Where the Black People At In OC?

A special report on Orange County's embarrassing lack of African-Americans

Where the Black People At In OC?
Illustration by Luke McGarry | Design by Dustin Ames

If Orange County were separated from Los Angeles and considered its own metropolitan area (and isn't it about time? There's only about 3.1 million of us, you know), we'd rank as one of only two metro areas in the nation's 25 largest with an African-American population of less than 5 percent—and we'd clock in at a pathetically low 2.1 percent. Of all of OC's many embarrassments, this is by far the worst—2.1 percent? In the 21st century? In a county that's otherwise wildly diverse? WTF?

Yet when we at the Weekly point this out, we get a collective shrug from OC residents, or mumbled excuses about how black people don't want to live here because black people don't live here. Or, better yet, pointing out the lack of black folks brings us accusations that we're racist for bringing up the subject in the first place. Stay classy, Orange County!

Why does this skewed demography matter? Because the harvest of such a pathetic situation bears its bitter fruit seemingly every year, with juvenile incidents that make us the butt of the national media again and again, incidents that can only originate from people who grew up or live without black people around them. Fraternities donning blackface for music videos. Surf shops deciding that a 50 percent-off-all-black-items sale for Martin Luther King Jr. Day is somehow funny. Bartenders writing, "McStinkynigger" and, "McNigshit" on the receipts of their black customers. Congressmen comparing Nelson Mandela to a rapist.

Luke McGarry

Enough's enough. It's time we call out our eternal shame. And this package of stories does that. We'll start with Michelle Woo's sobering report on the state of being black at UC Irvine, one of the most diverse campuses in the United States, yet one in which African-American students get harassed on an almost-daily basis. Music editor Nate Jackson reflects on growing up African-American in OC—an interesting life, to put it mildly. And I chime in with a timeline of the silliness we've put OC's African-Americans through over the past century.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Gabriel San Román chimes in with a dispatch from a bona-fide barbershop in Anaheim, home to the county's largest African-American community, one that's on the rise. And I review an amazing restaurant, one of just two honest soul spots in the entire county, a place with something called the soulrito that all of OC can unite around.

Our goal for this issue? Read our stories. Learn your history. Be embarrassed that we have such a minuscule African-American community. Then do something about it—that part, we leave to you. Oh, and the other major metro area with a black community of less than 5 percent? Portland, Oregon—its African-American community sits at 2.9 percent. Surely, we can do better than those hipster douchebags, right?