I grew up in the most integrated area of St. Louis. Part of the reason my parents ended up buying in that area is because they couldn’t get into the area that they really wanted to be in [I knew part of the story before TNC’s article, and have been finding out the rest since]—and this was in the 1970s, some years before I was born. I’m really glad that my parents ended up in their not-first-choice area because if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And that’s all because the school district was great. That is only part of the story however.
When kids start kindergarten in this district, the elementary school they go to is truly racially mixed (and socioeconomically mixed too); 45% white (mostly Jewish), 45% black, 10% Asian and other [the St. Louis region does not have a significant Latino population]. Yet this really interesting thing happens between 5th and 6th grade. When a kid starts middle school in this same district, the percentages have changed; it is now 25% white, 65% black, 10% Asian and other. And it gets even more interesting between 8th and 9th grade; it becomes 10% white, 80% black, 10% Asian and other.
I do not understand why. The district produces more National Merit scholars than the pricey private schools in the area most years. It does produce the most National Achievement scholars in the area every year. There are an array of AP and other advanced level classes. And yet most of the white kids are gone by the time their cohort is supposed to enter high school.
White flight takes many different forms. And frankly, I’m tired of hearing the ‘our white flight is not their white flight’ explanation/defense (liberals don’t say it exactly like that, but that’s what it is).
I know that not every congregation that formed in the period of time that we call the “Fellowship Movement” formed because of white flight. I know that some of those congregations were the only ones in an area that were a refuge for those who were involved in the social movements of the times. But that wasn’t most.
I stand by my assertion that federal housing policy benefited the growth of Unitarianism (and later Unitarian Universalism) in both good and not-so-good ways. This is not an indictment (ok, maybe it is). But I think to ignore/dismiss this when talking about how and why Unitarian Universalism is the way it is and WHERE Unitarian Universalism is where it is does us all a disservice.
And now I am going to go back and finish my paper on interracial sex and the tv show Scandal. Maybe that will cause less consternation.