It’s common in films and books that small towns, even small college towns, are described as homogeneous. There may be a few eccentric characters here or there, but the town so described (and imagined) is seldom a diverse one.
Whitewater is more diverse than those places, and diverse in a way that leaves no group a truly dominant influence in the city.
The actual demographics of the city show how narrow is the cohort that presumes it represents the whole community. From the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2014-2018 averages, considering only age —
Total population: 14,766
0 – 19 years: 4,577 (31%)
20 – 24 years: 5,460 (37%)
25 – 64 years: 3,476 (24%)
65 and over: 1,254 (8%)
Although Whitewater’s population skews heavily toward youth (68% under twenty-five years old), this cohort, itself, is heterogenous by race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status.
When one considers the cohort of traditional working age adults in the city, it’s both much smaller (24%), and – itself – heterogenous by race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. In most places, including any town near Whitewater, the 25-64 age bracket would be a larger percentage of the community. For Whitewater, it’s only about a quarter of the town’s total population.
It’s fair to say that even a generation ago the city was significantly less diverse.
Many of Whitewater’s politicians and appointed officials erroneously speak and write about the town as though it were more homogeneous. It’s simply mistaken to speak to that smaller group (itself dissimilar in some fundamental characteristics) as though they, themselves, were the whole town.
And yet, and yet, that happens all the time among a small faction in Whitewater. It’s not wrong to write, so to speak, about the time Muriel lost her left thumb to a rabid chipmunk, but most people in Whitewater wouldn’t have heard of Muriel, and many of those probably wouldn’t have known that chipmunks could turn rabid.
In a different small town – certainly in film, perhaps somewhere in reality – every resident would have known Muriel, and her unfortunate encounter with a diseased rodent would have had a personal meaning.
Whitewater reached the point (many years ago, truly) where the idea of a single, shared community outlook is more mirage than reality. Yet communications in the city haven’t pushed far beyond the demographically unrealistic (and lazy) assumption that residents have a single, shared set of perceptions and memories.
There is a difference between noticing diversity and recognizing diverse perspectives.