The Urban Plantation: Racism & Colonialism in the Post Civil Rights Era

By Robert Staples | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
The Urban Plantation

Some years ago, the city was proclaimed the black man's land. Due to concentration in large urban centers and the power of numbers in achieving political power, it was predicted that blacks could obtain through a geopolitical strategy what centuries of protest and petition could not do. Such a dream has become a nightmare as America's cities have increasingly become cesspools of crime, unemployment, family breakdown and physical blight.

The prediction of cities as the black man's Mecca ignored the fundamental relationship of neo-colonialism between the black and white communities and the institutionalized, unequal distribution of political and economic power. A most dramatic sign of the future of cities is the rapid increase of black middle class flight to the suburbs. Across the the country the number of blacks in suburbs increased 19.5 percent in the early 1970's, in contrast to only 7.3 percent for whites. Between 1981 and 1982 the suburbs received a net black migration of 318,000. However, this migration does not mean that racial segregation in residential housing has ended. In many cases black suburbanization is simply the result of central city black neighborhoods expanding across city boundaries and into the inner suburbs-- often older suburbs vacated by whites that have begun to deteriorate.1

Originally, blacks were a peasant group who made their living on the land. Around the beginning of the 20th century certain events precipitated a massive black migration to the cities of the North and South. Between 1910 and 1920, a complex of push-and-pull factors propelled over a million blacks out of the countryside into the nation's cities. Among these factors were natural disasters, the mechanization of agriculture and World War I, which created a demand for labor and industrial expansion in the North. There have been additional waves of black

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