February 13, 2016

Diversity has a Pittsburgh problem, and it's not the hills

The Central Outreach Wellness Center has an admirable mission:
We offer PrEP and free STD testing in Pittsburgh and SouthWestern Pennsylvania.

Central Outreach Wellness Center is a holistic multicultural, LGBTQIA, and HIV & Hep C health organization. We strive to be the leading provider of culturally competent care in Allegheny County.

I don't know anything about COWC, or how well they deliver on their promise. But I'm pretty sure they're on the positive side of the Evil-Good spectrum. If we didn't have a resource like COWC, we'd need to invent it. Yesterday staff found this bit of hate-paint on their logo:

 Homosexual as % of Pop.

How well is Pittsburgh doing about accepting homosexual people? There's a 2015 list of US Metro areas ranked by percentage of gay population. Pittsburgh isn't at the absolute bottom of the list, thanks to Birmingham Alabama - but we're next to the bottom.

This week, poor (mostly minority) tenants are being displaced in East Liberty to make room for new residents who will pay more. Pittsburgh: keeping the gentry in gentrification.

Last week, at least 8 armed police officers in Wilkinsburg killed a black man with a pocketknife, after he stabbed the police dog they'd set upon him. The policy say the scenario started because he was drinking beer from an open container. The container has not been introduced as evidence. Similarly, Jordan Miles was beaten by three police for a MountainDew can in his jacket pocket; the soda can was never introduced as evidence.

In the last two few months, Hispanic businesses (in Brookline & Beechview) have had racial-hate paint on their locations and a rock in a window. Not surprisingly, another 2015 report shows Pittsburgh near the bottom of racial diversity measurements. In fact, Pittsburgh's diversity was 227 out of 230 cities studied.

But if you talk to people, you'll find out: Pittsburgh doesn't have a diversity problem. The Irish and the Italians get along. We've got a lot of Asian students at CMU. No way: Pittsburgh is great, welcoming, very Places-Rated. Most people see Pittsburgh as tolerant.

Diversity, on the other hand, has a Pittsburgh problem. The cops, the government, the market, the housing, the transit, the hiring, the slurs, the beatings: Pittsburgh is not generally a friendly place to be non-white, non-CIS, non-Het, non-monied. Read Clare Polke (formerly of the P-G) about why she's leaving.

To be sure, there's a spectrum of hostile outcomes. Spray-paint on a logo, rocks through windows, eviction, being shot 12 times - they're not equivalent events. But to me, a white-cis-het-guy, they're an indication of the swirl of ugliness and intolerance that's continually in play, and I only see hints of it from my privileged persepective.

Why does Pittsburgh have statistically outlying, low measurements of gay and minority people? Here's a hint: it's not that those folks don't like hills. It's that Pittsburgh doesn't like those folks.

One last data-set, for those who respond to quantification and research:


Pgh said...

Thanks for this article. I am glad that you point out the truth about Pittsburgh's lack of diversity. It weird. It's like everyone talks about it, but few in the majority/white cmty are doing anything about it, other than paying lip service. Maybe it's me, but Peduto promised to be different. I'm just seeing a lot of talk and confusion.

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