#StoneOakSoWhite?

On a run earlier today in Stone Oak, I saw a total of eight people. Four of them were white, three of them were black, and one was Hispanic. I am not in the habit of surveying racial demographics while running. But I’ve come to do so from time to time in Stone Oak, because I’m occasionally struck by the diversity I see. In 20 months of living here, my jogs sometimes give lie to the common assumption—one I hear a lot from both downtown friends and Stone Oak neighbors—that Stone Oak is where white people live.

The assumption is not exactly wrong. It’s based on some facts. One is the fact of San Antonio history that affluent white people have always moved north. That was true in the late 1800s when railroad and military establishments drew thousands of Anglos to the city. It was true in the first half of the twentieth century, when developers planted white-only neighborhoods like Olmos Park and Alamo Heights. It was true when Stone Oak was first imagined as a planned community by developer Dan Parman in the early 1980s, and again when Stone Oak growth boomed beginning in the early 1990s.

Another fact is that census data shows Stone Oak to be markedly more white than the rest of San Antonio. In the last U.S. Census, Stone Oak was 55.1 percent white, compared to 26.6 percent of the San Antonio metro area. Stone Oak was 30.3 percent Hispanic, while San Antonio was 62.7 percent. Stone Oak had 4.6 percent black residents compared to 6.8 percent for the whole city. The only minority race stat that shows Stone Oak ahead of San Antonio is the Asian population: 7.1 percent vs. 2.4 percent.

So, Stone Oak is indeed far whiter than San Antonio proper: in a city where white people account for less than a third of the overall population, this one community is over 50 percent white. (The numbers vary only slightly if you look at Bexar County as a whole.)

But two points to note about this data:

  • Stone Oak is tricky to define — there are a few Stone Oak enclaves within what locals call “Stone Oak,” and there are statistically similar areas just outside Stone Oak. For the numbers above, I used the zip code 78258, which covers about 16 square miles at the north-west quadrant of U.S 281/Loop 1604.
  • The data is aging. The last decennial census occurred in 2010. The oft-cited American Community Survey is ongoing, but the data set cited above, Statistical Atlas, references a data collection from 2009-2013.

In zip codes that change a lot, a few years is a big deal. Maybe that change is what I’m seeing as I jog my neighborhood. Or maybe the routes I run are statistical outliers. Or maybe I should just keep my head down while running — jogs are not exactly a precise statistical tool, after all.

But I cannot help but notice what I’m seeing as I move around our city, no matter what neighborhood I’m in. When I’m out and about in San Antonio, I’m looking for signs of integration. One of the most salient facts of San Antonio is that it is one of the most economically segregated cities in the United States, and the fault lines of that segregation are racial and cultural as well as financial. And while San Antonio is prospering overall, much of the wealth in San Antonio remains white wealth — what has been true since the city’s founding remains true today. As the city continues to grow, our racially and economically homogenous communities are one of the most important challenges we face.

We’ll be writing much more about these issues, and telling stories of people who are working hard in all sorts of imaginative and difficult ways to bring cultural, racial, and economic integration to San Antonio. Not because integration is an end unto itself, but because many see it as one of the most important tools for creating opportunity for those trapped in generational poverty. As we report, our work will affect how we see the city, and even morning runs can open our eyes to what’s happening.

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