As the results of the Trump- delayed census have emerged, we’ve learned that American diversity is both growing and shifting.
The overview–the national picture–is considerably less White, and that reality is further enraging the too-plentiful numbers of White Supremicists among us. Their hysteria–not unlike a child’s tantrum–is likely to have some ugly political repercussions. We can only hope that, in the scheme of things and the sweep of history, those repercussions are temporary.
When the picture focuses on distribution rather than on aggregate numbers, things get more interesting. Charles Blow has provided a rundown of those numbers in a recent column, and the basic thrust is that Black people are moving out of what were dismissively called the “inner cities.”
The term “inner city” has long been used as a derisive euphemism for Black — poor, blighted and in distress. But many inner cities in the North and West are becoming less and less Black because Black people are moving out.
Black populations in what were considered to be Black strongholds have been dwindling, and that has been happening all over the country. There has been a reverse migration wave of Black people from the North and West moving back to the South. Blow goes through an extensive list of cities that have lost Black populations.
Among the most interesting:
Detroit, once the Blackest big city in America, home of Motown, dropped from 82 percent Black in 2010 to 77 percent Black in 2020. The Hispanic, white and Asian populations all grew in the city over that period.
New York City, with two million Black residents, more than any other city in America, saw its Black population fall by 4.5 percent over the past decade. This came on the heels of the Black population declining 5.1 percent the previous decade, the first drop in the number of Black residents in recent history.
Harlem, according to the 2020 census, is now just 37% Black. Harlem!
Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles–Blow provides the numbers showing diminished Black population. He also shares the numbers showing the growth of Black population in the American South.
These shifts don’t mean that there are now fewer cities with Black majorities; the number is on the rise, as Brookings pointed out in 2019. It’s just that 90 percent of majority Black cities are now in the South. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that much of the municipal South is Black.
Ironically, Selma and Montgomery, Ala.; Jackson and Philadelphia, Miss.; Little Rock, Ark.; and Atlanta —places we associate with some of the worst episodes of America’s racist past– now have Black mayors.
All of this is politically relevant.
For a number of years, Republican Party leaders have been reacting to predictions that “demography is destiny”–fears that the growing diversity of America (and the decidedly Democratic lean of the country’s youth)–will soon make the GOP electorally irrelevant. That fear is what has prompted the GOP’s extreme gerrymandering, vote suppression tactics and efforts to control who counts the votes.
The movement of Black Americans out of easily demonized metropolitan centers changes the calculus. It’s harder to whip up fear of “those people” who live in the centers of large cities when so many of “those people” are White, young, upwardly mobile Starbucks drinkers. And as Stacy Abrams and her fellow-activists showed in Georgia, the previously solid South, which could be counted on to vote White, whatever party was carrying the banner of White Supremacy at any given time, is no longer so solid. It isn’t just cultural change, welcome as that is. It’s demographic shift.
Blow didn’t include cities in Texas in his recitation, and it is likely that increasing demographic diversity there is due more to the growth of Latino populations than an influx of Blacks, but when we think of states south of the Mason-Dixon Line currently headed by stubbornly reactionary Republicans, Texas certainly comes to mind. Whether Abbott’s frantic efforts to suppress minority votes in the face of demographic change will keep Texas in the Red column for another few years is anyone’s guess.
Blow says the new distribution of America’s Black population is producing “chocolate chip cities.” If–as sociologists tell us–bigotry is reduced by familiarity with members of previously marginalized populations, those “chocolate chip” cities bode well for civic amity.