The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and the Theory of White Flight
In this crazy, mixed up environment we are living in of late, it is difficult to tell which claims may be legitimate and which ones aren’t. Sometimes, in the process of trying to find truth, we learn something new.
The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus filed a lawsuit Monday against the state of Georgia seeking to dissolve the city charters of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton and Chattahoochee Hills. Further, the lawmakers, joined by civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph Lowery, aim to dash any hopes of a Milton County.
The lawsuit, filed in a North Georgia U.S. District Court Monday, claims that the state circumvented the normal legislative process and set aside its own criteria when creating the “super-majority white ” cities within Fulton and DeKalb counties. The result, it argues, is to dilute minority votes in those areas, violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
“This suit is based on the idea that African Americans and other minorities can elect the people of their choice,” said Democratic State Sen. Vincent Fort.
Fulton County is 44.5% white and 44.1% black.
DeKalb County is 54% black and 33.3% white.
Sandy Springs, created in 2005, currently part of Fulton County, is 65% white and 20% black
Milton, formed a year later, currently part of Fulton County, is 76.6% white and 9% black
Johns Creek, also formed that year, currently part of Fulton County, is 63.5% white and 9.2% black
Chattahoochee Hills, formed in 2007, currently in Fulton County, is 68.6% white and 28% black
Dunwoody, created in 2008, currently in DeKalb County, is 69.8% white and 12.6% black
(These statistics are based on the 2010 census results)
Sandy Springs, Milton, Johns Creek, Dunwoody and Chattahoochee Hills want to withdraw from Fulton and DeKalb County and establish a new county called Milton County. In light of recent census evaluations, this could be an opportunity for them to do so.
At this point, it appears that establishment of a new county, Milton County, might require that the state go through the process of preclearance defined in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to obtain approval from the Department of Justice, but the GLBC could have difficulty in proving its claim that the state has violated any laws.
Emory University law professor Michael Kang said the case is unique because the Voting Rights Act focuses on redistricting, whereas this lawsuit challenges the legality of cities. Kang, who has not reviewed the case in its entirety, said the plaintiffs will likely have to show evidence of discriminatory purpose to have a strong claim. (emphasis mine)
What evidence of discriminatory purpose could the GLBC present that would cause the court to rule in their favor? That depends on whether or not the theory of “white flight” is taken into consideration as evidence in the case.
The simple definition of “white flight” is that it is “the sociological and demographic term denoting a trend wherein whites leave urban communities as the minority population increases.”
The theory of “white flight” originates from the 1950s and 1960s. It contends that financial institutions owned or operated primarily by white people were willing to lend housing funds to white people seeking to live in the suburbs but refused to do the same for black people. This led to redlining, mortgage discrimination, racially-restrictive covenants, and environmental racism , “all of which deny black people their chance to obtain the American dream”.
The theory of “white flight” also supports the belief that suburbanization by white people leads to urban decay. Urban decay is described as “the sociological process whereby a city, or part of a city, falls into disrepair and decrepitude — depopulation, economic restructuring, abandoned buildings, high local unemployment, fragmented families, political disenfranchisement, crime, and a desolate, inhospitable city landscape. White flight’s draining of a city’s tax base is one cause” (emphasis mine)
Even more telling of how much emphasis is being placed on the theory of “white flight” is this description of a book written by Kevin Kruse entitled White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism.
Challenging the conventional wisdom that white flight meant nothing more than a literal movement of whites to the suburbs, this book argues that it represented a more important transformation in the political ideology of those involved. In a provocative revision of postwar American history, Kruse demonstrates that traditional elements of modern conservatism, such as hostility to the federal government and faith in free enterprise, underwent important transformations during the postwar struggle over segregation. Likewise, white resistance gave birth to several new conservative causes, like the tax revolt, tuition vouchers, and privatization of public services. Tracing the journey of southern conservatives from white supremacy to white suburbia, Kruse locates the origins of modern American politics. (emphasis mine)
If the theory of “white flight” is taken into consideration as fact in the lawsuit that has been filed by the GLBC, does this imply that the white citizens of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton and Chattahoochee Hills deliberately conspired with the State of Georgia to violate the law? If the theory of “white flight” is used as evidence to support a claim by the GLBC, could it also be said in counter-arguments that the GLBC is resistant to the establishment of Milton County because of the impact that “white flight” would have on the county’s tax base?
What implications might the “white flight” theory have for other white citizens in this country? Does it mean a white person has to gain permission before they move from a certain area?
I still have many questions that are unanswered about this topic, but I’ll be watching to see what takes place as this case unfolds in Georgia.