Have you ever looked at a map of Saint Paul and thought “Haven’t I seen this map before?” I’ve had that thought many times, for example when we’re talking about folks getting hit by cars.
Or when we’re talking about money.
Doesn’t seem to matter if the problem is small.
Doesn’t seem to matter if the problem is personal.
Doesn’t seem to matter if the problem is world-wide.
Doesn’t seem to matter if the problem is new.
The reason for this is that none of these maps really illustrate what they claim to illustrate. They illustrate what color your skin is.
When you combine the ‘Census Block Groups’ map with the ‘Wealth’ map, the underlying narrative of the community we live in becomes painfully obvious. Racism and Classism underpin all other dynamics of our community. Racial segregation and class barriers are still in place from the days of Red Line maps and racially discriminatory housing covenants. Instead of understanding that our other social issues have resulted because of racial and classist discrimination, we wrongfully blame the Underclass and communities of color for causing these issues. As a moderator for this site, I’m often the one deleting the racist justifications that crop up in the comment section.
Of course every map is going to be same when our entire modern society has been built on top of a fundamentally racist and classist foundation.
Special credit to Minnesota Compass and their extraordinary Map Tool that flawlessly reproduces the same map every time with a different label on the legend. It’s not their fault that every map is the same, it’s ours.