Spokane Is A Very White City

by Chris Tognotti

Over the last couple of days, a virtual firestorm has been set off by the story of Spokane, Washington NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal, who's become embroiled in a very strange, sensitive scandal — her parents have publicly outed her as white, suggesting that she's been misleading people about her true racial background. It's a complicated story, to say the least, but setting aside the controversies specific to Dolezal, it raises some interesting, auxiliary questions. For example: how black is Spokane, Washington?

It's a question that holds some particular meaning to me, as a native of an affluent, ostensibly liberal, broadly lily-white county in the California Bay Area. Suffice i to say, while racial segregation may not be the law of the land the way it once was throughout America, it's still in full force in countless counties, cities and towns in unwritten, unspoken ways — through self-segregation, housing discrimination, school districts, economic barriers and the like. For some perspective, in my home county of Marin, nearly 80 percent of all residents are white, while just three percent of them are black.

And in Spokane, the lack of diversity is even more stark. According to the U.S. census, just over 90 percent of Spokane residents are white, while just under two percent are black. About five percent are Latino — that's the highest non-white demographic in the county — while just over two percent of Spokane residents are asian.

In other words, if you stood in a room of 100 people, representative of Spokane's racial landscape, you'd see 90 white people against just two black people, an absolutely eye-popping divide. In terms of the United States' overall population, census figures show that just over 13 percent of Americans are black, while 77 percent are white.

It's also worth noting that Washington's census data ranks it squarely in the lower-half of U.S. states in terms of black population, at just four percent, as compared to just over 81 percent white population. Obviously, that still speaks to a unique lack of diversity within Spokane, however, where the white population is nearly ten percent higher, and the black population is cut in half.

In other words, yikes is Spokane an overwhelmingly white community.The striking lack of diversity could be worse, to be clear — as The Atlantic noted back in 2014, West Virginia's Tucker County, Kentucky's Robertson County, and Nebraska's Hooker County are the least-diverse counties in the nation, all at 100 percent white.

Image: James Hawley/Flickr; Karyn Christner/FlickrImages