Scandal in San Francisco Police Force Focuses Attention on Decreasing Number of Blacks

Will Hambrick hugs Robert Harris after giving his public comment at the San Francisco Police Commission meeting. The fate of several police officers involved in racist and homophobic text messaging was under consideration. (Carlos Avila Gonzalez, San Francisco Chronicle)
Will Hambrick hugs Robert Harris after giving his public comment at the San Francisco Police Commission meeting. The fate of several police officers involved in racist and homophobic text messaging was under consideration. (Carlos Avila Gonzalez, San Francisco Chronicle)

When black friends come to visit, they inevitably ask Timothy Alan Simon the same question: Why are there so few African Americans?

A San Francisco native, Simon attended St. Ignatius College Preparatory, the University of San Francisco and Hastings College of the Law. At one time, he saw other black faces in all of the city’s neighborhoods. It seems every year there are fewer, he said. Even his own children prefer Oakland, which has a thriving and economically diverse black community.

“We’re down to bone marrow in San Francisco,” said Simon, 59, a lawyer and law professor.

In the wake of a police scandal involving racist text messages,¬†some black leaders are again lamenting the shrinking size of the city’s black community. They have questioned whether a mass exodus of African Americans in recent decades have been driven as much by subtle forms of racism as by the city’s high cost of housing.

In 1970, blacks made up 13.4% of the city’s population. Today they account for less than 6%. City leaders have commissioned studies and task forces to reverse the trend, but to little avail.

Among the biggest 14 cities in the nation, San Francisco is near the bottom in the share of black residents. African Americans make up 25% of the population in New York City, 9.4% in Los Angeles, and 27% in Indianapolis. The only city in the group with a smaller percentage is San Jose, with 3%.

“Vigilante groups aren’t chasing blacks out, but there are factors that are making other places more desirable,” Simon said.

Civil rights leaders here attribute the exodus not just to the high cost of living, but to policies that have favored independent retailers over chains, urban renewal that tore down the housing where many African Americans lived, redlining by banks and high crime concentrated in neighborhoods where blacks lived.

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Source: Los Angeles Times | 

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