The term ‘White Flight’ originated in mid-20th century America and refers to the large-scale migration of peoples of mostly European ancestries from racially-mixed inner-city neighborhoods to racially homogeneous suburban and rural areas. Examples of cities most impacted by cultural impoverishment include Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City and Oakland.
Many different theories have been mooted to explain the phenomenon of White Flight. Some historians suggest that ‘population pressures’ were behind the exodus, pointing to the arrival en masse, in northern cities, of black workers from the rural South. There are others, however, who reject the inference that white people abandoned their homes due to black families moving in; they recall that the white occupants defended their space with violence, intimidation and other tactics.
Whatever the explanation for negative urban diversity, White Flight has caused deep and lasting economic and social injustices for the black occupants of inner cities. These injustices include mortgage discrimination, mass unemployment, high crime rates, low quality education and poor academic achievement. The drivers for all of these issues are institutional and infrastructural racism.
Take the example of heavily-pregnant Shanice Washington, 17, who lives in a project on Detroit’s Eastside with her two sons. The presumed father of the boys abandoned her and them several months ago. Her current partner, DeShawn Booker, is currently serving time for armed robbery. Shanice told this reporter of the difficulties she experiences in even getting a job.
As her boys tuck into their lunch of fried chicken wings, Shanice opens up. ‘There ain’t no work for peoples like me, no sir.‘ she says, dabbing at her moist eyes with a piece of kitchen towel, ‘them employers take one look at my name and address and that’s all she wrote.‘
How then do we reverse the injustices caused by White Flight? It seems only rational to believe, as Shanice does, that her employment prospects would be improved if white people had not abandoned Eastside. As it is, racist employers instantly reject resumés from people like Shanice precisely because they associate Eastside with black people.
The answer surely lies in persuading white people to return to the areas they willfully abandoned. We propose a range of tax incentives and government regulations to reverse the situation which the amoral free market had created. Firstly, we would levy eye-wateringly high property taxes on homes in so-called ‘white areas’, which would be used to finance urban/inner-city regeneration. We would also provide tax credits to home-owners in places like Eastside, which would allow expenses incurred to be offset against taxable revenues, provided that the taxpayer lived there on a permanent basis. Finally, we would provide generous subsidies and grants to people like Shanice to enable them to move into houses currently occupied by privileged white people.
This modest proposal to reverse white flight and enrich racially homogeneous areas cannot be put into place soon enough.