The number in the headline above is powerful, potent, full of promise and peril. The above number is the 2010 Census documentation of the size of the Indianapolis African-American community, city and suburbs.
The unprecedented response and cooperation of our community to the Census has brought this result, which documents an African-American community radically different from past reality.
No longer will we allow our Black community to be defined by past perceptions by either the white establishment or the Black establishment.
Our Black community isn’t an “inner city” or a Center Township centric community. The 2010 Census eradicates that perception forever.
Just 21.7 percent of Blacks live in Center Township. Twice as many African-Americans live north of 38th Street. Blacks are literally spread all over this county and in suburban townships hugging Marion County’s northern, western, southern and eastern borders.
Some 17.2 percent of Blacks in the city/county live in Lawrence Township, 14.7 percent in Washington, 14.6 percent in Wayne, 14.2 percent in Pike, 13.6 percent in Warren.
Forty years ago, there were virtually no African-Americans living in the three southern townships of Decatur, Perry and Franklin. Today 4 percent of our community, some 10,360 do.
Then there’s the Black migration to suburban counties. African-American population in the nine suburban counties of the Indianapolis metro rose a stunning 245.7 percent in the decade from 7,848 to 27,131. Their mailing addresses may say they live in Fishers, Carmel, Avon, Brownsburg; but in many cases they live, not in those communities, but in the unincorporated areas surrounding them.
For decades, when we referred to Blacks in the townships, we meant Warren, Pike or Center for example. Now, despite Gov. Mitch Daniels’ program against townships, it’s the defining geography of suburban Blacks.
Besides Indy’s nine townships, when we think of where Blacks live, our community must now consider Fall Creek Township (3,658 Blacks), Clay (2,921 Blacks) Delaware (1,605) and Noblesville (1,559) in Hamilton County. In Hendricks County, it’s Washington Township (3,527 Blacks) and Lincoln Township (2,061). In Hancock County, Brown Township (712 Blacks), Buck Creek (715 Blacks) and Vernon (629). And in Johnson County, Pleasant Township (1,170 Blacks).
The Black suburban migration numbers, while collectively strong, aren’t strong enough to have a political impact in their respective communities.
But in Indianapolis/Marion County, the 173,070 Blacks of voting age, 25.6 percent of the city/county’s potential voters, have already been a potent force.
Except for the aberrant 2007 election, the increase of 24,824 in Blacks of voting age in the decade, coupled with the decline of 25,716 non-Hispanic whites of voting age is a major reason for the surge of Democratic victories in Marion County.
Politically, the Diaspora of Indianapolis’ African-American community will cause problems as Statehouse Republicans start drawing new legislative districts. Population declines in Center and Washington townships and Black growth elsewhere will force Black-majority legislative districts to spread out more into Indy’s townships.
The Census also displayed a new phenomenon. Neighborhoods where no race/ethnicity holds sway. Of 212 census tracts in the city/county, in 20 tracts, six in Pike, two in Washington, 10 in Wayne and two in Center, neither Blacks, Hispanics nor non-Hispanic whites hold a majority.
A phenomenon like that has never been seen in Indianapolis. And it’s one that’ll give the GOP mapmakers migraines as they try to draw districts without running afoul of the Federal Voting Rights Act.
And despite public assurances from Gov. Daniels and Republican legislative leaders, our community must protect the integrity of Indianapolis-based 7th Congressional District. With the new Black and Hispanic residential patterns, any GOP attempt to carve up the 7th District will be a blatant, racist violation of the Voting Rights Act.
The 2010 Census also makes it imperative that our Black leadership and community must get engaged in all school districts educating African-American children.
For years, the focus and locus of Black leadership was on the Indianapolis Public Schools; because that’s where the majority of our community lived.
That day has ended.
The 2010 Census reports that just 47.8 percent of our Black community lives in the IPS area. Within IPS, (the old pre-UniGov area) total population fell to the lowest level since 1910, to 296,715; down 9.8 percent.
Black population in the IPS old city area fell to its lowest level since 1960, to 122,629; down 11.9 percent.
Meanwhile, both the population and the percentage of African-Americans living within township school districts have jumped.
Blacks comprise just 41.3 percent of IPS. But the percentage is higher in Pike at 46.3 percent. Blacks are 32.1 percent of the Warren district; 27.7 percent of Washington’s district; 27 percent of Lawrence and 21.3 percent in Wayne. In three of those districts, Pike, Warren and Wayne, their school boards are elected at-large.
Using the racial statistics used under the Voting Rights Act, Pike’s school district is now a minority-majority district with 55.9 percent of the population Black and Hispanic.
In the Warren Township district that figure is 37.4 percent; and 32.5 percent in Wayne. With minority populations that strong, at-large school board elections now violate a minority group’s rights to elect board members of their choice.
The 2010 Census data means a battle, that should be led by our Black community, to move those board elections to district ones; not at-large.
The 2010 Census documents the diverse city mosaic Indianapolis city leaders have publicly longed for. But I fear once they see how diverse Indy has become, they’ll start freaking out.
Starting with the mayor’s office.
Indianapolis is now a city 28.4 percent Black, 9.3 percent Hispanic and 2 percent Asian. It’s also a city where the percentage of non-Hispanic whites is at an all-time low of 59.5 percent.
Since 2000, 54,635 non-Hispanic whites left the city/county. If it wasn’t for minorities, Indianapolis would’ve suffered a grievous population loss.
Yet in its fire and police hiring and promotions, in staffing city departments, the Ballard administration acts as if we’re living in 1970s Indianapolis, when whites were 82 percent of the population; not the 59.5 percent of today.
Indianapolis has become a 21st century city that is racially and ethnically diverse. With an African-American community in virtually every city neighborhood and enclave.
Our African-American community has become metropolitan. The challenges facing the community are metropolitan as well. Encompassing multiple counties and jurisdictions.
Are our community’s leaders and institutions up to the challenges documented by the 2010 Census? I am; are they?
See ‘ya next week.
You can e-mail comments to Amos Brown III at firstname.lastname@example.org.