The ATLANTIC: Whites Use Up The Magic Dirt, Leaving Only The Tragic Dirt For Nonwhites
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Earlier: Portland's Tragic Dirt: ”Redlining” Made Black Neighborhoods Hotter, Which Causes Record Homicides

From The Atlantic, a hilariously literal elucidation of the Magic Dirt / Tragic Dirt theory of white flight:


A new book looks at how white families depleted the resources of the suburbs and left more recent Black and Latino residents “holding the bag.”

By Alex Kotlowitz

JANUARY 24, 2024

Nearly 25 years ago, I reported on the changing demographics of Cicero, a working-class suburb just west of Chicago. For years, the town, which was made up mostly of Italian and Eastern European American families, worked hard at keeping Black people from settling there. In 1951, when a Black family moved in, a mob entered their apartment, tore it up, and pushed a piano out a window. Police watched and did nothing. The governor had to call out the National Guard. By 2000, the nearby factories, which were the economic foundation of the community, had begun to close. White families moved out and left behind a distressed, struggling town to its new residents—Latinos, who now made up three-quarters of the population. It felt wrong. It felt like the white families got to enjoy the prosperity of the place, and then left it to these newcomers to figure out how to repair aging infrastructure and make up for the lost tax revenues.

After reading Benjamin Herold’s Disillusioned, I now realize I was witnessing something much larger: the steady unraveling of America’s suburbs. Herold, an education journalist, set out to understand why “thousands of families of color had come to suburbia in search of their own American dreams, only to discover they’d been left holding the bag.” …

Marohn suggests that what’s happened in places such as Ferguson and Penn Hills is the equivalent of a Ponzi scheme. It’s “the development version of slash-and-burn agriculture,” he tells the author. “We build a place, we use up the resources, and when the returns start diminishing, we move on, leaving a geographic time bomb in our wake!”

Whites are guilty of Magic Soil depletion, leaving nothing behind but Tragic Soil.

From the book’s publisher:

Disillusioned braids these human stories together with penetrating local and national history to reveal a vicious cycle undermining the dreams upon which American suburbia was built. For generations, upwardly mobile white families have extracted opportunity from the nation’s heavily subsidized suburbs, then moved on before the bills for maintenance and repair came due, leaving the mostly Black and Brown families who followed to clean up the ensuing mess. But now, sweeping demographic shifts and the dawning realization that endless expansion is no longer feasible are disrupting this pattern, forcing everyday families to confront a truth their communities were designed to avoid: The suburban lifestyle dream is a Ponzi scheme whose unraveling threatens us all.

So that explains white flight: whites who lived in Compton in 1950, like that white family that included two future Presidents, depleted the Magic Soil, leaving only Tragic Soil for all the blacks who moved in, causing them to shoot each other and make rap songs about it.

What about gentrification? Well, whites must have trucked all the Magic Dirt back into Brooklyn from where they’d warehoused it in Westchester County after stealing it from Brooklyn in 1965-1975.

I’m not sure how to explain why Compton got less shooty after the Latinos pushed most of the blacks out, but no doubt future advances in Soil Theory will answer that question too.

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