Black Flight

Black Flight April 28, 2022

Washington, D.C., has long been a “minority majority” city.  It isn’t any more.  In 1970, more than 71% of the population was Black.  According to the 2010 census, the percentage was 59%.  Now, though, according to the latest census, that number has dropped to 41%.

Chicago has been a major center of Black culture since the earlier 20th century.  In 1980, some 40% of the city’s population was Black.  Today that number has dropped to 29%.

A similar exodus has taken place in nine of the ten American cities with the largest Black populations.  Politico is running a series on the phenomenon entitled The Next Great Migration.

While some leaders are fretting about the loss of community and the damage to a cohesive Black culture, Democrats as a whole are fretting about the dissipation of political clout among their most reliable voters.  And as they re-draw and gerrymander congressional districts, as required by the 2020 census data, Democrats are having to mediate conflicts between Black citizens and the Hispanics and progressive Whites who have been replacing them.

There are many reasons for the “exodus” of Black Americans from America’s big cities.  One is gentrification.  Affluent young professionals, most of whom are white, are pouring into cities, attracted by the urban lifestyle.  This attracts developers and drives up housing prices and rental costs.  Lower income Blacks are priced out of the market, while Black property owners can sell out, making a nice profit.

Both can then move somewhere with less crime and better schools.  In fact, escaping the dysfunctions of the inner city ghettos–the gangs, the drugs, the poverty–is probably a bigger factor in the exodus than gentrification alone.

Where are they going?  The suburbs, just as many White urbanites have done.  Many, though, are moving to the South.  According to the Wikipedia article on Black Flight, “the chief gaining states have been Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Maryland, Virginia and Tennessee.”

The Politico series is framing this exodus as a bad thing.  But why?  Yes, the loss of traditional neighborhoods can be sad, and it’s understandable that politicians will lament the loss of their power base.  But the urban “ghettos” have been a scandalous manifestation of racial division and inequality in American society.  That they are breaking up at the initiative of the people who were once trapped in them is genuine progress.

Today, Black Americans can leave the ghetto.  Segregated housing policies no longer force them to live in certain enclaves or restrict where they can live.  Though problems remain, today they can live pretty much wherever they can afford to.

They can move wherever the jobs are.  The Black Flight article said that another factor in the exodus is that Black college graduates are not staying in the old neighborhoods, with their lack of economic opportunity; rather, they are living where their careers are taking them.  Discrimination may still be a problem, but most of the employment barriers that were commonplace a few decades ago have fallen.

Not only can Black Americans move, they are moving to the South, which used to be the land of slavery and then Jim Crow laws.  Though prejudice surely exists, Black Americans are now finding the South to be an attractive place to live.  That is significant progress.

That Black Americans are leaving their inner city enclaves and finding economic opportunity and social mobility is surely good news.  The exodus goes against the narrative pushed by the progressives that America remains a hellhole of racism and oppression.

A major watchword of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was “integration,” so that Black Americans could be fully integrated into the rest of American society.  Progressives don’t say much about “integration” today, preferring to emphasize separate “cultures” and dividing Americans into conflicting identity groups.  But integration is happening, nonetheless.

Once again, racial problems remain.  Many of them–from racist cops to violent crime, from grinding poverty to horrendous education–are tied directly to big city segregation.  Americans of all races and all political persuasions should celebrate its demise.


Photo by Ted Eytan, Ellington Plaza Redevelopment, Washington, D.C., via Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0

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