Geography, Safety, and White Flight

July 22nd, 2009  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  1 Comment

It’s after bedtime and things I’ve been thinking about all day seem to be converging.  One of the biggest changes in moving to Chicago is hearing about shootings on a daily basis.  I found this map today and I don’t know how to interpret it, but it’s staggering, horrible, and also engrossing. I can’t help but overlay the map with my hasty impressions about the different racial and class makeups of neighborhoods across the city.

View Chicago homicides map in a larger map

The transit ride is about an hour to and from work but it doesn’t feel oppressive. It helps me block off time for reading and I can finally get down to finishing the book Sundown Towns. The added dimension of reading it now is that I get to also see the flip side of white flight: the concentration of Black residents in cities rather than their absence in certain suburbs or rural areas. Thinking about race and technology, I came across this quote from interviews with youth conducted by Danah Boyd:

Tara (16, Michigan): [Facebook] kind of seemed safer, but I don’t know like what would make it safer, like what main thing. But like, I don’t know, it just seems like everything that people say, it seems safer.

This sentiment refers to a digital geography, but it is so familiar to the way that people talk about safety in towns and cities. It is easy to ridicule those with these attitudes as paranoid or even prejudiced. The problem is not that concern for safety is unwarranted, but that segregation has ensured that everyone loses the ability to realistically assess safety and move towards a safer world/