat Buddhist town into a little Aspen.

Hunh? So are we whitey, or ain’t we? Which is it? Well, both. Allow me to provide some context:

  1. While Boulder may be 84.2 percent “white,” white of course is itself comprised of Jewish, Italian, Scottish, Irish etc…it’s not a bloc.
  2. And by day, Boulder is far more diverse—the above stat doesn’t count the 40,000 University of Colorado undergrads and grads, who of course hail from all parts of the US and our big blue planet.
  3. Boulder doesn’t exclude racial diversity so much as it excludes class diversity. While Boulder, only 20 years ago, was largely made up of cowboys, poor hippies and macrobiotic-eating yogis, real estate’s gone crazy. The house my poor single momma bought for $40K (and sold for what she thought was an incredible $150K, 15 years later) is now worth $850K, par example. Sadly, Boulder’s forward-thinking Open Space plan—whereby Boulderites, starting in the ’60s, bought up surrounding farms to forever-preserve them from Denver’s suburban sprawl—has created a real estate market that makes living in Boulder difficult not only for our strong native Latino community but for many young, lower and middle class Boulderites from staying in our green valley. Including yours truly.
  4. Finally, I’d add that Boulder, while admittedly white as organic local Udi’s artisan bread, makes up for in tolerance and religious diversity what it lacks in racial diversity.
  5. And, finally-finally, I’d remind diversity-missing visitors from the Big Cities that there’s a reason we don’t have a strong indigenous African-American community—Colorado, unlike most of the Eastern United States, was never a slave state.

For a lively, informative, fair-minded discussion of Boulder’s (lack of) diversity, check out the following answers to this question:

Racial Diversity in Boulder?

My partner and I are looking at moving to Boulder, where a white friend originally from D.C. has invited us to move with rave reviews. We are in our late 30s, and expecting our first child. He is Black; I am Jewish and we are both craftspeople and musicians. We are ultra-liberal, Buddhist-leaning, strongly prefer a pedestrian/bikeable community with a clean environment. We are familiar with the “People’s Republic” phenomenon, as we have it here in Takoma Park. We are native to Washington, D.C. where a 1-bedroom condo costs $500,000, so Boulder seems really cheap by comparison.

My main concern is Will we fit in as an interracial couple with a black child, and will our child learn to value different kinds of people? Thanks…

by clicking here, or add your comment below.

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