Are liberal publications starting to “get it?” I see a glimmer of hope, faint, but nevertheless there. Recently, the New York Times published a video that demands that Democrats explain why Democratically-run cities do so poorly – often worse than GOP-run jurisdictions – at acting on Democratic talking points like education, taxation and housing.
Now it’s Politico’s turn to notice the obvious, even though it never quite draws obvious conclusions.
The obvious that Politico notices is the fact that, as the article’s headline points out, “Black People Are Leaving Chicago en Masse.” Indeed they are. The nation’s third-largest city once boasted a population that was 40% black; now it’s under 29%. And it’s not just Chicago.
The 2020 census shows Black Americans moving, in huge numbers, out of their longtime homes in Northern and Western cities, and resettling in smaller cities, the suburbs and — in a twist on the Great Migration of the 20th century — the South. Nine of 10 of the cities with the largest numbers of African Americans saw significant declines in their Black populations over the past 20 years, according to census data compiled by POLITICO.
Why might that be? Politico gives a half-hearted answer in the person of Asiaha Butler, a lifelong resident of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.
In 2002, Butler was ready to lay down her own roots and purchased a home not far from this spot. Then she researched nearby elementary schools for her daughter and, dismayed by the neighborhood’s test scores, elected to send her to a public school in another Chicago community.
Life got even worse on the block. Gunfire rang out nearly every day. A stray bullet struck the house. Someone once tried to rob the family. By 2008, Butler was ready to leave…
Places like Englewood that saw some of the highest number of homicides in the past two decades — 467 in that neighborhood alone — have also had the largest outflow of Black residents, according to a POLITICO analysis of Chicago Police Department data. The handful of the city’s neighborhoods that grew their Black populations all had far fewer killings.
Yes, the article identifies two of the major problems besetting neighborhoods like Englewood – violent crime and bad schools, but steers carefully away from fatherless childrearing that contributes greatly to both. And nowhere does it mention the movement to defund the police as a possible open door to crime and the exodus of black families who have the wherewithal to get out.
And even the shocking spike in the murder rate of the past three years receives short shrift in favor of “root causes.”
But the [black population] losses were also driven by a series of destabilizing events: the loss of manufacturing jobs, the demolition of public housing, a housing bubble, endemic gun violence and the closure of public schools.
Those may have played a role, although it’s hard to know the difference between “endemic gun violence” and violent crime. But the simple fact is that a lot of the black people leaving Chicago aren’t going far. The decline in Chicago’s black population precisely mirrors its increase in Chicago’s suburbs and nearby Indiana. And of course the closure of public schools wasn’t a cause of black flight, but its result. Fewer people meant fewer schools, not the other way around, a fact the article admits later on.
Predictably, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot hasn’t a clue about what to do about the problem of blacks leaving her city. Oh, she has ideas, just none likely to be effective.
In 2019, Lightfoot announced a plan to invest $750 million in public and private funds into 10 Chicago communities in the south and west of the city. The plan includes transforming vacant lots and rundown buildings into green spaces, grocery stores, streetscapes and affordable housing. A century-old firehouse in Englewood will become a culinary center and business hub. An empty bank in Austin will become a blues museum and cafe.
If you build it, they will come? I doubt it. The same theory failed a few years ago when installing a Whole Foods market in Englewood was supposed to bring a flood of new businesses and more affluent residents. It didn’t.
Chicago has a wonderful history of providing jobs and a rich black culture to blacks arriving from the South. Back then, the place had a vitality and an appeal to which people like Asiaha Butler are very much connected today. Chicago’s blacks don’t leave the city on a whim, but the very real prospect of getting mowed down in a random shooting turns out to be quite a motivator. So do bad schools. No amount of “green spaces” and upscale markets can reel back in people who fear for their and their children’s lives.
The Politico piece doesn’t delve deeply into the causes of black flight from Chicago and other major cities, but at least it touches on things like violent crime and bad schools. Those are problems to which Democrats, since the 60s, have offered many “solutions,” none of which seem to work and often tend to make matters worse.
We now spend far more per pupil on public education than we did in the 70s with no better results. Charter schools demonstrate the ability to do better, but are everywhere opposed by Democrats in thrall to teachers’ unions. From the mid-90s to 2016, Republican measures to control crime did so quite dramatically, only to be aspersed by Democrats and replaced by reductions in law enforcement funding that in turn resulted in the shocking spike in the nation’s murder rate.
Politico admits none of those inconvenient truths outright, but at least publicizes the fact that blacks – a major Democratic constituency – are streaming away from a Democratic city “en masse.” Could leftists be close to a great awakening?
This article originally appeared at The Word of Damocles.