DailyMail’s new map on Ethnic Distribution in the United States

I have attached DailyMail’s map as a photo; at the bottom of this post, I have included the link to the original article, which features an analysis of the major ethnicities represented. Readers should read that before reading my commentary.

Image

Here is a fascinating map; but like all fascinating maps, it lies, not out of malice but out of necessity.

The flaw I perceive is its effectively forming blocs in geographic areas, which to some degree implies domination in those areas by particular ethnicities. The resident of Southern California, while knowing that Mexicans are indeed there and indeed form a large portion of the population, would probably be surprised to see the map shaded so as to imply that Mexicans dominate society there. Now this distortion is unavoidable- I cannot fathom how a map could be made which accurately depicted the proper ethnic compositions of each particular place- but it does serve the purpose of establishing general and relative ideas about ethnic distribution.

The Deep South’s portrayal as being heavily populated by African Americans, as with the Southwest’s being heavily populated by Mexicans and the northern and central reaches of the West being heavily populated by those of German descent, are not absolute, but reflective of general population trends- there are MORE African Americans in the South, MORE Mexicans in the Southwest, MORE German-Americans in the West, etc etc etc. Still, one from Southern California will note that there are many, many Whites and Blacks there, one from Virginia will note there are many Latinos there, and one from Western Washington will note that there are a whole freaking lot of various East Asians there- although none of these populations are (or can be) justly depicted on a map which only features the most populous ethnicities in each region.

It is indeed a helpful map; having traveled widely across the United States, I can attest that these general population shadings seem to be manifested in the general cultural feel of the regions- the Southwest generally ‘feels’ more Hispanic, Appalachia ‘feels’ very white, the similarities between locales as disparate as Pennsylvania and Western Washington can easily be explained by the general German dominance in those areas- but regardless, there are complexities which this map cannot address, and therefore all maps of this sort (particularly those made recently of the ethnic composition of Syria) ought to be taken with a grain of salt. In every document there is truth and lie. The world really is more interesting than it seems, and it is too complex to be depicted in full accuracy.

Two final notes- I do not necessarily believe that PERSONAL IDENTITY is as indicative as ACTUAL IDENTITY. The fact that individuals surveyed were asked to provide what they identify as skews the study with the personal bias of hundreds of millions. Now, this information is indeed useful, and generally it seems that most respondents answered honestly. And there are questions that can be answered, inferences that can be drawn, from the mass of people’s opinions about their own identities. But beyond simply being a subjective conclusion, identity seems, also, to be a physical reality existent regardless of what individuals might think of it. And therefore it might be useful for a similar map to be made not using surveys, but other data, in order to find information less clouded by everyone’s pride in their heritage. I do not doubt that such a study would be immeasurably harder; but it would likely be enlightening.

The faction labeling itself ‘Americans’ seems to correspond geographically with a historical faction and ethnicity, the Scots-Irish. This noble breed completed the colonization and subversion of Texas, held out through one of the longest periods of Indian Wars in early American history, and proved some of the ficklest yet most ardent of fighters in the wars with Britain. Andrew Jackson was their offspring. No Americans have been fiercer; and, as their heritage has been mostly forged in the uplands of the New World, it should come as no surprise that they do not identify with any particular corner of the Old World (just as many African-Americans do not care to affiliate with the tribes and nations from which their ancestors came.) It seems that the choice to continue to refer to these people as ‘Americans’ sets up an entire subset of society, an entire people, for a flurry of ‘Murica’ and redneck jokes. I would think DailyMail and the Census Bureau to be more multiculturalist than that, or, at the very least, sufficiently historically informed as to note the connection to the Scots-Irish also.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2408591/American-ethnicity-map-shows-melting-pot-ethnicities-make-USA-today.html

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One response to “DailyMail’s new map on Ethnic Distribution in the United States”

  1. theworldreallyismoreinterestingthanitseems says :

    A friend sent me this; it is a similar map done at the individual level rather than the county level, though in broad racial terms rather than specific ethnic terms. It solves some of the problems of the first map, but poses new ones.

    http://demographics.coopercenter.org/DotMap/index.html

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