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Is Indianapolis — yep, Indianapolis, Indiana — more diverse than Miami? Looks like it

Caucasians and Conga: Indianapolis' downtown Monument Circle (left) and Miami's Little Havana
Darron Cummings (left), Lynne Sladky
Caucasians and Conga: Indianapolis' downtown Monument Circle (left) and Miami's Little Havana

COMMENTARY: A new study finds Latino-predominant South Florida cities like Miami and Hialeah don't carry the diversity cachet we've always assumed they do.

Hey, I’m not as White Bread as I thought I was!

No, Gov. DeSantis, this isn’t a woke indoctrination screed, so it’s safe for Florida students to read. What I’m referring to is a new ethnic diversity ranking of U.S. cities. It says the once lily-white heartland town where I grew up — Indianapolis, Indiana — is more ethno-diverse than the subtropical melting pot where I live now — Miami, Florida.

That’s right. The WalletHub study lists Indianapolis — a place where WASPs outnumbered wasps when I was a kid — 31 places higher (182nd out of 501) than muy caliente Miami (213th).

So now I, a prototypical Anglo dude, can walk through the Magic City’s multicultural neighborhoods without feeling like a Newsmax host who got lost on the way to CPAC. Thanks to WalletHub, I have ethnic diversity street cred to go along with my cravings for Jell-O salad.

READ MORE: The LIBRE crisis is part of larger, toxic problem in Miami's Spanish-language media

You’ll ask: ¿Cómo? How can Miami, a town famous for doin’ the conga, end up lower on the diversity pole than a burg best known for the world’s most Caucasian sporting event, the Indianapolis 500?

According to WalletHub, it turns out Miami ain’t as diverse as it thought it was. Miami does score better than Indy on linguistic diversity; it beats the Circle City on birthplace diversity, too. But where Miami gets routed by Indianapolis is the ethno-racial diversity score.

Indianapolis ranks 116th in that category, while Miami ranks 314th.

That might sound nonsensical — or cognitively dissonant (which, ironically, is how American author Joan Didion once described Miami). But take a closer look.

Until “Latino” is considered a race, Latino-predominant cities like Miami shouldn’t expect to get more ethno-racial frequent-flyer miles than cities like Indianapolis in diversity rankings.

The truth is, the city of Miami is 83% white. No, no, the city commissioners scream — it’s 11% white and 72% Latino! Right: Latinos who are, by the census’ definition or their own, racially white. By that same formula, Indianapolis is about two-thirds white — 53% non-Latino white and 11% Latino. Miami is 15% Black, but just a fraction of that cohort is also Latino. Indianapolis, meanwhile, is 29% Black.

Or put it this way: these two cities’ populations consist mostly of white folks who speak English and white folks who likely also speak Spanish. But Spanish-speaking doesn’t raise a city’s ethno-racial diversity.

"Some Other Race"

Many Latinos themselves don’t want “Latino” listed racially as anything but white, because they see that non-white people have been treated in America almost as badly — make that as badly — as they’ve been treated back in Latin America.

At the same time, I’m well aware many non-Black Latinos here and around the country prefer not to consider themselves white. I’m married to one of them. In fact, in the 2020 census, 42% of people who identified ethnically as Latino described themselves as “some other race” than white or Black.

The Whitest Spectacle in Racing: The Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Paul Sancya
The Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But up to now, the U.S. census has refused to list “Latino” as a distinct race — despite the reality that Latin America’s Ibero-Afro-Indigenous fusion, known as mestizaje, has been a de facto race of its own for the past half millennium.

And until “Latino” itself is considered a race, Latino-predominant cities like Miami (and counties like Miami-Dade) shouldn’t expect to get bonus ethno-racial frequent-flyer miles in rankings like these. Their decisive Latino majorities might make them look like a marked contrast to the country’s white majority. But WalletHub’s survey is a reminder that Latino hegemony can still put a damper on the diversity report card.

That’s especially true for the Cuban enclave of Hialeah, next door to Miami. WalletHub ranks Hialeah 499th out of 501 cities for overall ethnic diversity. Only two towns in West Virginia — a state that’s 94 percent white — score worse.

Again: how can that be when 95% of Hialeah’s population is Latino, three-fourths of it was born abroad and only 7% speaks English? The answer is right there in the question: Hialeah’s demographic homogeneity is its own worst diversity enemy.

Neither I nor WalletHub nor anyone should condemn Hialeah for its ethnic composition. But there’s nonetheless a warning here: if that kind of diversity deficit can spawn social toxins in the white world — did I mention Newsmax earlier? — it can in South Florida’s Latino world, too. Or have you never listened to right-wing Spanish-language radio in Miami?

So I’m thinking of retiring in Indianapolis. Frankly, I need more diversity.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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