After reading through this thread, I think the interesting yet sad reality is that in 2006, minority applicants have to keep these kind of issues in mind when choosing a school. I will even admit that I allowed the same factors to work against my decision to attend a higher ranked school in IN.
Yes, it does sound silly to say "XYZ city doesn't have a lot of minorities" but I think what people are really saying is that when there are more minorities present in a city, they know that perhaps whites are more tolerant of their presence. Comparing the harshness of Harlem to that in Lexington is a bunch of crap. You can get beat up/mugged/assaulted in LA, Miami and other parts of NYC just as easily - and the attackers don't necessarily care what color you are (AND your attackers are not necessarily going to be black!!). I think the OP's justified concern is not necessarily about being attacked in Lexington, but having to face subtle discrimination because of his race/ethnicity. I don't think you can truly empathies with what it feels like to be followed in a store, ignored when you walk in a restaurant, racial jokes made in front of your face, your kids being snubbed at school, and you know why it's happening. It really break you down, and some people would rather not place themselves in that kind of environment. Those may be hard words to hear, but until you've walked a mile in another moccasins.....
These type of decisions do not propagate racial tension as was said earlier. If anything, this is just one more person of color trying to navigate through current and continual racial tensions - certainly tensions that they did not bring about. Although we are forty years past the civil rights movement, the reality is that there are still places in this country where people of color are not welcome. Where minorities still ignored when they walk into establishments, where they still get stared at, ignored, asked snidely if they speak English, and many times harassed.
Many of the posters here seem truly bothered that a person would pass up a good school because of an issue of racial dynamics, but this is one more factor that a minority has to deal with. How many of you can say you looked at the percentages of minority students at various schools and took that into account when you submitted your apps? If you say, "well it doesn't really matter" then I consider you to be very lucky to be in a position where those factors don't really matter for you. But for others, these kind of factors are important to evaluate in the decision making process...Everyone wants to be in a place where they are comfortable, happy, accepted, and treated with basic dignity... where you are simply just a "student" and not labeled as "the asian/ the latino/ the black student"..... and not all campuses and cities are conducive for these kind of needs when it comes to people of color.
I think it's very wise for the OP to consider the experiences of his family and himself, and not solely just consider the reputation of the school.