The 2000 Census has confirmed what anyone walking in urban neighborhoods already knew, black folks are leaving the cities in droves. They are leaving for the suburbs where public schools are better and square footage cheaper. They are also heading to cities where church and cookouts are year-round. They are also leaving for their home on high.
In cities like Atlanta and Washington, blacks headed to the suburbs. While the black population shrank in Atlanta, declining from 61% to 53%, its population swelled by 40% in the suburbs to 1.7 million, making the region’s black population second only to New York. While the Washington, DC area remains one where blacks thrive professionally and socially, black Washingtonians are no longer in the majority. Having lost roughly 1% of its population per year since the last census, the group is believed to have dipped below 50%.
In northern cities, however, black people are leaving the area all together. Chicago lost 180,000 black residents, and its metropolitan area lost 3.5% overall, making its black population smaller than Atlanta’s by 66,000. Detroit’s population plummeted to the lowest number since 1911.
Other cities that lost black residents include Cleveland, Dallas, Oakland, and Philadelphia.
As these cities undergo redistricting, black political numbers will likely shrink. Some worry that Detroit will likely lose one of its Congressional seats, both of which are currently held by black politicians. Judging by other cities, this is a likely outcome.
In recent years, Chicago has had a succession of white mayors. New Orleans black population has yet to return to its pre-Hurricane Katrina 67% percent. The floods swept away most of the city’s presiding black officials. The city currently has a white mayor, police chief, and district attorney, all of which replaced blacks. The same is true for the majority white city council and school board. Briefly, the city’s congressman was a Vietnamese American.
Many are now trying to figure out how to reconcile this new demographic reality and by extension, the changing hues of our legislators.
Yolanda Young, Esq. is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and the author of the award winning memoir, On Our Way to Beautiful (Random House). Her latest book is Thurgood’s Legacy: Black Lawyers Reflect on Life, Law School and the Legal Profession, Graduates Reﬂect on Law school, Lawyering and Life. The activist and lecturer is a frequent contributor to USA Today and the founder & editor of the popular legal blog: On Being A Black Lawyer (OBABL). She is often called upon to offer legal, political, and social analysis for Fox5 and NPR. She has spoken at Dillard University and Harvard Law School, and testified before the United States Congress.