Segregation and Choice

While acknowledging that Houston is the most ethnically and racially diverse city in the nation, the Chronicle has been regularly publishing articles showing how segregated Houston is. According to these articles, most Houstonians live in neighborhoods that are predominantly of their own race or ethnicity.

If these articles were simply pointing out demographic facts, that would be fine. But they are motivated by something much more philosophically significant. Consider a recent “think piece” in the Chronicle, “How school choice is creating less diversity.” The article reports that

a new study examining the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. finds that much of that segregation is thanks, in part, to white families seeking out white neighborhoods — and, specifically, predominantly white schools.

Notice that the study finds certain results and then assumes the cause. Since white families move to certain neighborhoods, the assumption is that they did so because those neighborhoods and the schools serving them are predominantly white. Other factors that might enter into the choice of neighborhood, such as low crime and the quality of the schools, aren’t even mentioned or considered.

Of course, when one is promoting a particular political agenda, the facts can get in the way. A non-objective writer will simply ignore relevant facts and plow ahead. And that is precisely what the Chronicle’s reporters have been doing.

Consider the title of the article cited above–“How school choice is creating less diversity.” The paper has been a vocal opponent of school choice, and an equally vocal proponent of diversity. In one article, the paper can defend both positions.

More fundamentally, the paper purports to demonstrate that allowing individuals (and particularly whites) the freedom to choose, allegedly bad things will result (less diversity). Therefore, we should deny individuals the freedom to choose.

Today, the Chronicle wants to deny freedom of choice in regard to schools. But we have no reason to believe that the statists will stop there. If ending segregation is the goal, and individuals choose to live in segregated neighborhoods, then it follows that individuals must be denied the freedom to choose where to live. It this seems outlandish, consider the number of ways city government has reduced our freedom of choice over the past four decades.

The smoking ordinance prohibits business owners from choosing if and where smoking may occur on their property. The preservation ordinance prohibits certain property owners from choosing what they can do with their buildings. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance would have prohibited business owners from choosing who may use their restrooms.

Statists don’t like the choices that free individuals sometimes make. But rather than allow individuals to live as they choose, statists seek to control and mandate. They want to regulate individual behavior. They want to prohibit individuals from making choices.

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