In his new book, “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America”, Washington Post editor Eugene Robinson picks up the popular argument that civil rights era integration didn’t bode well for America’s historically black neighborhoods.
“People who had the means and had the education started moving out of what had been historic black neighborhoods,” Robinson told NPR.
The reporter elaborated on his point in an interview on The Morning Edition:
“In city after city, African-American neighborhoods that …once had been vibrant and in a sense whole — disintegrated,” Robinson says.
He attributes that change to African-Americans taking advantage of new opportunities, resulting in a more economically segregated community.
“There have always been class distinctions in the black community,” Robinson says, “but what I believe we’ve seen is an increasing distance between two large groups, which I identify as the Mainstream and the Abandoned.”
Robinson says that while a “fairly slim majority” of African-Americans entered the middle class, a large portion of the community never climbed the ladder. It’s getting harder and harder to catch up, he says, “because so many rungs of that ladder are now missing.”
So as formerly segregated neighborhoods begin to gentrify; rents increase and longtime residents get pushed out.
It’s worth noting that DC mayor Adrian Fenty recently lost his re-election bid largely due to black residents’ concerns that he was catering to to the city’s newly arrived crop of white urban professionals. In Robinson’s view, what’s happened over the past five decades in black neighborhoods is bad for everyone, and an important reminder that there’s still work to do.
Of course, Robinson’s got a point. But are the broken dreams of America’s black working class that easy to explain?