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Spencer Rendahl: Finding Diversity

I’ve done a little time traveling, courtesy of The New York Times. The paper recently crunched age and diversity data from the US Census Bureau, combined the result with population projections, and compared 3,000 counties with the country as a whole, over time. Broadly, it determined that Staten Island, in Richmond County, New York, at 62 percent white, mirrors America today; Clark County, Nevada, home of Las Vegas, which is 42 percent white, looks like the country is expected to in 2060; while Utah’s Tooele County, much less diverse and older, resembles what America looked like in 1971.

In Sullivan County, New Hampshire, where I live, ninety five percent white and with an average age of 46, we’re most like the US population in the mid-nineties. We can also party like it’s 1995 across the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge in Windsor County, Vermont. The two counties may be separated by the Connecticut River, but like the rolling green hills on either side, they’re almost the same demographically. And they’re some of the more diverse counties in the twin states.

Just north of me, New Hampshire’s Grafton County, home of Dartmouth College and the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, looks like the US in1981. And Vermont’s Chittenden County, home of Burlington and the University of Vermont, resembles the US in 1980.

But does this really matter?

During middle school, I lived in largely white suburban Connecticut. To find diversity, I went to the public library and checked out books like The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Meanwhile my future husband grew up in very diverse Berkeley, California. He attended Malcolm X Middle School and entered college - and later the world - better prepared because of it.

My kids are getting a good academic education from their public school. But my kids are white. To compete in the world, and hopefully become more informed and better citizens of our increasingly diverse country, they also need to learn from other races and ethnicities.

Northern New England may never be as diverse as Las Vegas, but for the sake of national identity and cohesion, we’ve got some catching up to do.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl is a former journalist whose work has appeared in publications including the Boston Globe. She lives with her husband and two children in Plainfield, NH.
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