That stupid map again

That stupid map again

So I pick up my morning Globe and there on the front page lies the same colour-coded map of Toronto that I saw not long ago in the Star: soft pastel hues downtown, harshly saturated reds in the northwest and northeast extremities. What excuse, I wonder, has John Barber found to write last month’s story yet again? Diabetes? Heart disease? Single parenthood? Weekly hours of TV viewing? Drug use? Transit inaccessibility? Murders?

Turns out it’s household income trends, correlated by ethnicity. I’m sure you can guess where incomes have plummeted, and how our lily-white downtown is faring.

Which leads me to the following wishes for Toronto in 2008:

1. It’s time front-page newspaper headlines stopped being so shocked and surprised at the tinted-map outcome of statistics research. Whatever it is, it’s worse at the corners, which, given the demographic breakdown, automatically means it’s worse for people who aren’t white.

2. It’s time Etobicoke and Scarborough politicians stopped being so sheepishly insulted whenever someone goes to their neighbourhoods and paints a picture of reality that gets beyond statistical indicators, as they were over this.

3. And it’s time we acknowledged that Toronto’s diversity is not nearly as utopian as we like to tell ourselves—each successive map points to a word that no one wants to use, namely, segregation—and that fixing it will require lots of hard work on everyone’s part.