Race and Space: What Really Drives Metropolitan Growth

I recently met with a high-ranking administrator in a large, predominantly African-American city to discuss the problems that cities like his face, from failing school systems, depopulation, and business and job loss to the suburbs, to a housing crisis marked by boarded-up houses and vacant lots. I suggested to the administrator, whom I will call Dr. Jones, that one of the problems facing central cities and older-ring suburbs is the constant pulling of resources away from the region’s core and the deployment of these resources to the outer edges of the metropolit an area, or put succinctly, sprawl. Dr. Jones agreed and added that sprawl can be fully understood only in racial terms: the developing outer-ring is always upper middle class and white.

I asserted that the city and older suburbs must find a way to coordinate and develop a regional strategy to benefit from the resources that are spread unevenly throughout the region, reverse the trend of fragmentation or isolationism amongst municipalities, and halt the pull of resources. The idea of coordinating with the suburbs disturbed Dr. Jones: “White people in the suburbs are hostile to the city largely because the city is black. They will only work with the city if they think they can take it over. They are racist, I don’t trust them, and I won’t work with them.”