3.24.2005

White Flight

A good friend and I were in a band for a long while. We wrote songs, put out an album, and played a few shows. We began thinking about concepts for a new album. Peter had an idea. He always had several simmering at once. He proclaimed his thought via a black magic marker and a white Hanes t-shirt. On the shirt were scrawled the words, "White flight will tear us apart"

I've decided to postpone assigning another passage of text in lieu of talking about this concept of White flight. I love to hear from those who know something I don't, or have thought of something I haven't, so, feel free to contribute.

It's really easy to decry whitey for leaving the city, and moving to a sterile, low crime, homogenous, suburb with great schools to raise their kids, but it's alluring at the same time in so many ways.

Anybody in that situation would seem to think that it's a no-brainer. You make the move. Low crime and great schools provide seemingly safe and beneficial environments to raise your children.

So, why would you move to the city? Why is white flight bad?

I think Chris hit it on the head with the last post quite well. The first reason that white flight or a move to the suburbs is bad is because suburbs are sterile, boring, and bland. I could on and on about the rich pageantry of life lived amidst people of differing cultures. That's probably the weakest rationale for urban living.

Another reason is that regional vitality depends on a central vitality. In cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, you have a 3rd downtown emerging in Bloomington. Is the wave of the future regional city groups or networks of cities? I really don't think it is. Milwaukee is a situation where the central vitality is decaying whilst the outer economy is still growing. The argument, though, is that the decay of Milwaukee will decay and harm the entire region.

My favorite reason is neighborhoods. Our urban centers have neighborhoods in ways that pre-planned, subdivision homes just don't. Small corner markets, little neighborhood parks, knowing your neighbors. These are the elements of urban life that appeal to me. This is what I grew up with. I grew up saving my allowance to bike to the corner store and buy candy. I knew that there was a corner store 10 blocks away that had different candy than my corner store. I remember loving the look of recognition from the cashier when I would stop in. I remember "Sandlot" style baseball games in the abandoned lot at the end of the street. I even broke a neighbor's window. Exploring the neighborhood's nooks and crannies was always a great time because each house and yard were so different. I remember further back when we would make forts under ours' and neighbor's wooden porches. We only came home when we had to.

It wasn't without it's dangers, "poor" people, occasional shot in the dark, or the one time that I saw a guy bleeding and running from a guy who had just stabbed him. It made life more real, almost visceral. There's a romanticized view of the city for ya.

Either way, the city center is our vitality, and we need to move in and promote the conservative values that the conservative party has forgotten; the values of citizenship, philanthropy, and neighborhood involvement in lieu of large government programs.

Like the quote in the previous post, "Programs are a poor substitute for what neighbors can do best." And that's what I want to be, a neighbor; to the Samaritan, the Jew, and the Gentile. They are all my neighbors, not just the rich "Jews" living in the suburbs with their safe, boring streets, and great, conflictless schools. (the Jew here represents the white protestant suburbite. The Sherman Park area actually contains a large population of Orthodox Jews who attend synagogue there).

We need people to move in, share what they know, share their connections towards upward mobility and business with those who desperately need them, share. And then we need those people to leave, educate themselves, and come back. That's all for the moment. I hope you are all having a good day.
peace, love matthew joseph.

2:41 PM