White flight is where whites move out of a neighbourhood in large numbers. You see this in America when a place becomes more than about one-tenth black. It is a big reason why so many whites left American cities in the 1950s and 1960s – because blacks started moving in.
White flight is the opposite of gentrification. It is how the white suburbs became the opposite of the black ghettos.
White Americans left the cities for many reasons:
- In the suburbs you had much more floor space, more grass, more trees. And more quiet.
- After the Second World War the government made it easier to get money to build a new house in the suburbs than to repair an old one in the city.
- Government was shifting money away from trains, buses and streetcars to highways – before there was any huge demand for it.
But racism was a part of it too:
- It is well-known that real estate agents in the city took part in what is known as blockbusting: they would sell houses to blacks in white neighbourhoods in order to get whites to rush to sell their houses for less than they were worth – and then turn a nice profit by selling these houses to blacks.
- Once a neighbourhood becomes more than about 10% black, more whites will move out than move in. It becomes a snowball effect: white flight. After a point only the old people are white. When they die off it becomes all black.
Some whites say they are selling because they are afraid property values will fall: a self-fulfilling prophecy that all but admits that most whites are racist.
Some whites say they are selling because of crime. But the facts do not support that. They move out long before crime becomes an issue. Their move is based not on a close reading of police reports but on racist stereotypes about blacks.
Yes, some of their old neighbourhoods do become crime-ridden, but that takes years. In most cases whites are not selling to poor blacks, but middle-class ones. It takes years of bad police protection and maybe even a black flight of the black middle-class before a neighbourhood gets that bad.
White flight is not just a city/suburb thing: Nearly 90% of suburban whites in America live in a place that is less than 1% black, and yet 9% of the middle-class is black! White flight has little to do with class, crime or wanting a nice place in the suburbs. It has to do with whites not wanting to live with blacks no matter how rich blacks are.
White flight is not always a black/white thing or even a Hispanic/white thing. It seems that Cupertino, California in the Silicon Valley has experienced white flight because “too many” Asians have moved there. Some say it is because the public schools there have become “too hard”, but the schools in nearby Palo Alto, which is much whiter and far less Asian, are just as hard and yet whites there are not leaving in large numbers.
– Abagond, 2008.