Even as the browning of America continues, it looks like San Francisco is moving in the opposite direction (HT: Robert Stark). Though I enjoy visiting SF, the city – like the Bay Area as a whole – is rife with contradictions. Despite marketing itself as an open and tolerant city, SF’s obscenely high costs of living make it onerous for most people to actually live there. Of course, it should be mentioned that SF is hardly alone; East Bay cities such as Oakland are also undergoing gentrification, which has resulted in a lower black population.
Speaking of blacks, I’d say that race somewhat motivates white San Franciscans on a subconscious level. As Christian Lander argued in Stuff White People Like, liberal whites in places like SF enjoy a certain kind of diversity:
The City of San Francisco has a very multicultural population that ranges from white to gay to Asian. Within white culture this known as “ideal diversity” for its provision of exotic restaurants while simultaneously preserving property values. The presence of gays and Asians is imperative as it two provides two of the key resources most necessary for white success and happiness.
However, it is important to be aware of the fact that regions outside of San Francisco feature many people who are not white, gay or Asian. They are greatly appreciated during the census, but white people are generally very happy that they stay in places like Oakland and Richmond. This enables white people to feel good about living near people of diverse backgrounds without having to directly deal with troublesome issues like income gaps or schooling.
In other words, Asians, gays, and even a few Latinos are cool; chocolate cities such as Baltimore are not. Indeed, as Steve Sailer’s article points out, blacks today only comprise 6% of San Francisco, down from 13% back in the 70s.
Now, unlike Sailer, I don’t think that SF’s housing bind is necessarily part of a whitening plan. That would presume liberal whites are consciously pro-white, a belief for which there is little evidence. I think the more simple explanation is that SF has become a rather cutthroat city, especially when it comes to competition for living space. Similar to American doctors who lobby for stringent licensing requirements for foreign medical professionals – which keeps doctor supply low and their own wages high – white homeowners in SF want to preserve their property values and enjoy their living space. I don’t blame them, but this just goes to show that their liberalism has its limits.
Years ago, in an article I wrote on the Bay Area’s racial dynamics, I argued that the liberal rainbow coalition is not going to endure for much longer. As SF has shown, it’s already showing signs of collapse. Peace-and-love liberalism can only do so much when people are fighting to survive in an increasingly costly, ruthless, and rancorous city. Such toxic dynamics are pitting various different factions against one another, resulting in myriad conflicts.
Cranky baby boomer hippies want to preserve SF’s status quo; renters already established in the city face the looming threat of eviction, and are desperately fighting to hold onto what they have; and young techies, despite being the villainous face of gentrification, also have to contend with skyrocketing costs of living. Additionally, San Francisco’s tech workers, whether they’re residents or commuters, are learning the hard way that SF’s capitalists are as vicious as any Republican plutocrat. All of this is only compounded by racial friction.
Eventually, something’s gotta give. As I’m fond of saying, life is mostly a zero-sum game; nowhere is this more true than in progressive, highly unequal San Francisco. In due time, we’ll see who emerges victorious in the battle for the Bay Area’s soul.