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Black Flight

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Black Flight

You ever get on a plane and as you head to your economy seat slow down to look at the people in first class? I mean, we are all heading to the same place and at least for the course of the flight, we all live in the same neighborhood. But up front, they got options. More than you can imagine. Back in your hood, the economy section, you gotta scrap with the flight attendant for a pillow and pay her two bucks for headphones so you can watch the same channel as everyone in your section. Up front they have big screens on each seat and can order films, watch news, and connect their computers to exclusive wifi.

Over the course of the flight, there are several reminders that you ain’t up front. When the peanuts are being handed out, you can see the passengers receive champagne and warm face cloths.  While you are practically living on top of your neighbor in the project-like accommodations of economy class, they have a ton of extra perks.  At the end of your flight, you push forward through slow people hoping to escape your little cubbyhole as soon as possible. Up front, they are taking their time. There are empty mini-wine bottles, thicker covers, eye masks, extra pillows, and I’ll be damned, is that a New York Times?

If a six hour flight can make you feel poor and shut out, imagine living years, generations just on the outskirts of all the world has to offer and you’ll understand that this generation’s great Black flight, the “second migration”, is not really some grand evolution of America.  Nor is it some delayed recognition on the part of blacks of the benefits of nationalism and community building.  Blacks aren’t rushing to get back to their own on purpose.  And for those who live closer to whites, they still aren’t making it, just closer to first class than before.  But still, on the other side of the tracks.

The news since the release of the Census data reads like a turnabout on the segregated history of our past. More people are identifying as mixed race, more interracial couples are together, and more neighborhoods are mixing. Things are a changin’ but are they really for the better? And is integration a sign of cross-race understanding or are blacks opting to mix because with white folks come all the perks; good schools, speed bumps, boutique grocers, lower crime rates.  I have to wonder, are all these black people moving back south, all these black people getting into interracial relationships, all these black people moving to the suburbs because they are choosing or because they are running from lack of opportunity and access?

The suburbs of Chicago, (i.e. Dolton) were once desired enclaves by a number of families living in the inner city. They wanted green lawns and lower crime rates and dare I say, fewer black people. Hell, if I can’t live in a high rise, then I’ll take the suburbs. But you know the saying, “wherever you go, there you are.” Once the black people got out to the suburbs they realized they had little access to the CTA and the Pace bus wasn’t exactly a serious transportation service. Suddenly, the jobs dry up as the white folks move out and then the good schools disappear and everything else.

There is a difference between white flight and black flight. One is a power move, a choice, and often demonstrates a certain kind of financial flexibility. The other, well, the black kind of flight is most often a fright thing. After years of trying to obtain that American dream, black folks are just tired. Tired of not getting that mortgage, tired of not getting their kids in good schools, tired of no resources.  Integration can’t be promoted as this triumphant thing when it represents the only way we can make it as a people.  Neither can segregation. The real power that white people have is they can make it almost anywhere and with almost anyone.