A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
A right-wing think tank has issued a report proclaiming “The End of the Segregated Century.” The study, however, “may well have merely taken a snap-shot of a society in flux,” rather than one headed towards widespread integration in housing patterns. Whites, who “have always been the architects of segregation in the U.S., either by public and private design or the through the hysteria of white flight,” do appear much more willing to mix with Hispanics and Asians, than with Blacks.
Housing Segregation Report May Be Misleading
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“A change in the racial makeup of a neighborhood through involuntary gentrification can hardly be described as ‘integration.’”
A new study purports to show that housing in the nation’s cities is more racially integrated than at any time since 1910. The first problem with the report is its authorship. The study was conducted by two senior fellows at the Manhattan Institute, a bastion of right-wing disinformation and propaganda. In addition to the Institute’s longstanding bias against government measures to oppose institutional racism, the study may well have merely taken a snap-shot of a society in flux, that may not actually be moving towards an integrated future.
First of all, the racial makeup of America has changed a great deal in the last forty years, with the influx of many millions of Latin Americans and Asians. What was once a mostly Black-white divide now includes many cultures, and Hispanics now outnumber African Americans. Whites have always been the architects of segregation in the U.S., either by public and private design or the through the hysteria of white flight – which, historically, has been flight from Black people. The Manhattan Institute researchers found that whites are, nowadays, more likely to live in proximity to Hispanics and Asians. Other data show, however, that this is largely because whites are less likely to instantly flee a neighborhood when Hispanics and Asians start moving in. To put it simply, whites – who are the engines of segregation – are less likely to go into full-flight mode when Asians and Hispanics start knocking – at least, not right away. The Manhattan Institute study found that all-white neighborhoods are disappearing, but that is mostly due to the entry of Asians and Hispanics. Black-white integration is much less pronounced. White racism in the U.S. is, foundationally, anti-Black – a fact that is reflected in the new numbers, just as in the old data.
“No one knows what housing patterns will look like, if the housing bubble has permanently burst.”
The study shows that mostly Black urban neighborhoods are getting smaller, and correctly attributes that to raging gentrification in many cities. But, for the Black people who are being displaced, gentrification is a coercive process, a force against their will. A change in the racial makeup of a neighborhood through involuntary gentrification can hardly be described as “integration.” Rather, it is ethnic cleansing, and only looks like integration when a snap-shot is taken at a certain stage in the process, before most of the old population has been removed.
The report concludes that rapid growth in the Sun Belt states and movement of non-whites to the suburbs has had an integrating effect. But this, too, is a process in motion. Blacks pushed out of northern urban neighborhoods have been heading increasingly to the South, where new neighborhoods built on sub-prime mortgages are already in a state of decline. No one knows what housing patterns will look like, if the housing bubble has permanently burst. A good guess would be that most homeowners of modest means will retrench, resigned to their new lack of physical mobility, and will struggle to stay put where they are. If the past is any guide to the future, we can then expect a hardening of white attitudes towards residential integration, especially regarding Blacks.
The Manhattan Institute titled their wishful report, “The End of the Segregated Century” – another example of white folks seeking to unilaterally declare a problem created by white racism to be “over.” But snap-shots of people in chaotic motion are not dependable predictors of future outcomes. Segregation will not be dead until white supremacy is dead.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.