Map 2 500x335

Every Map is the Same Map

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.

Map 5

Pedestrian and Bike Crash Heat Map


Or when we’re talking about money.

Map 4

Household Wealth


Map 7

Average Property Tax

Map 1

Percent of People Experiencing Poverty

Doesn’t seem to matter if the problem is small.

Map 6

Unplowed Alleys

Doesn’t seem to matter if the problem is personal.

Map 3

People without Health Insurance

Doesn’t seem to matter if the problem is world-wide.

Map 8

Communities Most Affected by Climate Change

Doesn’t seem to matter if the problem is new.

Map 10

State Identified Covid Hot Spots

Map 9

Covid Risk Factors

The reason for this is that none of these maps really illustrate what they claim to illustrate. They illustrate what color your skin is.

Map 2

Percent People of Color


Demo Map

Census Block Groups in St. Paul



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.

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17 thoughts on “Every Map is the Same Map

    1. Daniel ChomaDaniel Choma

      I think racism and classism still apply in density, as generally the antebellum reality of this country has poor folks and or people of color living in more dense areas. Rich folks and white folks own wider swaths of land.

      Thats why 40 acres and a mule was kind of a thing.

    2. Tom BasgenTom Basgen Post author

      This is another great map but I’d flip the script and say that density tracks along racial lines because space is commodified in Capitalism.

  1. Elizabeth Larey

    What’s your point? Since the beginning of time ( except maybe for the Soviet Union ) people with money have been allowed to live where they choose. I am officially tired of everything being about race. This is about money. If you don’t have it you going to be in all the above mentioned maps. We desperately need public/private partnerships to train and hired disadvantaged people of all races and creeds. Google Control Data project in North Minneapolis. Look at Heritage Park where the old Glenwood projects were ( 30% section 8) We can do this, we need the will and the cooperation of everyone. Government/Corporations/Developers. Talk is cheap. Lets fix it

    1. Pat Thompson

      I am officially tired of racism and white supremacy. Until those have been eliminated, white people don’t get to be officially tired of “everything being about race.” Race isn’t real (you may agree, I hope), but racism very much is.

    2. Jenny WernessJenny WernessModerator  

      This is racist. Money is in fact tightly tied to racism, and even more so when it comes to “where people are allowed to live.” This includes a wide variety of overt and subtle racist actions, such as racial covenants – documents that literally forbid some property to be sold to Black people, or any people of color.

    3. Derek

      Elizabeth, do you think maybe it’s more than a coincidence that Black people tend to have less income and wealth than their White counterparts?

      It’s funny you mention people with money being able to live were they want, because we aren’t all that far from a time when Black people literally couldn’t live where they wanted, even if they had the money. Your attitude is at best ignorant racism. The book, The Color of Law, is a good place to start educating yourself.

    4. Pete Barrett

      It’s a privilege to be in a place where one can be “tired of everything being about race.”

      I’m looking for ways to use my privilege to help The Other in my midst.

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