Posted on November 29, 2005

What Flight?

Thomas Sowell,, Nov. 24

“The New White Flight” was the title of an eye-opening article in the November 20th issue of the Wall Street Journal. It was about a high school in Cupertino, California, where a growing Asian American student population is causing rising academic standards — and causing many white parents to withdraw their children from the school and some to move out of the community.


The phrase “white flight” is completely misleading. All over the world and throughout history, groups have collected together with people like themselves, whether by race, income, education, religion, or any number of other characteristics. There is nothing unique when white people do it.

A century or so ago, when Polish immigrants began moving into various Detroit neighborhoods, blacks began moving out. The research of pioneering black sociologist E. Franklin Frazier showed long ago that Harlem and other black communities were internally divided, with people of different income, education, and behavior patterns living in distinctly different zones.

When Eastern European Jewish immigrants began arriving in the United States and some began moving into German Jewish neighborhoods in Chicago, the German Jews began moving out. Similar patterns have been found among all sorts of groups.

When blacks move into a neighborhood and whites move out, that is something visible to the naked eye but there is nothing unique about such “white flight.” The phrase is misleading for the same reason that saying white people have toenails would be misleading. It is true in itself but suggests something unique that is in fact common to human beings of all sorts.


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