I grew up in an all-black suburban community defined by segregation. Our community was essentially an Island in an otherwise all white sea defined by housing restrictions and covenants.
Living in the suburbs in those days meant having ties to other black communities which existed in sometimes disparate areas defined by post Civil War realities. Your barber or hairdresser might be in another community. The segregated black schools drew from communities which could be 20 or 30 miles from each other leading to long bus rides, and by High School – the students coming from a geographic region, instead of a “community”. Social activities such as house parties could be 30 or more miles away.
Tying this together were the remnants of the 40’s era segregation. Many of the communities, if large enough – had a baseball team. Sunday evenings were filled with crack of a bat as communities met on local fields to root for their respective local teams.
So the “black community”, at least in the suburban sense that I grew up with was always a “virtual” entity.
The stock in trade of black conservatives is to discuss shortcomings of the “black community”. The problem with that line of “thinking” is that the black community in the pre-60’s sense – has ceased to exist. The remnants of those communities, where they exist at all – largely exist today as urban pockets. The black diaspora has not only changed the nature and makeup of the pre-desegregation black community – it has changed the racial dynamic of previously white communities. The urban pocket community is no more a representation of the black community than $5 million houses in an upscale Jersey community are representative of the “white community” as a whole in the US. Quite simply America has changed – and like any major social change the impact is complex.
John McWhorter discusses the impact of desegregation in this article. I find it amusing when people who never experienced segregation talk about how wonderful it was…
When Newt Gingrich says that housing project people don’t work, our job is to show that they do. When he says that Obama is the “food stamp” president, our job is to show that most food stamp recipients are white. When Ron Paul writes that we’re about to start rioting again, we are to make sure that everybody knows we’re not.
In other words, although this isn’t the lesson usually taken from these recent episodes, it would appear that we are getting more comfortable admitting that progress happens for us. Real progress, even if racism still exists, as it always will. And not just symbolic progress, such as having a black president. When we get angry at whites depicting us as poster children, we are saying that being black is less of a problem in 2012, even if it occasionally still is one.
Well, now there’s more good news. We need to trumpet it to the skies as eagerly as we do the news that not so many of us use food stamps. It’s about segregation: This new report by Edward Glaeser and Jacob Vigdor shows that black Americans are living under less of it than at any time since William Howard Taft was president.
As Glaeser and Vigdor, writing for the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, show, “As of 2010, the separation of African-Americans from individuals of other races has stood at its lowest level in nearly a century. Fifty years ago, nearly half the black population lived in what might be termed a ‘ghetto’ neighborhood, with an African-American share above 80 percent. Today, that proportion has fallen to 20 percent.”
Indeed, I used to work for the Manhattan Institute and am proud of it. But I am hardly the only one who will be writing about this report this week, and I would be shouting it to the heavens even if I used to work for Burger King. This is important news.
So often we are told that despite the civil rights revolution, black America’s big problem is segregation. Black people live together too much, we are told. And when everybody is black and poor, then we have to understand that the neighborhood must fall to pieces. Not enough middle-class role models, we are told. About twice a year the New York Times runs a story on segregation that pings around the country madly for weeks, in which assorted people are quoted spinning variations on “We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.”
Here, then, is a story about the way we’ve come. From 1970 to 2010, segregation declined for black people in all 85 of the nation’s largest metro areas. From just 2000 to 2010, segregation declined in 522 out of 658 housing markets. By 2010, out of 72,531 census tracts, only 424 had no black people in them. And as recently as 2000, that number had been 902. In 1960, there were 4,700 all-white neighborhoods in America. Today there are 170. We’re everywhere! (More)