The Corner

Chocolate City No More

I am prone to nostalgia. (For example, because I liked my own childhood I sometimes make the mistake of thinking the New York City of the 1970s wasn’t a crime-ridden cesspool.) So I understand why many black residents of Washington, D.C., are wistful about the decline in the black population. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. I don’t think the emigration of blacks has improved the city, I think the trends that have improved the city have caused some blacks to leave.

The rise of a black middle class was always going to send blacks out of Washington. That’s because blacks are just like whites and Hispanics etc. When they reach the middle class, they want middle class things — homes, yards, good schools, safe streets etc.

At the same time, the decline in crime has encouraged professional whites to move back into the city. The decline in crime is good and the inflow of educated and prosperous professionals is good, too.

I hardly think the romance of keeping Washington the “chocolate city” is worth the price of less prosperity for blacks and whites alike, and more crime for everyone.

Marion Barry, who presided over D.C.’s decline as mayor, is understandably (but not justifiably) furious at the fact that the black population is shrinking. “We’re going to stop this trend — gentrification,” he says in the Washington Post. “We can’t displace old-time Washingtonians.” 

It’s funny. In 1950, when D.C. stopped being a majority-white city, if someone took that position they’d be called racist.


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