White Flight

It’s actually as it sounds. In many neighborhoods—including mine— a lot of middle class white people started leaving and heading out to the suburbs. I didn’t want to find the answer by studying Census data. Instead, I wanted a personal account.

So, I went to my neighbor, a man who is 93 years old and has been living in the same house since it was built. He explained everything to me. A lot of his former friends were using the pretext that they had enough money to move out. But the real reason is more sinister: according to him, his friends were afraid of the influx of minority groups. I was a bit shocked, even though I was expecting such an answer.

He said that our neighborhood didn’t change that much, except for the increased number of Asians. He said that if I ever wanted to look at such drastic changes in a neighborhood, then I should go to Canarsie.

Being a man of ambition, I embarked on a journey. One Friday at Union Square, I decided to finally go on the L train. I have been on the L train before to get to Williamsburg, but I never took it to the last stop. The ride was rather surreal. The view was amazing. You can see beautiful buildings and amazing train stations in terms of structure and art (Broadway-Junction had to be my favorite spot). At one time, I saw that I was the only white person. I was a bit scared, but I was even more scared when I got off the last stop. I didn’t know where to go and I stood out like a sore thumb. After ten minutes of trying to get directions from a Caribbean restaurant, I found the bus I needed. When I was finally in my neighborhood, I told my neighbor that I was just in Canarsie and told him of my experience. He laughed and told me that Canarsie used to be filled with Italians, Irish, and Jews.

Then I asked him, “Why didn’t you leave?”

He replied, “This home is my life. No matter what happens, I would never leave Brooklyn!”

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5 Responses to White Flight

  1. Melody Mark says:

    I like how you travelled to Canarsie to personally look at this neighborhood. Also, I think it’s very natural for people to want to live in an area with people of their own race. Seeing the cultural differences may intimidate some people, leading them to move out of these neighborhoods.

  2. Professor Bernstein says:

    Quite an adventure! Your first-person account is compelling!

  3. nastassiashcherbatsevich says:

    The last sentence of this post was extremely heartwarming. I commend you for taking time to research your topic before including it in a post; it really provided a personal feel. What you and Melody say is true, most people want to be surrounded by those like them. When you mentioned that people move to the suburbs, though, my mind went to a conversation that I had with my neighbor. She used to live in the Bronx but moved to Orange County when she got married because “it was time to settle down and have children”. New York City is amazing for its diversity and prices (as the price of produce is considerably cheaper than in other parts of New York), but there are some advantages to having a backyard and fresh air. That may be one of the reasons why people move, but your reason is probably the biggest one.

  4. Joseph Maugeri says:

    Most of my family was from Canarsie. It is amazing to see how much things can change. It is very sociological when you delve deep into it.

  5. vivianwu says:

    I like how you actually went out to explore this neighborhood after hearing about it from your neighbor. I actually grew up in Canarsie, and my grandparents still live there, and I lived there until I was 9 years old and I can agree that the area has changed dramatically since I’ve moved. Before moving, my block was filled with Jewish and Italian families just like your neighbor said. Like you were the only white person when you visited, whenever I go to visit my grandparents, I’m usually the only (or at least feel like the only) Asian person in the area. It’s interesting seeing how despite all the changes, your 93 neighbor still values living in Brooklyn.

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