Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Where Have All the Black Folk Gone?

Headlines from The San Francisco Chronicle:

S.F. moves to stem African American exodus

Critics say effort to reverse longtime trend may be too late

Gee, could it have anything to do with the cost of housing? The lousy public schools? The fog?

"Hans Johnson, the demographer, said many African Americans leave San Francisco for outlying suburbs when they have the means, just like members of other racial groups, in search of more of the trappings of middle-class life. Although it is virtually impossible to track where people go, he said it is safe to say that Bay Area cities with growing black populations are seeing those gains because of San Francisco's loss."

But it turns out that San Francisco isn't the only city in the Bay Area where African Americans are leaving.

"From 1995 to 2000, Oakland and neighborhoods of Los Angeles lost tens of thousands of black residents. Not one West Coast city made a list of the nation's top cities for African Americans compiled last year by Black Enterprise magazine based on income potential, the cost of living, proximity to employers and housing costs. Most are in the South and most -- coincidentally or not -- have black mayors."

But, of course, The City that can't keep a mass of bike riders under control one Friday night per month, has to do something!

"San Francisco officials are now calling the thousands of black people who have moved away "the African American diaspora," and the mayor's office is putting together a task force to figure out what can be done to preserve the remaining black population and cultivate new residents."

I was surprised to read this, however: "Though San Francisco is still often seen as diverse, it was 53 percent white and 33.5 percent Asian in 2005, with Chinese Americans accounting for about two-thirds of Asian residents."

The article doesn't indicate how many of these are in traditional families. Nor does the article point out the overall decline in San Francisco's population over the years. Nor does the article mention Hispanics/Latinos and Pacific Islanders/Filipinos--both groups with a significant population.

Even the Social Planners admit they may not be able to do much about the problem.

"'This is a concern because this city values having a diverse population,' said Greg Wagner, a program director at SPUR, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. 'But even if you can identify the causes, it is hard to know what you would do to stop it. It is economics combined with cultural things that are tough to sort out. There are restrictions in this state about what you can do that is racially based.'"

Not only are there restrictions on what you can do, there are restrictions on what you can't do. You can't force people to stay if they want to move. You can't force people to stay in San Francisco.

Of course, no one worried much about the Irish leaving the Mission District or the Italians leaving North Beach or the Chinese moving out from the Chinatown ghetto to the Richmond District. Many of the Filipinos in my parish moved from San Francisco to the near suburbs, then crossed the Bay.

Why did these groups move?

For many, it was affordable housing. They wanted a house with a yard and the weather to sit in the yard without wearing a winter jacket and stocking cap. Jobs moved when commercial real estate became too expensive in San Francisco and it was cheaper to build a new "campus" out in the boondocks. Plus, companies like Chevron and AT&T and PeopleSoft discovered that suburban cities didn't charge them a payroll tax. So they could add more workers. There is a new "Silicon Valley" along I-680, as well as new homes and better schools.

Growing communities need truck drivers and teachers and sanitation workers. They need utility crews and grocery store clerks and car salesmen. They need doctors and dentists and orthodontists and chiropracters. They need front office workers and dental hygenists and medical records technicians.

Follow the money. And the weather. It's as simple as that.

Oh. And another thing...

A couple of weeks ago my Girl Scout troop participated in an Orienteering run. At the run were about 50 or 60 high school kids from San Francisco. They were well-behaved, polite, and they not only picked up after themselves, they picked up the entire picnic area.

They were members of Junior ROTC. You know, the group that is being forced to disband at the end of the year because "it's too militaristic."

Better, I guess, that these kids learn tolerance and compassion from the nimrods at Critical Mass, yeah?