Look hard and you'll find authentic diversity in Cleveland

Exactly how black and white is Cleveland's diversity? Last week I had an especially low point as a na've college student. While chatting with a Case faculty member, the topic of segregation in Cleveland came up. Now, I've found myself in the middle of East Cleveland and West Cleveland banter since my first week of college, but the faculty member was not referring to simple east vs. west egos - she was referring to a racial segregation which the Case 'bubble' has kept artfully blurred. This segregation revelation only piqued my interest in finding what - if any - kind of cultural diversity Cleveland has to offer beyond 24-hour White Castle and a Browns game.

I've been on a mission, since I am a Cleveland optimist, to discover the overlooked ethnic cultures and neighborhoods of Cleveland. Upon interrogating friends and others for their opinions of Cleveland as a diverse metropolitan center, most responded with raised eyebrows and a condescending eye roll. Is the situation that obvious? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Cleveland's demographics are estimated at 1.5 percent Asian, 9 percent Hispanic, 2.2 percent mixed race, .3 percent Native American, 52.5 percent black and 40.4 percent white. However, what I found to be most intriguing is how vastly different Cleveland's demographic profile is compared to the demographic of the Case community. According to the Case Admission Guide, for instance, 25 percent of admitted students are Asian, 2 percent black, 3 percent Hispanic and 54 percent white.

Taking an informal poll from a pool of my "ethnic friends" who grew up in Cleveland (consisting of Latin and Middle Eastern cultures) their general consensus was that diversity, specific to their respective cultures, does exist in Cleveland. However, it is very "divided and difficult to find unless you are looking for it," my Latina friend clarified.

Interestingly, conversing with a white friend, who is native to Cleveland, on the topic of diversity, she insisted that Cleveland is as diverse as a major city could be in terms of the racial and gay community. Even more eye-opening, according to this Clevelander, the gay community is racially diverse as well. Unfortunately, I could not locate statistics detailing this further, but I'll accept this informal anecdote for the sake of my conviction.

In the opinion of all of my interviewees, the West side hoards most of their respective cultural restaurants, markets, and stores. What is it about the West side that Cleveland's minority cultures may be more apparent there? Regardless, it is a good excuse for us East-siders to peel away from our glowing laptops and microwave burritos, and expose ourselves to diversity beyond the Case bubble-world.

Look beyond Mi Pueblo and the Steiner House! There are many local cultural outlets if you seek them out: see La Borincana off Fulton for a decent selection of Latin goods; Asaad's Bakery, Aladdin's Bakery, Nate's Deli and Steve's Pizza on the West Side for more authentic Middle Eastern cuisine and goods; and Superior Pho off Superior Avenue and Seoul Hot Pot off Payne Avenue for decent Vietnamese and Korean cuisine, respectively.

The college environment has led us to believe that diversity consists of Asians, whites, and blacks. Luckily Cleveland's reality can salvage this misconception if we're only encourage to explore its eclectic, ethnic pockets.

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