March 17, 2008
Houston, the next great world city

If you believe Joel Kotkin. He makes a pretty convincing argument in his recent article in The American. He gives the jobs and diversity one-two punch (must have been listening to some of Mayor White's speeches), and thumbs his nose at new urbanism and "superstar cities." The part that hit me hardest comes toward the end of the article:

Another of Houston's advantages is its history of tolerance. In the antebellum period, Houston was home to a large proportion of Texas's "free people of color." For decades after the Civil War, blacks certainly suffered the indignities of segregation, but Houston largely avoided the ugly desegregation battles of the 1950s and '60s (for one reason, business elites realized that such conflict would be bad for economic growth). Perhaps nothing better reflects Houston's openness to minorities than its willingness to accommodate upwards of 150,000 poor, predominately African-American evacuees from the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina. The massive humanitarian undertaking was largely a joint effort of the city's African-American churches and its largely white evangelical congregations.

In the future, Houston's culture of tolerance will no doubt be tested by the challenge of assimilating immigrants. Houston's traditional racial mix of blacks, whites, and a much smaller Hispanic population has been upended by an immigrant wave that began in earnest after the oil bust of the 1980s. Attracted by low housing prices and economic opportunities, large numbers of immigrants from Mexico, Vietnam, China, India, Nigeria, Venezuela, and other countries swarmed into the city. In the 1990s, Houston's foreign-born population soared by 94 percent--the biggest increase of any major city. Today the newcomers account for over 21 percent of the population.

Those couple paragraphs really just make me think more about what's still left for the government and individuals to do to make Houston a place where everyone succeeds. Houston has tons of success stories in every demographic, but there are still big numbers of people that are struggling here. Our diversity is a strength, but let's be careful not to take that for granted and make sure that people succeed here because of what Houston (and the county and the state) do and not in spite of what they don't.

Hat tip to Houston's Clear Thinkers. Read the post there and read Kotkin's whole article to find out why Houston is such an American dream city.

Posted by Alexandria Ragsdale on March 17, 2008 to Elsewhere in Houston
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