The Great, Bloody Black Dispersal from the Cities Glen Ford, BAR executive editor

“The grand plan is to reverse the demography of the Seventies by forcing Blacks out
of the central cities and into suburbs and small towns, rendering Black people
incapable of ever again launching a national movement headquartered in the urban
centers.”
The urban saga of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s was white flight from the cities, fueled by
massive public and private investment in the invention of suburbia. In the 21st century, the
racial dynamic has been purposely reversed, as the window closes on Black majority
cities—and on dreams of concentrated, Black urban political power.
The rapidly unfolding dispersal of Blacks from the cities, like the white invasion of the
surrounding hinterlands in the previous era, is the result of deliberate state policies, dictated
by finance capital. But, this time, the demographic makeover has been effectuated and
politically finessed with the active collaboration of a Black misleadership class that,
paradoxically, owes its existence to the concentration of Black populations during the Sixties
and Seventies.
The de-Blackening of urban America is a wrenchingly painful and bloody amputation-in-
progress. In a frenzy of demolition, the U.S. has lost a quarter million units of public housing
since the mid-1990s, only a small fraction of which has been replaced with new public
housing, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Black mayors and heavily
Black city councils have, typically, bought into the notion that concentrations of poor Black
people are, by definition, vectors of pathology, while concentrations of affluent whites are the
indispensable ingredients of urban “renaissance.” It is the logic of apartheid, cloaked in
phony economics.
“The de-Blackening of urban America is a wrenchingly painful and bloody amputation-
in-progress.”
Gentrification and renaissance-making—euphemisms for Black-removal—are violent
processes. Whole neighborhoods are condemned for “rehabilitation” from “blight”—another
euphemism, since the targeted infestation is human. The real estate industry covets the land,
but demands that it first be cleansed of undesirable inhabitants. This requires the ruthless
application of police force, creating a hostile environment, especially for young Black males,
whose mothers begin to seek an exit to the South or a nearby, Blackening suburb. It is no
coincidence that police forces in “renaissance”-minded cities across the nation introduced
draconian “stop-and- frisk,” “designated drug zone” and “anti-gang” policies in the Nineties, as
gentrification went into high gear. They methodically created an unbearably hostile
environment for unwanted families.
Gentrification requires the destabilization of the existing populations in targeted
neighborhoods. Politicians that respond to the imperatives of capital—and that means
virtually all big-city Democrats, of all races—acquiesce to or champion policies that
destabilize the lives of their poor Black constituents, all the while claiming it is for their own
good. The most powerful local government tool, other than the police, is the public school
system. Gentrifying mayors across the country have sought and won control of local schools
and used that power to make city life untenable for the “excess” Black populations of their
cities.
“The school closings added new layers of instability to the lives of families on
Chicago’s heavily Black south and west sides.”
No mayor has been more intent on driving Blacks from his city than Chicago’s Rahm
Emanuel, Barack Obama’s former chief of staff and close political ally. Building on the
mayhem inflicted on Black Chicago by his predecessors, Emanuel caused the closing 50
schools. The result was catastrophic, as students were forced to transit unfamiliar gang turf
to attend schools that were often no better than the shuttered ones in the own
neighborhoods. Many kids died. "What people don't understand is that if you are 16 years old

and get on a bus, when you get off that bus you are gang-affiliated whether you are gang-
affiliated or not, “said activist Jitu Brown .
Just as the closing of Chicago’s public housing disrupted gang turf and drug markets, setting
off a huge increase in street killings, the school closings added new layers of instability to the
lives of families on Chicago’s heavily Black south and west sides, the besieged
neighborhoods where closings were concentrated. It was the last straw for some parents. As
the Chicago Reporter wrote, in an article last December: “Some academics blame city
officials for making it harder for poor African-Americans, in particular, to live in Chicago.
They closed neighborhood schools and mental health clinics ; failed to rebuild public
housing, dispersing thousands of poor black families across the region, and inadequately
responded to gun violence, unemployment and foreclosures in black communities.”
“Building on the mayhem inflicted on Black Chicago by his predecessors, Emanuel
caused the closing 50 schools.”
“It’s a menu of disinvestment,” says Elizabeth Todd-Breland, who teaches African-American
history at the University of Illinois Chicago. “The message that public policy sends to black
families in the city is that we’re not going to take care of you and if you just keep going away,
that’s OK.”
The message is intentional—and effective. “Chicago’s public schools have lost more than
52,000 students in the past 10 years,” according to a report titled “The Bleeding of Chicago ,”
by CityLab. “That’s because school closures sometimes prompt parents to leave the city
altogether.” (Thanks to Richard Prince’s Journal-isms for bringing this information to a larger
audience.)
In less than two decades, Chicago lost 250,000 Black residents, one quarter of its total Black
population. That’s more than the Black populations of New Orleans and Atlanta , and equal
to the Black population of Manhattan, New York City. And, it’s happening all over the
country, because Black removal from the cities is the national policy of both corporate
parties.
The grand plan is to dilute the Black presence, to reverse the demography of the Seventies
by forcing Blacks out of the central cities and into suburbs and small towns, leaving the cities
to affluent whites and rendering Black people incapable of ever again launching a national
movement headquartered in the urban centers.
“Chicago lost 250,000 Black residents, one quarter of its total Black population.”
Black politics is in an existential crisis. This state of affairs has come about, not because
Black people failed to vote or to exercise political agency, but because they followed the lead
of a grasping and self-centered Black misleadership class that is hopelessly entangled with
the Democratic Party and its Wall Street and Silicon Valley funders—the same forces that
seek to neutralize the Black political presence in the U.S. Barack Obama gave the game
away in his address to the Democratic National Convention, in 2004: “There is no Black
America…there is only the United States of America.” But most Black people failed to
understand his meaning.
However, the folks that formed the Black Is Back Coalition, in 2009, had heard Obama, loud
and clear. There is little time left to preserve Black majorities in Baltimore, Birmingham,
Detroit, Cleveland, Savannah and Newark (it’s has already been lost in Washington, DC, and
will soon slip away in Atlanta), or to maintain strong pluralities in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and
Norfolk.
Black people can only maintain a powerful and secure presence in the cities through a
vibrant, independent, self-determinationist politics. Otherwise, Black dispersal will proceed
along its bloody, maddening course, and at a quickening pace.
That’s why the Black is Back Coalition is holding an Electoral School, April 7 to 9 , in St.
Louis, Missouri (which lost its slim Black majority in this century). The Coalition is guided by
a 19-point National Black Political Agenda for Self-Determination, a document that
addresses virtually every issue confronting Black people. Below are four points that are
particularly relevant to the push-out of Blacks from the cities:

Black Community Control of the Police. We demand the immediate withdrawal of all
domestic military occupation forces from Black communities. This democratic demand
assumes the ability of Black people to mobilize for our own security and to redefine the role
of the police so that it no longer functions as an agency imposed on us from the outside.
Roll Back and End Mass Black Incarceration. The U.S. mass Black incarceration regime
is designed to contain, terrorize and criminalize an entire people, with the result that one out
of eight prison inmates on the planet is a Black person in the U.S. As a minimal demand,
every U.S. incarcerating authority must take immediate steps to roll back the national prison
and jail population to 1972 levels, resulting in the release of 4 out of 5 current inmates in a
process overseen by representatives of the imprisoned peoples’ communities––primarily
people of color. As a maximum demand, all Africans must be immediately released from U.S.
prisons and jails and our community given the democratic right to determine their fate.
Halt Gentrification through the empowerment, stabilization and restoration of traditional
Black neighborhoods. Black people have the right to develop, plan and preserve our own
communities. No project shall be considered “development” that does not serve the interests
of the impacted population, nor should any people-displacing or otherwise disruptive project
be allowed to proceed without the permission of that population. Peoples that have been
displaced from our communities by public or private development schemes have the Right to
Return to our communities, from New Orleans to Harlem.
Right to Free Education through post-graduate level. Public schools must meet the
highest standards of excellence, under the supervision of educational boards directly elected
by the communities they serve. We oppose both for-profit schooling and philosophies of
teaching that put profit over human development, and we support democratic educational
values and strategies that empower students and their communities to determine their own
destinies. In the immediate term, Black people in the U.S. need education that facilitates our
liberation from white supremacy and corporate hegemony.
Make arrangements to attend the Black Is Back Coalition Electoral School. It’s a lot later than
you think.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted
at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com