Of all the divides in the United States, the most entrenched may be the one involving race and you can see it in high relief in the nation’s Minority Central counties. Scattered mostly across the southeastern states Minority Central counties hold some of the last vestiges of what people think of “Old South.” They are places where African Americans and whites live near each other, work with each other, go to school with each other, but seldom interact socially. In these counties the races live together, but apart. A few examples: Edgecombe County, NC Baton Rouge, LA
The Minority Central counties are not wealthy places, in fact they have the lowest median income in Patchwork Nation, but even that number is deceptive. There is a sharp divide in most of these places between what white households earn and what black households earn, with whites bringing in more. But, what’s most noticeable are the other splits in Minority Central. While these communities tend to have high levels of religious adherence and even high levels of adherence to evangelical faiths among both whites and blacks, the different races tend to attend different churches. Go to a bar or restaurant and you’ll find many of them split into places frequented whites and places frequented by blacks. Sit on a corner and watch workers head out for coffee breaks and you’ll most likely see groups of white employees or black employees heading to the donut shop, not mixed groups.
Couple that racial divide with the lower incomes in these places and you often have tensions – economically and politically. Minority Central communities often feature white parts of town and black parts of town and each has its own power structure competing for control of city hall and economic development. Interestingly, however, the tensions are in these places have often been around for so long they are accepted as an everyday part of life. These counties are not the kinds of places where one hears a lot of calls to “bring the community together” – at least not call that are heeded. In Minority Central counties, instead there tends to be a “you do your thing, we’ll do our thing” approach to life.