Today their Silver Spring community of Hillandale is home to people of every race and ethnicity — the epitome of what one sociologist calls “global neighborhoods” that are upending long-standing patterns of residential segregation.
Around the region and across the country, the archetypal all-white neighborhood is vanishing with remarkable speed. In many places, the phenomenon is not being driven by African Americans moving to the suburbs. Instead, it is primarily the result of the nation’s soaring number of Hispanics and Asians, many of whom are immigrants.
The result has been the emergence of neighborhoods, from San Diego to Denver to Miami, that are more diverse than at any time in American history.
As the nation barrels toward the day, just three decades from now, when non-Hispanic whites are expected to be a minority, these global neighborhoods have already begun remaking the American social fabric in significant ways. Their creation and impact have been especially pronounced in the Washington area, where minorities are now the majority.
A Washington Post analysis of 2010 Census data shows a precipitous decline in the number of the region’s census tracts, areas of roughly 2,000 households, where more than 85 percent of the residents are of the same race or ethnicity — what many demographers would consider a segregated neighborhood.
In the District, just one in three neighborhoods is highly segregated, the Post analysis found. A decade ago, more than half were.
In the Maryland suburbs, one in five neighborhoods is dominated by one race or ethnicity, down from almost a third in 2000.
The biggest drop has been in Northern Virginia, where only one in 20 neighborhoods is a racial or ethnic enclave. No suburb is more diverse than Fairfax County, where just 2 percent of neighborhoods are segregated.
Almost everywhere, McGovern Drive is becoming the norm.
The Coles have witnessed the changes from their picture window. The three-generation Nguyen family from Vietnam lives next door to them. On the other side are the Crawfords, an African American couple who moved to Hillandale after he retired from Howard University and she stopped teaching in District schools. A house cleaner from Mexico, Raquel Jackson, who brings the Coles dinner on holidays, is across the street.
From one end of McGovern Drive to the other, and on adjacent streets, a boundless diversity continues: immigrants, or their offspring, from Jamaica and Haiti, Egypt and Israel; African Americans who have lived there for 20 years; and whites who bought their homes when Lyndon Johnson was president.
“I think we’re lucky with our neighbors,” said Virginia Cole, ticking off acts of kindness shown to her and her husband, who are both 89.