The New Haven, CT NAACP has looked at the statistical trends that they feel will drive the future of African-American prosperity in New Haven. What they have seen does not make them happy. In an effort to draw attention to this set of troubling tends; they regrettably entitled their recent report Urban Apartheid. This I find to be historically inaccurate and unjustly polemical in nature. I will lay out my reasons for saying so below.
Before laying out my objections to the title and the demeanor of the report, it is only just that I point out that any community leader should be concerned by what the report contains. Assuming any accuracy or quality control in data normalization procedures at all, this report portrays a set of trends that should predict underperformance in nearly every facet of American life for at least the next two decades.
In New Haven, 66 percent of white students are reading at goal level by third grade, versus 26 percent of black students. Ninety-eight percent of families with incomes of over $50,000 have access to the internet, versus 78 percent of families below that income level, in greater New Haven. Twelve percent of minorities say they have trouble paying their rent or mortgage, versus just 4 percent of non-minorities in the greater New Haven metropolitan area. Median income for black families in New Haven County has dropped $9,000 since 2008, compared to a drop of less than $3,000 for white families, who have an average income that’s nearly twice as high as black families. Black people have less access to transportation, and thus have less access to jobs and longer commutes when they do have jobs.
These conditions are unpleasant. Like many things in life they are obviously not fair. However, one reason the accusation of Apartheid is utterly unjust and polemical stems from what South African Apartheid truly was. Apartheid was De Jure Segregation. Wikipedia gives us a description of how politically-mandated segregation worked in South Africa.
Racial segregation in South Africa began in colonial times under Dutch and British rule. However, apartheid as an official policy was introduced following the general election of 1948. New legislation classified inhabitants into four racial groups (“native”, “white”, “coloured”, and “Asian”), and residential areas were segregated, sometimes by means of forced removals. Non-white political representation was completely abolished in 1970, and starting in that year black people were deprived of their citizenship, legally becoming citizens of one of ten tribally based self-governing homelands called bantustans, four of which became nominally independent states. The government segregated education, medical care, beaches, and other public services, and provided black people with services inferior to those of white people.
On the one hand, the director of the New Haven, CT NAACP feels perfectly entitled to accusing the State of Connecticut of having used the machinery of its government to force African-Americans into low income ghettos completely against their will.** Yet asking him to which Bantustan he and his family were assigned to by the state would undoubtedly get you sued. This accusation of apartheid also totally contradicts the most recent US Census. If African-Americans are being forced into apartheid, they aren’t getting forced onto the train at gunpoint and shipped to New Haven, CT.
Nearly 60 percent of all people who reported Black lived in ten states. The ten states with the largest Black alone-or-in-combination populations in 2010 were New York (3.3 million), Florida (3.2 million), Texas (3.2 million), Georgia (3.1 million), California (2.7 million), North Carolina (2.2 million), Illinois (2.0 million), Maryland (1.8 million), Virginia (1.7 million), and Ohio (1.5 million).
What New Haven, CT struggles with is De Facto Segregation. People of different races do not want to deliberately live around people who are not like themselves. This trend can be manifested very aggressively (See Freddie’s, White Interloper, Al Sharpton). It can be manifested in a defensive posture reminiscent of a threatened hedgehog, (See LA Korea Town During The Rodney King Riots). Or it can happen, quietly, steadily and a little at a time (See White Flight from almost every major SMSA in America).
I fight hard not to treat the New Haven, CT NAACP’s accusation of Urban Apartheid with complete and utter contempt. Reverend Al Sharpton wanted all those white interlopers out of there. He didn’t want to see any of the others competing economically with the brothers. The white interloper has packed his bags. Reverend Al should be enjoying the fruits of his victory. He and his allies now own New Haven, CT and about 40 other SMSAs* just like it. He should go hold a polka dance. He won!
So why don’t people of any race want to live in New Haven, CT? According to neighborhoodscout.com, the reasons are compelling. Under crime, New Haven, CT is only safer than 4% of the other cities in America. And then there is the issue of property values. A home bought in New Haven, CT has lost 22.70% of its value in the past 5 years. Nobody is forcing anyone to live in New Haven. The problem facing this city involves keeping anyone with ways and means from expending them to buy a ticket out of town.
The New Haven, CT NAACP has reported on what they call Urban Apartheid in their city. The facts and figures in the report paint a very grim and depressing picture. I do not begrudge them their angst and fear over what these facts and figures say and represent. Somebody has to have the guts to call the baby ugly. On that score the New Haven NAACP has done good work.
The problem here comes from the assigning of blame to external factors. Nobody makes Black people live in New Haven. Nobody makes non-Black people pack their bags and leave. Calling this Apartheid is dishonest and unfair. This is De Facto not De Jure Segregation. If the New Haven, CT wants their town to look like America, they need it to act like America and be a safe and prosperous place for people to live, work and raise their families. If the municipal leadership of New Haven, CT can’t accomplish this, De Facto Segregation will become the future of their once great city. It is not South African Apartheid if nobody wants to move in next door.
*-Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area – (Census-speak for big city).
**-Referring to all actual racial segregation as a product of an Apartheid system.