Black Flight

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 21 2008 @ 6:57pm

by Chris Bodenner
The WSJ examines how U.S. cities such as Atlanta, DC, and San Francisco are reversing historic trends by becoming more white — both because white professionals are gentrifying blighted areas and because black middle-class families are moving to the suburbs.  In other words, white flight has given way to “African-American out-migration.”

In Washington, a historically black church is trying to attract white members to survive. Atlanta’s next mayoral race is expected to feature the first competitive white candidate since the 1980s. San Francisco has lost so many African-Americans that Mayor Gavin Newsom created an “African-American Out-Migration Task Force and Advisory Committee” to help retain black residents.

“The city is experiencing growth, yet we’re losing African-American families disproportionately,” Mr. Newsom says. When that happens, “we lose part of our soul.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates pounces:

Oh no, not our soul!  A black church actually trying to attract white members, a white guy actually running for office in Atlanta, and a big city mayor who has to fight to keep black people. Race war, indeed. Sometimes, there really is no way to win with media. Part of the reason cities like Atlanta are becoming white is because black folks (like myself) who grew up caged in cities want their taste of the stereotypical American dream and thus are leaving. But there never is any black agency–to be African-American is to be an automaton responding to either white racism or cultural pathology. No way you could actually have free will.

(Newsom is trying to keep blacks from leaving through affordable housing, and to lure them back with cultural institutions, such a jazz center.  Hanna Rosin examined how Memphis tacked in the opposite direction — using Section8 vouchers to bring poor African-Americans out to the suburbs — with disastrous results.)