You are here: Home » History » White Flight and Black Ghettos: New Patterns of Race Riots

White Flight and Black Ghettos: New Patterns of Race Riots

The radicalism of the mid- to late 1960s reflected a growing acceptance of militancy in blacks. Leaders like Robert F. Williams, Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, and Stokely Carmichael called for self-defense initiatives and economic self-help for the black urban poor.

These endeavors reflected, perhaps, the notion that the civil rights movement had benefited the African American middle-class but had done little to improve the condition of the black masses. This circumstance was compounded by specific sociological phenomena that convulsed black communities around the country. One of the most significant responses to successful civil rights legislation and court rulings by whites was urban flight. As the doctrine of social integration became more of a reality in the United States, white Americans began leaving major cities and created exclusive all-white suburbs. In the wake of this considerable white flight, jobs, services, and tax funding for local schools disappeared. In addition, banks, grocery stores, and restaurants left inner city neighborhoods and relocated to the expanding white suburbs. This reshaping of the urban-suburban landscape across the country created what can be called the Doughnut Effect-essentially, once prosperous cities became impoverished, mostly black cores surrounded by affluent white suburban peripheries.

Thus, the ”black ghetto” was created. As high school dropout rates, unemployment, underemployment, crime, and drug use began to soar in inner-city ghettos, the hope that once provided impetus for the civil rights movement began to fade. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the last year of his life, sought to reorient the movement to deal with the growing problem of poverty in the United States. His ”Poor People’s Campaign” was short-lived, and no relief for the spreading problem of urban poverty seemed to be in sight. Combined with worsening economic conditions in black inner cities, police brutality became a growing issue. In addition to alleged beatings, a number of unarmed black men had been killed by white police officers in incidents that were later deemed justifiable homicides. Without hope, lacking any support from federal, state, or local government institutions, black urbanites created their own solution to the enormous problems they faced-urban rebellions. Beginning with the 1965 Watts riot in Los Angeles and continuing into the twenty-first century with the 2001 Cincinnati riot, a new pattern of racial strife emerged. In more than three dozen cases-including examples in Detroit, Michigan (1967); Augusta, Georgia (1970); Miami (1980) and Tampa, Florida (1987); Los Angeles, California (1992); and Cincinnati, Ohio (2001)-race riots or urban rebellions began in impoverished black communities typically after instances of police brutality.

The only exception to this rule was the 1992 Los Angeles riot, which was sparked after three white police officers were initially found not guilty of various charges in relation to the videotaped beating of an African American, Rodney King. The ensuing riot was linked more to the perception of injustice by an all white jury than to the actual beating, which occurred several months prior to the controversial ruling. In every case, however, black urban residents looted and burned businesses owned by non-blacks who reportedly had long histories of either not hiring African Americans or of treating black customers with disrespect. In addition, white motorists were attacked and white police officers and firefighters became targets of black rage.

It was in the aftermath of the 1967 urban rebellions in Newark, New Jersey, and Detroit, Michigan, that President Lyndon B. Johnson established the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, headed by Gov. Otto Kerner of Illinois. In their final report, published in 1968, the eight-member commission concluded as follows:

There was, typically, a complex relationship between the series of incidents and the underlying grievances. For example, grievances about allegedly abusive police practices, unemployment and underemployment, housing, and other conditions in the ghetto, were often aggravated in the minds of many Negroes by incidents involving the police, or the inaction of municipal authorities on Negro complaints about police action, unemployment, inadequate housing or other conditions.

In the estimation of the Kerner Commission, poverty, more than anything else, created the necessary conditions for the twenty-three urban riots that occurred between 1964 and 1967. In addition to poverty, the Kerner Commission cited white racism as a cause of urban rioting, noting that the United States was ”moving toward two societies, one black, one white-separate and unequal.” In fully implicating white Americans in the creation of black ghettos, the Kerner Commission created a long list of recommendations for government reform to address these issues. Although the Johnson administration did not enact any of the specific recommendations of the Kerner Commission, the concerns the report raised became a linchpin in Johnson’s ”War on Poverty” and his goal to create ”the Great Society.”

Liked it
User Comments
  1. Rionel "2tet" Belen Caldo

    On August 22, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Unity hampers discrimination! In Philippine Setting, it indirectly exists because we do have several tribes… However, we are tan (combination of white and black).

    Best regards and keep reading,
    Rionel “2tet”


    On October 6, 2008 at 12:55 am

  3. Blue Berry pie

    On February 19, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    is there anywhere you don’t like to spam?

  4. peter1589

    On June 17, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Quote: black urbanites created their own solution to the enormous problems they faced-urban rebellions

    Errrrrmmmmm … rebellion and rioting is by definition destructive. Hence it does not follow that such actions are creative (viz, black urbanites created).

    It does, however, follow that the white economic powerhouse which evaded the persistent felonious influences of America blacks had justification for creating safe neighborhoods away from black felonious influences. When have you ever heard of a hard working white going into black neighborhoods to burglarize a black home? Contrarily, when do we *NOT* daily read of blacks invading white neighborhoods and burglarizing homes?

    What the black, felonious mind cannot conceive, believe, or achieve is by nature the white industrious mind which continuously reinvents itself to provide solutions to human problems and profit thereby.

    The only solutions the black, felonious mind can conceive is the perpetuation of fornication, drug sales to kill the daily, minute-by-minute pain of being fundamentally worthless in a capitalistic economy, STD promotion, gang warfare and drive-by shootings.

    Oh. and shall we also ignore racist diatribes by such HBO stand-up comics as Chris Rock? Those are okay with you, right?

    But the fact that not a single black has the talent, industry, persistence and education to create a company or corporation which puts people like himself to work is somehow a white, racist problem?

    No, you idiots. Blacks should be able to perceive the patterns, trends and templates of business creation and funding just like whites do. But they don’t. And we run, and they fall into sociopathic chaos.

    But if none of you can see that trend, why should we believe you can see the trends and patterns of success necessary for business creation?

  5. peter1589

    On June 17, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Quote: … a number of unarmed black men had been killed by white police officers in incidents that were later deemed justifiable homicides

    Complaining, are you? Are you also aware that nationally, blacks made up 40 percent of all cop killers from 1994 to 2005, even though they are only 13.4 percent of the American population.

Post Comment
Powered by Powered by Triond