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BY MARY MITCHELL email@example.com Feb 17, 2011 2:08AM
It doesn’t surprise me that Chicago lost 200,418 people over the last decade.
I moved out of the city in the early ’80s because I couldn’t afford an apartment in a decent neighborhood. So I get why the city lost nearly 17 percent of its black population between 2000 and 2010.
Black people want the same thing white people want. They want to feel safe. They want to send their children to decent schools. They want to look outside their windows and see grass or Lake Michigan.
Like every other group, the more money black people make, the less tolerant they are of conditions that result in a lower standard of living.
The Census data is positive for the African-American community because it suggests that a lot more blacks are moving on up.
But just as there was a downside to the end of segregation, which ultimately led to the shutdown of a lot of black-owned businesses in black communities, there is a downside to this trend.
Because of the city’s continued pattern of segregated housing, Chicago stands the chance of becoming a city further polarized by both race and class. The data also suggest that the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation may have reshaped the south suburbs.
For instance, a Sun-Times analysis of tract- level Census estimates shows that some of the south suburbs, where many of the dislocated residents moved, saw the greatest decreases in population.
Ford Heights, Robbins, Harvey, Riverdale, Hodgkins, Bensenville and Riverdale experienced double-digit decreases in population.
Meanwhile, neighborhoods located on the Near South Side and along the lakefront that were once populated by African Americans have switched from black to white.
Interestingly, two black luminaries who have passed on warned us about the political ramifications of African Americans abandoning the city for the suburbs.
Until her death last year, Margaret Burroughs, co-founder of the DuSable Museum, lived in the mansion where she founded the museum at 38th and Michigan despite the crime associated with nearby public housing.
During my first interview with Burroughs, she expressed concern that so many middle-class blacks were moving to the suburbs. She warned that the exodus would not only dilute African-American voting strength, but would also leave historic Bronzeville housing stock up for grabs.
And Dempsey J. Travis, who was a prolific writer, thinker, businessman and civil rights activist, never passed up the opportunity to chide those of us who had fled the city for the suburbs looking for greener pastures.
In a 2001 interview about the 2000 Census, which showed Chicago still had all-black blocks even in middle-class neighborhoods like Chatham, Travis exploded.
“We’ve been sending black folks to all the other communities. Send some white folks out here,” he said. “It certainly has nothing to do with economics and education because people who live here make $200,000 a year, and some are multimillionaires. It’s not culture or money; it’s plain racism.”
A decade later, Chatham is battling serious crime, and more middle-class blacks are opting for the ’burbs.
Space concerns pushed Sharon Evans, and her husband, Ernest, from the South Loop to Matteson.
Sharon has big-city girl written all over her. When she told me she had moved way out to the far south suburb, I was curious.
“We had a two-bedroom town house and we needed more space. We also factored in that we have parents that are old and [South Loop] was not a senior-friendly place,” she said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
Although Evans looked for housing in “The Gap,” a trendy area on South King Drive, the price wasn’t right, and a drive through the area after dark led to some concerns.
“We would have loved to be somewhere in “The Gap,” but Ernest, who travels a lot, didn’t feel comfortable leaving me and my aging mother there in a house alone,” she said.
“We are happy in the ’burbs. But if you had asked us about moving out here five years ago, I would have laughed like crazy.”
The migration of blacks from city to suburbs is no different than the migration of other groups. Still, this population shift might hurt blacks here a great deal more.
Unfortunately, it suggests that the dire warnings of a past generation have come to pass.