The Dilemma of White Flight

The Dilemma of White Flight

The census is a very important tool for the federal government and for society as a whole.  Funding for schools and infrastructure are dependent on the outcome.  Also, representation by elected representatives and the drawing up of congressional districts are affected by these numbers.  Philadelphia sued after the 2000 Census because of underreporting and a subsequent loss of funding.    There was a big push to get adequate reporting this year.
The 2010 census has a number of major factors that reflect changes in our society.  African Americans are moving back to Southern states in larger numbers.  We once had to flee these states because of oppression and Jim Crow Laws.  There are more mixed race Americans than ever before.  Also, in Philadelphia, those identifying themselves as white Americans have fled the city at an alarming rate.
Minorities have begun to move to the Northeast in record numbers.  Maybe this trend made the residents of the Northeast uncomfortable.  I feel that the trend towards moving out of the city to access bigger houses and better schools is not just an option reserved for white Americans.  Many of the friends I attended high school with have bought houses in the suburbs.  Many of my friends from Howard University have bought houses in Delaware or live in other suburbs.  Crime, poor schools and high taxes have caused citizens of all races to abandon Philadelphia.
I grew up in what was a mixed neighborhood at the time.  South Philadelphia was a nice mix of Italian and African American families in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  I attended Saint Rita’s when it was trending towards a majority minority population.  The school finally closed when those families that were able to afford Catholic school tuition voted with their feet and moved elsewhere.  This was before the advent of charter schools. 
I attended parochial schools during my formal education.  I chose to attend Howard University because I felt that I wasn’t learning enough about my heritage.  It was the best move that I ever made.  I completed my undergraduate studies pursued advanced studies at LaSalle University.  W.E.B. DuBois, an illustrious African American leader, once said, “The problem of the 20th Centuru is the problem of the color line.  This was at the beginning of the 1900’s when race relations were much more strained than today.  Why is it that we are still a segregated society?
In spite of the census and the loss of one third of the white population to the suburbs, I notice a distinct change in my Point Breeze neighborhood.  Some might call this phenomenon reverse migration.  Young white families are moving back to previously low income census tracts.  Areas which suffered high rates of disinvestment are now seeing a resurgence of growth and a rise in property values.  We are not experiencing some of the problems that occurred when various races lived too close to each other before.  No race riots or overt hostility accompany the growth of the white population in the graduate hospital area and Girard Avenue.  I like the trend.
We are moving quickly towards being a multi-racial society.  There is a recent controversy in the Hispanic community because there is a tremendous growth beyond the Puerto Rican population.  African Americans used to be the group most discriminated against in society.  We are now inclusive of Liberians, Nigerians and Bahamians.  We all need to adapt and prepare for a future when minorities are the new majority.  Good luck to our former Philadelphians in their new suburban environment.  We will maintain the neighborhoods until some of you decide to move back.

Michael E. Bell
June 2011

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