The End of White Flight

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

So, I completely ripped the title of this post from the article of the same name by Conor Dougherty, but that's because it's so compelling. For so long, the story of American cities has been pretty simple: white people move out because they can, in search of better schools, more shopping, and acreage. But now, black populations in cities are dropping — and it's causing a culture clash in surprising ways. (Scroll down the article for a story about ice cream that sounds like satire.)

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I live in Fort Lauderdale FL and what I noticed happening here is that a lot of minorities have been priced out of the cites in may ways. Some tactics I feel are unethical like the of raising property tax or an having exorbitant fines, i.e. the lawn not being mowed, this fine can not possible be paid by someone with a lower income. This is happening in Miami as well. I think it is wrong and should monitored by officials (hopefully ones that are not in the pocket of developers.)

Sent by Stacey | 2:35 PM | 7-21-2008

Could any of this be attributed to White Flight FROM the suburbs? Hi, Connor.

Sent by Jacob Branch | 2:37 PM | 7-21-2008

I love this topic and wanted to give you my thoughts on city living. My husband and I live in the city of Richmond, VA. We are both white and from the Seattle area...he grew up in the suburbs and I am a city girl. We looked for houses in Seattle but found nothing we could afford so ended up transplanting to affordable Richmond. There are many upsides to living in the city...lots of independant family owned business, museums, art galleries, parks decent public transit, and best of all, side walks! I refuse to live in a place that doesn't have side walks. Also there are many other politically progressive transplants like ourselves (mostly white).

On the negative side, the property taxes are VERY high and the city's population seems to be mostly a minority of white middle class liberals and a majority of poor African Americans...this has not made for a great mix in the public schools. I wish more middle class Afican Americans would move to the city. But despite the high taxes and bad schools we intend to stay and raise our family in the city.

Sent by Melissa | 2:45 PM | 7-21-2008

I am a white woman who lives in Portland, Oregon. Portland has a small black population here most of whom have historically occupied parts of the NE quadrant. Over the past 10 years, these neighborhoods have had a huge influx of young white people due to affordable housing and the desire to live in a diverse area. Of course, the irony of moving into a neighborhood for diversity is that these neighborhoods typically become less affordable and thus less diverse.

On the other hand, my neighborhood in SE Portland has typically been lower and middle income white and immigrant. Since I moved to SE two years ago, I see more and more black people in my neighborhood because it has remained affordable. I am glad to see my neighborhood become more diverse. It is complicated situation for sure.

A great article to read about this subject is Racial Shift in a Progressive City Spurs Talks By WILLIAM YARDLEY Published: May 29, 2008 in the NY Times

Sent by Susie | 2:46 PM | 7-21-2008

Whites returning to the cities has more to do with money rather than anything else. For example, in many cities public housing was located on prime intercity property close to downtown jobs. City goverments and developers have together conspired to tear down these public housing communities and rebuild so called mixed use communities that the folks who are displaced can no longer afford. So here again is an example of unfair distribution of wealth. That is, minorities pushed out to the suburs are now faced with an expensive commute, price of fuel, and the wealther white folks, now close to their jobs have access to public transpertation. It's happening everywhere.

Sent by Joe Smith | 2:46 PM | 7-21-2008

I am an African American male with an advanced professional degree living in the city of San Francisco, and finally have employment in this racist city after searching for over a year, and experiencing various illegal acts by potential employers. After listening to Mayor Gavin Newsome on today's programming in relation to the topic of "End of White Flight" it has become apparent that he has once again sugar-coated what is the reality of, at least, African American males within his city. I state his city because on a daily basis in San Francisco I feel isolated, constantly profiled by the authorities, and in general unwelcome to participate regarding any aspect of city life. African Americans as a group in San Francisco are treated as social misfits and are usually fodder for institutional schemes, social programs, and in general out right disrespect.

I often joke, Black males provide a valuable service to the city of San Francisco, they remind its first class citizenry of the need for security. Not a funny joke but so real, it's tragic and true. Thanks to the various local mediums of communication print, audio, and visual, a constant malignment of imagery and commentary is propagated to influence the attitude on the ground of the average San Franciscan. While Mayor Newsome protects felonious non-citizens, an unseen war rages against all African-American males within the city of San Francisco. This war seeks to ostracize, criminalize, and otherwise discredit individuals through institutionalized poverty and social programs that rob us of our dignity but insure generous federal government grant dollars.

No, there isn't any defense for the indefensible. As an African American male in San Francisco I am tired of the purse clutching, door locking, car alarm chirping, and people walking to the other side of street seemingly on cue with my arrival. If the larger community consistently sends you (African American males) a message as a so called community member that you are not only, not wanted but feared as well, then where are we to go with this information.

It's great that revitalization efforts to recreate a nostalgic period within San Francisco's historic Fillmore district are underway. Although, this venture seems to be no more than paying tribute to days gone by and does begin to address the underline classist issues, and color divide within this city.

Sent by Victor L. Nelson | 5:07 PM | 7-21-2008

Having an urban middle class, no matter what color, is good for cities. What is the problem?

Sent by matt | 5:10 PM | 7-21-2008

Originally from Memphis, I've been living for the past years in Epinay-sur-Seine, France, which has been called as an "immigrant ghetto" in an earlier NPR program. But that's just it: in European cities, cheap housing and the poorer families that it attracts are on the periphery and not in the center of urban areas.

The American model of hollow-center expansion has made impossible real public transportation or the pooling of resources to non-essential "cultural" pursuits. Renewed and robust inner cities in the USA will foster a new period of creativity and social change.

Also, it is interesting to note that France's problems with immigrants focus on culture and integration, and far less on race than in the US. That's a more nuanced approach to social problems. It's time that we Americans cast off the received understanding of black and white as social definers: it doesn't ameliorate the situation and is ultimately a flawed holdover from a past era.

Sent by Nick Collins | 5:56 PM | 7-21-2008

While I haven't experienced all of the behavior that Mr. Nelson has, I have definitely felt much of it. To think that in 2008, white people cross the street when I walk behind them in my suit and briefcase is abominable for a "liberal" city like San Francisco. Most particularly, Nelson's experience in the job market speaks volumes to why San Francisco looks the way it does. Of course, real estate prices are higher than most white people can afford, but when employers are unwilling to diversify, attitudes about race will not change.

Mayor Newsom is completely disingenuous when he discusses attempts to keep black people in the city. Ask him how many blacks hold high positions in his administration. Also ask him if he has asked the owners of the investment banks, law firms and high tech firms in downtown that support his almost non-existent administration what they are doing to attract a diverse work-force. These firms don't need to hire black or brown people because there is no financial incentive for them to do so, e.g. no federal contracts, etc.

As for housing, the residential units being built in San Francisco are typically one and two bedroom units with prices ranging from $600,000 to well over $1 million. This is not family housing that will keep a socially or economically diverse population in the city.

Finally, the murder rate amongst black people in San Francisco is at its highest levels in history. Somehow, none of these crimes can be solved. If no witness comes forward (a typical police response), there is nothing the police can do. Would this be acceptable if murders were occurring amongst the white male population of the Marina district?

Newsom spouts political platitudes in that robotic cadence of many politicos of the day but has done nothing to truly address the issues he discussed. Making sure that black people participate in (future?) blue-collar environmental jobs is not enough to solve the real ills of this city. You need to attract black people of all economic levels to the city so that people will learn that Mr. Nelson and I don't want their purses.

Sent by Alan Loving | 7:50 PM | 7-21-2008

I found it interesting that two of the posters here attacked the Mayor of San Francisco and his administration, but they failed to offer any insight to what they were doing to improve the situation. Far too often in this country we are inundated by complaints from the black community that someone else is holding them down. It is always employers who aren't hiring a diverse workforce, police won't solve black crimes, or politicians who have purposely put forth policy or programs that "keep the black folks down". Amusing rhetoric but it accomplishes nothing. In 2008 (not 1808) there are ways to rise above any social injustice you perceive. If you have encountered discriminatory hiring practices then go get yourself a lawyer and file suit against them. Don't claim you don't have enough money to file a lawsuit, because if it was truly discrimination the ACLU or NAACP would willingly take the case pro bono. If you don't trust the police force in your city is truly working as hard as they can to solve crimes then why not encourage people from your neighborhoods to become police officers? Why not form a community watch group that goes out and patrols the neighborhoods? Mr. Loving mentioned that the murder rate among blacks in San Francisco is the highest in history, what he failed to include in his post is that most of those murders are perpetuated by other blacks. As far as people crossing the street or locking their cars (something I do whenever I park my car, it makes no difference if I see a black person or not) you are always going to run into people who just happen to not like you for some reason. That doesn't make them racist. Whenever a black person comes across someone who doesn't seem to like them the immediate reaction is "they must be racist". There can be hundreds of other reasons for them not wanting to be near you.

Sent by Nathan Bernstein | 11:26 AM | 7-22-2008

I'd like to live in Malibu, CA or the Upper East Side of Manhattan, but it's prohibitively expensive. What does that have to do with race? Whoppi Goldberg and Diana Ross live there; am I facing reverse discrimination because I'm white?

Sent by Sue | 11:49 AM | 7-22-2008

Mr. Bernstein is right to read my post as an attack on the city's leadership. While I'm not "blaming the white man", I am giving you the facts. The mayor should be held accountable for what he isn't doing.

Mr. Bernstein has the luxury of not having to wonder whether the response he receives from others is based on race. Has it always been that way or have there been times in our society when people of other religions or ethnic groups were discriminated against? I'm glad you find these anecdotes amusing and trust me, I have risen above the social injustices that exist in our country and it was not and is not easy. By the way, I lock my car too. I find your comments naive at best and far too typical at their worst.

I suggested in my post that a more diverse group of people be attracted to the city through an awareness created by the mayor and other civic and business leaders. Without this impetus, which shouldn't be needed in the first place, there will be a lack of racial and social diversity in the city. San Francisco has the lowest number of children of any major city in the U.S. due a lack of affordable housing opportunities to people with families. All families. I'm not talking about poor people. I'm talking about the so-called middle class. Might the mayor and his administration be asked to address issues like this so that teachers, nurses, and retail clerks can afford to live here?

And yes, black people are still killing black people over turf related to drugs. No surprise. Whether we like it or not these are generally, economic crimes because that's the economy accessible to many people. The Board of Supervisors rejected a Home Depot in the city (and a predominately black community) because it amounted to "formulaic retail". Where's the leadership?

Its too bad that Mr. Bernstein only sees complaints in my comments. They are the facts. Many of the injustices that occur in our society are insidious and difficult to identify due to the narrow view too often taken by those who would agree with Bernstein. Our society continues to face big problems that are based on race. We all need to look a little deeper to find real solutions.

Sent by Alan Loving | 6:09 PM | 7-22-2008