Wrong Side of the Tracks

While vacationing in Los Angeles (specifically, Manhattan Beach) over the Labor Day weekend, my wife and I were reminded of an observation we had previously made of that metropolis. When you’re driving on the freeway (and that’s a certainty if you’re in LA), one exit might lead to an impoverished community while the next might lead to a wealthy one.

It’s striking to us because Phoenix is definitely not like that at all. By and large, the poor cluster together in sections of the city. After living here a short amount of time, you can easily discern which are the bad parts of town. Los Angeles, on the other hand, seems to be much more of an amalgam. This is surprising because the cost of living is much greater in Los Angeles and there are consequently far more wealthier people there as well—presumably those with the means to choose where they live.

I remarked on the disparity to one of the people we were visiting and he suggested that Phoenix’s segregation might be intentional. He spoke proudly of the way that LA was integrated and remarked that Phoenix was probably a byproduct of the same culture that defiantly refused to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day until 1992. I conceded that there might be something to his argument since Arizona is also one of the few non-Southern states whose elections must be monitored by the Justice Department Civil Rights Division. Our state’s history is certainly littered with examples of overt racism.

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