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Black Flight

A few months ago on this blog, we had a long comments thread discussion about urban black crime. A black reader from New Jersey, “Alice,” made the point that middle-class black people don’t like ghetto thuggery any more than white people do — and that they do exactly what white people do when the ghetto gets too close: move. Part of Alice’s point is that white people are wrong to assume that black culture is monolithic, and that blacks ought to “do something” about ghetto crime and dysfunction. I think she had a very good point. White people don’t expect all white people to assume responsibility for white thugs and knuckleheads and layabouts. It’s not right to expect middle-class black people to do so for black troublemakers.

The Associated Press writes about middle-class black suburbanites in the Detroit area who are upset over the ghettoization of their own neighborhoods, as underclass blacks move in from the city, and bring their unpleasant culture with them. Excerpt:

Three years ago, Lamar Grace left Detroit for the suburb of Southfield. He got a good deal — a 3,000-square-foot colonial that once was worth $220,000. In foreclosure, he paid $109,000.

The neighbors were not pleased.

“They don’t want to live next door to ghetto folks,” he says.

That his neighbors are black, like Grace, is immaterial. Many in the black middle class moved out of Detroit and settled in the northern suburbs years ago; now, because of foreclosures, it is easy to buy or rent houses on the cheap here. The result has been a new, poorer wave of arrivals from the city, and growing tensions between established residents and the newcomers.

“There’s a way in which they look down on people moving in from Detroit into houses they bought for much lower prices,” says Grace, a 39-year-old telephone company analyst. “I understand you want to keep out the riffraff, but it’s not my fault you paid $250,000 and I paid a buck.”

The neighbors say there’s more to it than that. People like John Clanton, a retired auto worker, say the new arrivals have brought behavior more common in the inner city — increased trash, adults and children on the streets at all times of the night, a disregard for others’ property. 

“During the summer months, I sat in the garage and at 3 o’clock in the morning you see them walking up and the down the streets on their cell phones talking,” Clanton says. “They pull up (in cars) in the middle of the street, and they’ll hold a conversation. You can’t get in your driveway. You blow the horn and they look back at you and keep on talking. That’s all Detroit.”


The tensions have not gone unnoticed by local officials.

“I’ve got people of color who don’t want people of color to move into the city,” says Southfield Police Chief Joseph Thomas, who is himself black. “It’s not a black-white thing. This is a black-black thing. My six-figure blacks are very concerned about multiple-family, economically depressed people moving into rental homes and apartments, bringing in their bad behaviors.”

For example, “They still think it’s OK to play basketball at 3 o’clock in the morning; it’s OK to play football in the streets when there’s a car coming; it’s OK to walk down the streets three abreast. That’s unacceptable in this city.”

Steve Sailer continues quoting the AP piece (I can’t find a link to the entire thing):

Sheryll Cashin, who teaches constitutional law and race and American law at Georgetown University, says it would be a shame if black flight from the city set off black flight from the near suburbs.

Some blacks just don’t want to live near other blacks, she says: “There is classism within the black community. The foreclosure crisis may be accelerating it.” But she says middle-class blacks, like middle-class whites, are also put off by behavior of impoverished blacks who “have developed their own culture, one that is very different from mainstream America.”

Those who contemplate fleeing have fallen into what Cashin calls the “black middle-class dilemma.”

“You have a choice of whether you are willing to be around your people or go 180 degrees in the other direction,” she says. “To the higher income black people, if you don’t want to love and help your lower-income black brethren, why would you expect white people to? If you can’t do it, no one in society can do it. You can try to flee or you can be part of the solution.”

Well, who are “your people,” anyway? White people don’t feel burdened by ethnic solidarity to endure this kind of behavior to be “part of the solution” to the problems of underclass whites. The unspoken assumption here seems to be that loving one’s “lower-income black brethren” means having to accept the ruin of one’s neighborhood by anti-social asshats whose cultural values and behaviors created the conditions that drove away people who could afford to leave their presence.

My dad used to own and run a trailer park, and it was a nice, calm, well-kept place for law-abiding working-class people to live. Some trailer parks, though, are cesspools of dysfunction. If a white person wants to get out of those kinds of trailer parks, nobody (except the people they stand to leave behind) faults them for wanting a better life for themselves and their kids. Again, I don’t get why black people who are middle class, or who aspire to a safe, uneventful middle class life, have to bear the burden of racial betrayal, simply because they want what most people in this country want: normality.



about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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