Editorial: Diversity a zero-sum game in Sonoma
Let’s play a little game we like to call Guess What’s Zero Percent.
Ready contestants? Here are the choices:
The APR for the first six months of that credit card that should never have been issued to me when I was 20.
The percentage of fat in that watery blue-hued liquid the supermarket calls “skim milk.”
The chance of logically proving Descartes’ theory of metaphysical necessity, ergo the existence of God.
The percentage of African-American residents living in Sonoma.
All of the above
If you guessed that last one – ding ding! – you’re a winner. However, for those ever hopeful that Sonoma’s inclusionary nature would be even the slightest bit reflected in its residency statistics, it’s a bit of a blow.
That Sonoma’s 21st century demographic is largely one of Northern European descent should surprise no one – it’s been that way for a century.
But to learn that Sonoma is whiter than a Prius full of Icelandic chiropractors carpooling to a Dave Mathews concert is a different matter altogether.
And it should also raise questions about who Sonoma is, what it considers itself to be – and as what sort of city it envisions itself to be in the future.
The latest demographic figures for Sonoma were released Feb. 1 by the Association of Bay Area Governments, which compiled its rankings of the most and least diverse Bay Area cities based on the 2017 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. A few local highlights:
The City of Sonoma is 81 percent white – second in the county to Sebastopol, which is 83 percent white.
Sonoma’s Latino population is 14 percent, the second lowest Latino population next to Sebastopol, which is at 10 percent.
The black and Asian populations in Sonoma so low they barely register in the survey.
Surely, it’s disappointing news to the diversity disposed in town that Sonoma is white enough to sustain a TBS “Friends” marathon virtually indefinitely. But, what’s worse, is that the slow diversification inroads the city had made in recent years – largely through more Latino residents – seem to have stalled, and may be reversing.
In comparison to a U.S. Census Bureau report from 2010, Sonoma is about 2 percent whiter now than it was nine years ago when numbers were at 79.2 percent. Diversely, the Latino population is slightly down by 1.3 percent from when it stood at 15.3 percent in 2010. But to get a fuller story, one has to go back another 10 years to the 2000 census.
At that time, 89.2 percent of Sonoma was white, while 6.8 percent was Latino. Which means that in the decade from 2000 to 2010, Sonoma’s diversity was improving significantly, at least as far as Hispanics: There was a 10 percent drop in the overwhelming white population, while we saw an 8.5 percent rise in Latinos. What this meant at the time was that the Hispanic community that has for decades played a vital and productive role in the Sonoma Valley’s social and economic livelihood was finally assimilating into the city fabric.
Of course, four years of harsh economic recession and the drop in housing prices played a significant role in the leveling out of these demographics in that time span.