The Racist Tendencies of Wikipedia
Most San Francisco natives are aware that the Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood, located far out along the outskirts of the southeastern region of the city, is a ghetto. They also know that it is the only predominantly black neighborhood in the city, impoverished and rife with gang violence and toxic waste sites. And perhaps they are even somewhat familiar with the history of the place: how thousands of blacks migrated there for job opportunities with the city's naval shipyard during the Second World War. (For an award-winning investigative piece on daily life in Bayview/Hunters Point along with a brief history, read the article "What happened to black San Francisco" from San Francisco Magazine.)
When I recently took a look at the Wikipedia entry for Bayview, I found this map of San Francisco:
Notice the blood red shaded districts in the lower right-hand side. The red is meant to represent the concentration of African Americans. Now I can understand why, from an anthropological perspective, highlighting the presence of blacks in this particular area is key in defining the character and cultural landscape of the area--it's true that there is a stark concentration of this demographic in comparison to the surrounding areas. But my gut reaction was one of shock; I felt that it was included as a means of warning to those interested in the area that "Hey look out! Lots of colored folks in the neighborhood!" I mean, if this map is such a key component to the description of the area, then why wouldn't other San Francisco neighborhoods have similar maps? The presence of Italians in North Beach has, by all outward appearances, diffused over the years. To me that's pretty interesting--why is there no map in the North Beach wiki entry on their whereabouts? And what if I want to know just how Chinese Chinatown really is? There's no map for that either.
I just can't help but to look at this map and question the motives behind such a thing. I feel like its inclusion implies a sense of "otherness" that the creators of the entry must have thought the average reader would feel towards the black community. I'm boycotting Wikipedia...until I get lazy again and need to feign knowledge of an obscure topic in a half-ass fashion.
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