Integration and Housing
To the Editor:
COMMENTARY rendered another significant service by publishing Erwin Knoll’s progress report, “Washington: Showcase of Integration” (March). Mr. Knoll solidly refutes the myth that school desegregation has transformed the nation’s capital into an all-Negro city.
Many of our lawmakers need to learn the truth about Washington. In a recent television debate between Senator Herman Talmadge of Georgia and Senator Jacob Javits of New York, Senator Talmadge contended—contrary to the facts—that school desegregation has resulted in increased community tensions, lower standards in the schools, and a mass exodus of white residents. Tragically, those espousing segregation have been able to use Congressional committees and the very floor of the Congress to present this warped picture. A sub-committee of the House of Representatives, dominated by Southern congressmen, who set out to prove integration a failure, gained wide publicity with its report to that effect. The minority’s dissent was largely ignored.
We were gratified to see Mr. Knoll discuss the housing situation. The so-called “flight” of whites out of central cities since World War II has many causes, and is as prevalent in the South with segregated schools as it is in communities with racially integrated schools. Among the causes of this population movement are a growing middle-class with an accompanying desire for home ownership, an increased number of children, high city rents and a short supply of large apartments, the general deterioration of city services, and identification of suburban living with the “good-life-for-the-children.”
Manifestly, the same feelings and desires are present among middle-class nonwhites, but they are generally excluded from the suburbs by racially restrictive real-estate practices.
The irrelevance of race to this whole process is now becoming evident as a growing number of white families move back to the city when well-located, attractive, and reasonably-priced accommodations—near good schools—become available. A few current examples of the willingness of white families to secure housing in integrated neighborhoods may be found in Richmond, California; University City in Detroit; Prairie Shores in Chicago, and several developments in New York City. We are confident in predicting that, if Washington’s new redevelopment housing meets the standards of these neighborhoods, there will be no shortage of white families moving in.
National Committee Against
Discrimination in Housing