Demographics And Politics

As the results of the Trump- delayed census have emerged, we’ve learned that American diversity is both growing and shifting.

The overview–the national picture–is considerably less White, and that reality is further enraging the too-plentiful numbers of White Supremicists among us. Their hysteria–not unlike a child’s tantrum–is likely to have some ugly political repercussions. We can only hope that, in the scheme of things and the sweep of history, those repercussions are temporary.

When the picture focuses on distribution rather than on aggregate numbers, things get more interesting. Charles Blow has provided a rundown of those numbers in a recent column, and the basic thrust is that Black people are moving out of what were dismissively called the “inner cities.”

The term “inner city” has long been used as a derisive euphemism for Black — poor, blighted and in distress. But many inner cities in the North and West are becoming less and less Black because Black people are moving out.

Black populations in what were considered to be Black strongholds have been dwindling, and that has been happening all over the country. There has been a reverse migration wave of Black people from the North and West moving back to the South. Blow goes through an extensive list of cities that have lost Black populations.

Among the most interesting:

Detroit, once the Blackest big city in America, home of Motown, dropped from 82 percent Black in 2010 to 77 percent Black in 2020. The Hispanic, white and Asian populations all grew in the city over that period.

New York City, with two million Black residents, more than any other city in America, saw its Black population fall by 4.5 percent over the past decade. This came on the heels of the Black population declining 5.1 percent the previous decade, the first drop in the number of Black residents in recent history.

Harlem, according to the 2020 census, is now just 37% Black. Harlem!

Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles–Blow provides the numbers showing diminished Black population. He also shares the numbers showing the growth of Black population in the American South.

These shifts don’t mean that there are now fewer cities with Black majorities; the number is on the rise, as Brookings pointed out in 2019. It’s just that 90 percent of majority Black cities are now in the South. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that much of the municipal South is Black.

Ironically, Selma and Montgomery, Ala.; Jackson and Philadelphia, Miss.; Little Rock, Ark.; and Atlanta —places we associate with some of the worst episodes of America’s racist past– now have Black mayors.

All of this is politically relevant.

For a number of years, Republican Party leaders have been reacting to predictions that “demography is destiny”–fears that the growing diversity of America (and the decidedly Democratic lean of the country’s youth)–will soon make the GOP electorally irrelevant. That fear is what has prompted the GOP’s extreme gerrymandering, vote suppression tactics and efforts to control who counts the votes.

The movement of Black Americans out of easily demonized metropolitan centers changes the calculus. It’s harder to whip up fear of “those people” who live in the centers of large cities when so many of “those people” are White, young, upwardly mobile Starbucks drinkers. And as Stacy Abrams and her fellow-activists showed in Georgia, the previously solid South, which could be counted on to vote White, whatever party was carrying the banner of White Supremacy at any given time, is no longer so solid. It isn’t just cultural change, welcome as that is. It’s demographic shift. 

Blow didn’t include cities in Texas in his recitation, and it is likely that increasing demographic diversity there is due more to the growth of Latino populations than an influx  of Blacks, but when we think of states south of the Mason-Dixon Line currently headed by stubbornly reactionary Republicans, Texas certainly comes to mind. Whether Abbott’s frantic efforts to suppress minority votes in the face of demographic change will keep Texas in the Red column for another few years is anyone’s guess.

Blow says the new distribution of America’s Black population is producing “chocolate chip cities.” If–as sociologists tell us–bigotry is reduced by familiarity with members of previously marginalized populations, those “chocolate chip” cities bode well for civic amity.



  1. and there it is….the white folk cannot believe they are becoming the minority, and God forbid, grab your pearls…. a minority to black folk.

  2. I have never looked forward to receiving my census form but never failed to complete it with all information required. This was lengthy and time consuming and I understood the importance of the census and what the information would be used for. Trump’s 2020 census form arrived in the mail and I expected the same information would be needed, better late than never? It didn’t take me 5 minutes to complete the form and ready it for USPS pickup the following day.

    After a few basic personal questions regarding my home address, the first question was “How many Hispanics reside at your address?”. The second question was “How many Hispanics not listed in Question 1 reside at your address?” The form continued with questions up to 10 people; “What is their race and ethnic origin?” Because I live alone; I had no racist information to offer Donald Trump to make decisions which will affect our neighborhoods, our lives and our governing bodies at local, state and federal levels.

  3. First off, the 2020 Census was a giant fiasco under Donald’s presidency. Some of it intentionally, and don’t forget we had Covid mixed in as well. So we had thousands of missing college kids from our census in our little community the Mayor is trying to fix. I can only imagine in places like Harlem.

    That said, I have heard that POC are moving back to the south because there are more job opportunities as they increase. So, therefore, the hiring process gets tilted back in their favor.

    I can only imagine the poor whites in the south loving that, but they mostly live in the rural communities. It should make for interesting gerrymandering. Also, the Red Governors have been implementing some wild stuff at the statehouse level to reduce the impact of large numbers of POC in their districts. Even if the D’s win those districts, some electors will overturn it.

    Whatever they’ve been up to with the Koch brothers, we’re going to see it explode in 2022 and 2024. Don’t expect to know any results the evening of Election Day. The judges will be calling elections from now on in some of these districts. In AZ, they are still recounting votes while they guzzle Ivermectin. 😉

  4. When Larry Elder becomes the new governor of California next month and Hershel Walker becomes the new senator from Georgia in 2022, conservatives will rejoice! What say you?

  5. “Harlem, according to the 2020 census, is now just 37% Black. Harlem!”
    As a New Yorker, I am not at all surprised. Developers have completely gentrified Harlem. Most Black New Yorkers ( and many white New Yorkers), can no longer afford to live there.

  6. I am looking forward to seeing the gerrymandering map results to capture whites and remove other races to make voter suppression easier for Republicans. The location of polling places for the 2022 Primary should also be interesting; mine changed in November 2016 to a smaller setting and added 1 or 2 precincts. It changed again for the 2021 election due to the Pandemic.

    The conditions for Absentee Ballots will be a continuing battle due to the changed racial demographics and the continuing struggle to keep our Post Offices open and working.

  7. What was interesting to me was the data that was just released only contained population numbers and race and not any of the income levels or education levels etc…. Apparently the only legally required data for redistricting is count and race. The reason given for not releasing the other data is the same reason given for the census numbers being late. It takes time to check and verify the accuracy of the data. This may bode well for redistricting. This means that some of the laser focused gerrymandering tools may not have all of the data they used to using.

    I don’t know if this is political maneuver, or just an unintended consequence of a bungled census process, but I may have to say Thanks you Mr Trump.

    As to the 2020 census, what I remember is that the only question I got was race, and then once I checked white, it wanted to know what kind of white I was, or at least my ethnic origins. I am not sure what the point of that was. I can see how asking about ethnic origins would open things up to America not looking so white because things are never so (sorry for the phrase) black and white.

  8. I was surprised when I learned that more African-Americans lived in the South than the North. I recall learning that LBJ stated that democrats would lose the South when the Voting Rights law was enacted. And they did. But those democrats were really just conservatives who did not wish to identify with the party of Lincoln.

    Pike Township which has a large African-American population has been lumped in with Hamilton County. Yes, let’s disenfranchise black voters. Well, time for African-Americans to move into Hamilton county. Well, that is, if they can afford the McMansions there.

  9. Trevor Noah explained that Apartheid South Africa faced the same problem: Whites were outnumbered by majority Blacks by 5:1.

    Part of the Afrikaners’ solution was keeping the Black majority divided, fighting each other, and suppressed by laws that favored, or disfavored, certain classes.

    Afrikaners kept citizens continuously fearful that if they failed to obey their government, their status would be lowered and rights to live, work, and be schooled would be lost.

    Per Mr. Noah, in designing South African apartheid, the Afrikaners surveyed various world slavery systems, including US slavery, to create the system that afforded Afrikaners maximum control over their Blacks and Coloreds.

    Wasn’t the Reagan Administration an ally of South Africa?

    Is US government today contemplating laws that will create separate classes of privilege?

  10. I became increasingly excited as I read on, and read Charles Blow’s piece. Having read some of “The Color of Law…,” it seems that the work of the ghetto creators (recliners, etc.) is being slowly undone, much to my liking.
    Jan, I’m originally from NYC, and worked in Harlem fora while in the mid 1960’s. Gentrification had not yet begun, as best as I can recall, but some of the old brownstone real estate was marvelous. Recall, that at one time Harlem was a very exclusive area built for wealthier whites.
    I can easily see reactionaries, and their ilk, freaking out about the population shifts
    Whatever the problems may be with the census data, if these perceived shifts are actual they seem to bode well.

  11. A lot of people assume that Republicans not only engage in political gerrymandering, but also use gerrymandering to try to limit the influence of minorities, and, particularly, African-Americans. Not so fast. There has always been an unholy alliance between Republicans and black Democrats. Republicans love the legal requirement that they draw majority black, Hispanic districts whenever possible because that allows them to pack Democrats into fewer districts. So while the number of elected African-American Democrats increase, the number of Democratic seats overall decrease. The migration of African-Americans to the suburbs, integrating formerly white neighborhoods, has made this type of gerrymandering more challenging.

    Pike Township is an interesting place. While we have a sizable African-American population living here, they are solidly in the middle class. Not a lot of really high end neighborhoods, but, virtually no blighted residential areas. Pike Township used to be home to the most interracial married couples in the country. Not sure if that’s still true.

    I moved into my Pike Township neighborhood in 1989. Then, or shortly thereafter, the neighborhood was majority black. In the last decade or so, the neighborhood has returned to being majority white, although the number of races/ethnicities represented in the neighborhood has actually increased. More diversification. It’s all good.

    African-Americans in neighborhoods like mine have moved further out into the suburbs and into counties like Hamilton County. In terms of politics, the Democratic vote in Hamilton County, particularly Carmel, Westfield and Fishers, has gone way up.. D’s could be just a few years away from electing mayors in those cities. Much of that though though is due to wealthy, well-educated white suburbanites turning against the increasing populist Republican Party. That has accelerated in the Trump era.

  12. My main hope is memories of Republicans redrawing the Council districts in Indianapolis after the last census, and then getting rid of the four “at large” seats because the Democrats took them. Their control of the Council didn’t last that long.

    To an extent, I have to agree with Paul. I have always thought that “minority majority” districts was a bad idea, either based on the idea that people only vote for “people who look like them”, or the desire by some minority politicians to be “king of the ghetto or barrio”.

    For the record, I have been represented at various times by John Conyers, Cardiss Collins, Danny Davis, and Andre Carson – all African American. That probably covers a third of my voting years — and I wish Andre was my Representative now. For those who don’t know me, I am not African American. I like to point out – I don’t think they have ever elected an un-tall, overweight, myopic, middle class, Jewish scientist, and probably never will — so much for “someone who looks like me”.

    Another way to draw districts would be to slice Indianapolis into pieces that extend from the city through the suburbs into rural areas. Then we might find Representatives that cared about all of their constituents — but probably not. Still, it might make Congress more representative of the population.

    How much the Republicans squeeze out of their gerrymandering remains to be seen, but again with a nod to Paul, if the State Legislature gets to replace the voters choice, it may not matter.

  13. Like Mitch, I’m very optimistic about the eventual outcome of a population ”chocolate chip.” If so many people of color are moving to the South (a) it could have a powerful impact on politics there and (b) possibly help remove some of the DINGBAT ”leadership” who are doing such damage.

    Hoping for the best.

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