Moving was a 1988 movie about what happens when a black family moves into a predominantly white suburb. In his own soulfully satirical style, comedic legend Richard Pryor explained white flight in a manner that allowed his audience to laugh at the depths of white bigotry. While Pryor’s depiction is no doubt hilarious, it is somewhat incomplete. White flight is defined as the move of white city-dwellers to the suburbs to escape the influx of minorities. And while it is normally associated with the turbulence surrounding the 1950’s and 60’s movements, its’ origins date all the way to the Great Migration of 1930’s America. The Great Migration is the name given to the flight of black people out of the American apartheid system of the Jim Crow South, into the urban areas of the so called “liberal north.” As blacks moved into these areas, they were predominately un-skilled and un-employed. Apparently, the objective was to seek employment in the factory based jobs throughout the northern landscape. This flood of black refugees into northern cities created a gold mine for banks and real estate companies. As they had control over the market, they simply red-lined communities, and thereby reduce quality housing in the neighborhoods. Though such a practice can be said to be racial, its’ theory was economically based. The practice went something like this. The targeted communities, usually mostly white, had a property tax base that was sustained by the income of its’ residents. The tax base, in part, paid for the services that the city rendered to the community. When blacks moved into these areas from the south, they were technically un-employed, and thus initially, unable to sustain the tax base until the found meaningful jobs. Therefore, because they couldn’t afford to live in these areas, they took in borders to pay the rent. This led to massive overcrowding in communities all across various urban cities. The banks and real estate companies now had a basis to reduce the property values, while increasing the rentals and mortgages. After massive overcrowding, a reduction in city controlled sanitation services, the resulting vermin infestations, and an accompanying crime rate, whites associated a black face with the subsequent destruction of their communities. In other words, there goes the neighborhood. The message was clear. White people were out like Orenthal James on parole. They left in droves and like the clip above suggests, they took it all with them, including the tax base. Without a tax base and a resulting economic infrastructure, niggas piled on and piled up.
However, when white people fled, they were determined to develop mechanisms to prevent future white flight. They were aided by the National Housing Act of 1935. This was a program started during the Great Depression where the government invested in home mortgages. A part of the government’s investment criterion was to determine whether the mortgages were in fact, “good mortgages.” Under this standard, one of the best ways to make this determination was through the use of restrictive deeds. These were deeds that contained clauses that prevented the homes from being sold to “undesirables.” This practice created the suburbs and the hood. It lasted until the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The Civil Rights Movement may have broken down the practice of restrictive deeds and housing discrimination in apartment renting, but it did little to change the bad taste left in white people’s mouths from the Great Migration. It also did not answer the real problem of how blacks could create sustainable community wealth that would allow neighborhoods comparable to the suburbs. And in truth, it was not supposed to. This a nod to the self-help policies of conservative ideology. In all honesty, blacks created these communities in Tulsa and Rosewood. The problem was that they did not possess the accompanying feudal, political and military power to preserve the continuation of these neighborhoods. Subsequent integration laws like the Fair Housing Act of 1968, led to massive black flight, which again led to another vicious circle of white flight further into the suburban interior. This process has repeated itself over and over again for nearly 50 years. Without the aforementioned economic base, concurrent with increasing economic inequality, the hood became portable. With no collective tax base, there could be no property values by which to sustain the vibrant health of a community. Consequently, studies have been produced that show a direct correlation between property values and the quality of schools in a given neighborhood. Long story short, poor schools are usually found near poor neighborhoods. It also should be stated that in the absence of an economic base, overpriced convenience stores complete with small chicken franchises, beer and wine stores, and outside predatory check cashing spots, fill the vacuum and encourage a culture of complete irresponsibility. Simply put, in the absence of a tax base with decent property values, ratchet nigga shit reigns supreme.
White communities will guard against this at all costs. Therefore, they are careful about who moves into their neighborhoods and why. They employ neighborhood improvement associations that have working relationships with law enforcement to scout potential residents. This relationship creates a heavy police presence that cracks down on any ratchet activity. Real Estate companies tend to price homes in affluent suburban communities outside the range of the average black median income. Chris Rock verified this when he joked about how people with money like himself, Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige, live next to a simple dentist. This mechanism is a very effective way to avoid future white flight because it controls present black flight. After all, in a fluctuating housing market, who wants to lose the equity value in their home every time a group of black people move into the neighborhood? (sorry, but this is an unfortunate reality) But if it comes to it, they will leave again and again. The trend now is to gated communities. This is their last resort against future white flight. This is why so many have become armchair constitutional scholars and activists. Because in truth, the most sacrosanct right of the Constitution in their eyes, is the private property based right to exclude. But in reality, the most effective deterrent against white flight is not economic red-lining of communities, it’s the economic empowerment of the Black Community. Because as both history and Richard Pryor shows us, you can buy the house, but they’re taking everything else with them.
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