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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ferguson's Experience Offers Lessons on Integration - Moves to Stem 'White Flight' Only Helped Fuel City's Racial and Political Tensions

From The Wall Street Journal:

FERGUSON, Mo.— Sharon Golliday grew up in the Pruett-Igoe public housing project in St. Louis, a high-rise complex so violent that even the police were afraid to enter.
So like many African-Americans, she and her family took advantage of a sea change in federal housing policy in the 1980s and 90s that came to regard projects as part of the problem. Using a government voucher to subsidize the cost, they eventually landed in this suburb.
"We needed to get out," said Ms. Golliday, a 58-year-old teacher. "No one forced us to move—we left."
Mrs. Golliday's eight-mile journey from a poor, black section of St. Louis to a then predominately white suburb was part of a national migration that reshaped the landscape of American poverty. African-Americans left behind political infrastructures built over generations and took up residence in communities where the governments are sometimes less able to meet their needs.
The migration also generated economic and political divisions that stirred racial tensions in places like Ferguson, which for two weeks has been the scene of often violent protests over the shooting of an unarmed black teen by a white policeman.
Twenty-four years after Mrs. Golliday and her family arrived in Ferguson, two-thirds of the town's 21,000 residents are now African-American, while five out of six members of the city council, and all but a handful of its 53 police officers, are white.
And with many black residents' income below the poverty level, economic segregation has taken root. The number under the federal poverty line doubled between 2000 and 2012 while the unemployment rate rose from less than 5% to over 13%.
The kind of migration seen in St. Louis has happened in many cities, such as Chicago and Philadelphia, altering the makeup of inner-ring suburbs across the country. The St. Louis area is a microcosm of those changes. Suburbs like Berkeley and Dellwood turned almost all black. Ferguson, however, is one of the few that remains integrated.
That integration didn't happen by accident. In the 1990s, a group of citizens in Ferguson saw what "white flight" was doing to neighboring communities. Property values were falling as whites sold in a panic and moved to developments further out.
In 1996, Dan Duncan, a drug and alcohol counselor, joined others to devise a program that pooled funds to make up for a resident's drop in home value—an inducement to keep white owners from selling cheaply. And—in the days before widespread Internet use—it publicly posted real-estate listings in the Ferguson area to show prospective buyers their options and prevent realtors from "steering" races into segregated neighborhoods.

But while white flight was stemmed, the power structure at City Hall and the police department didn't change to reflect the new black majority.

The city has made efforts to reach out to its new residents. In 2007, Ferguson's City Council members recruited Dwayne James, an African-American who served on a zoning board, to fill a vacant position on the council, which is nonpartisan.

"Nobody was more sensitive to the lack of African-American representation than the white council members themselves," said Terry Jones, a political-science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

"We didn't do the typical American thing, which is to run away from each other," Mr. Duncan said.

But some observers say that is one reason political power in Ferguson still rests largely with white residents. Voter turnout among black newcomers has been low, while whites—who generally have lived here longer and are more likely to be homeowners—feel more of a stake in the community and participate more, said Clarissa Rile Hayward, a professor of political science and urban studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

Ms. Golliday said that political disenfranchisement, the economic gap and a sense that the government—through the police —was picking on poor black people laid the groundwork for the riots this month. Paradoxically, cities in the area that are more segregated remained calm. 

Surveys of racial attitudes in the U.S. suggest integrated communities like Ferguson are vulnerable to a certain type of instability based on expectations, tolerance, class and the pace of a city's demographic change.

Many whites say they would be happy to live in an integrated community, but define ideally integrated as around 10% black and 90% white. Blacks also say they are happy to live in integrated communities—but define that as about half black and half white, said Zoltan Hajnal, a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego. Such differing expectations can create instability. "Neighborhoods as they diversify become more attractive to blacks and leave fewer and fewer whites that are willing to stay," Mr. Hajnal said.
In Ferguson's more affluent areas, blacks and whites say the racial tensions seem remote. Angela Teague, a 47-year-old white woman, is married to an African-American church building manager in Ferguson; she is the church secretary. Together, they have three mixed-race children as well as two other from previous relationships. Ferguson, she said, is conducive to small-town community life.

"I have never seen any racial problems," she said. But, she added, speaking of the protesters' demands, "My husband and I really have taken a side in this whole thing. We do want justice, whatever that means."

 The Rev. Larry Jones of Greater Grace Church built his church in another part of Ferguson in 2008, moving his congregation from another suburb. "This is not Watts or Harlem back in the day or Detroit," said Mr. Jones, who is black. "This is a suburb where people come to find a better way of life. They are people like us—black and white—who have invested in staying here."

On the city's west side, gracious, century-old Victorian-style homes sit close bymore modest ranches and bungalows. Sue Odell, a retired teacher, arrived on Carson Street with her husband over 30 years ago and raised a family. Then, the neighborhood was almost all white.

"Now, African-American, African-American, African-American," she said, pointing to three brick houses opposite her ranch. "And I couldn't be more happy. They're my neighbors."

There are challenges, Ms. Odell said, but often they are more economic than racial. Many houses are now occupied by renters rather than owners, making those residents' full inclusion in the community more elusive.

Indeed, poverty has become suburbanized across the country. Nationally, between 2000 and 2012, the number of suburban poor living in distressed neighborhoods grew 139%, or nearly three times as fast as the pace of growth of concentrated poverty within cities, according to a July research report from Brookings.

By 2012, suburbs in the nation's largest metro areas were home to three million more poor than the large cities that anchor those regions. At the same time, poor people—especially blacks—began to concentrate in fewer neighborhoods. Of the poor living in concentrated poverty, 26% lived in the suburbs between 2008 and 2012, up from 18% in 2000, Brookings found.


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