(c) 2022 The Buy Nothing Project, Inc.
Buy Nothing Project
White Flight Notes
This document was written by a longtime Buy Nothing Project volunteer, based in a large city, who has helped bring this movement to life as a Buy Nothing community participant, group admin, regional admin, development team member, and Equity Team member.
It is republished here with permission by Liesl Clark & Rebecca Rockefeller on behalf of the Buy Nothing Project.
All rights reserved by the original author and the Buy Nothing Project.
What is White Flight?

The term White Flight was coined in the 1960’s as white families left cities for suburbs. Property values declined, more white families followed, developers and real estate agents engaged in shady tactics to push this along, and the area left became disenfranchised.

Today it is more complicated. Suburbs have minority and white families but are still very segregated. White Americans, drawn by walkable neighborhoods or transit, are moving back into the inner cities. This prices out minority residents, leading to gentrification.

Sometimes White Flight is used as a descriptor - for example, White families pulling their children from public schools. e.g. the city of Los Angeles is 28.5% White and 48.5% Latinx, but the public schools are 10.5% White and 73.4% Latinx. This creates highly segregated and poverty-ridden schools that in turn are underfunded and lack the access to resources that other schools take for granted (extra curriculars, college counseling, repairs and maintenance to the campus, etc.).
How does this apply to Buy Nothing?

The obvious parallel is when white people from a majority non-white group area try and join a whiter, more affluent group and tell the admin “I identify with this area more”. This happens all the time in my region. Admins usually send them back to their neighborhood group, and through this some of those people have since learned to appreciate the neighborhood around them.

Does this kind of White Flight hurt Buy Nothing groups? Yes. Aside from reinforcing segregation and racist attittudes within the community, it can be detrimental for new groups trying to get going.

Prior to joining the Development Team I pulled data on some of the groups in the LA area, and the patterns were clear. Under the “One Group/Give Where You Live” guidelines, groups that were whiter, better educated, and more affluent tended to grow faster, groups in multilingual areas with higher rates of poverty grow much more slowly and were frequently archived. (The exception to this rule are the super rich areas.) As a DTM I tried to compensate by drawing certain groups bigger, and as an indie admin by helping to mentor those who wanted support.
How to address in Buy Nothing?
  • Perhaps some discussion of the membership and boundary options that include pros and cons, and the admin choosing what is best for their community. Emphasis on communities varying, and these are only suggestions, etc. Having the flexibility to pick what is best for your community...
  • Examples of how people can apply the options - I have one group that has a soft boundary that extends only a few blocks on a small part of their border, due to the geography there. I have another group that has all soft boundaries that extend much further, because they feel it’s more inclusive.
  • In what situations would soft boundaries lead to inclusion vs segregation?
  • Is a privileged groups white guilt disenfranchising a nearby group in a poorer area, stunting their growth?
  • New groups - encourage design to avoid segregation.
  • Consider that changing neighborhood names are often a sign of gentrification, some names signal to the gentrifiers, some signal to the long time residents.
  • Choice of pins or polygons?
  • Polygons - less open to interpretation and unconscious bias in referrals such as “I think this person would fit in better with that group”, etc.
  • Pins - Vaguer, better for those who don’t like strict boundaries, can be helpful if there are not many neighboring groups, various segregation situations.
  • Not all segregation looks the same, may require different “solutions” / work arounds.

More reading:
History of White Flights and its effects
https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/07/white-flight-alive-and-well/399980/
White Flight in the 21st century
https://psmag.com/social-justice/white-flight-remains-a-reality
White Flight and Gentrification in Inglewood
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-kaplan-inglewood-gentrification-20171126-story.html
LAUSD segregation
https://knock-la.com/separate-but-unequal-school-segregation-in-los-angeles-db5108603d6e/

White flight, exclusionary zoning, and outright prejudice create segregation
White flight - looking for the “better” group, also snobbery
Exclusionary zoning - the boundaries a group sets for itself, map or not
Outright prejudice - community agreement
Forced integration - gentrification/loss of identity



How I have attempted as a Development Team Member to help groups get established in poorer/minority majority communities:
  • Larger geographical area - I have at least 3 groups in poorer areas that covers 100,000 people. All 3 remain relatively small despite committed admins.
  • Bilingual membership questions
  • Support as mentor (if wanted) after development is complete (easy because I admin the indie group)
  • Introduce new admin to surrounding group admins, so they are aware and can refer members.

This document was written by a longtime Buy Nothing Project volunteer, based in a large city, who has helped bring this movement to life as a Buy Nothing community participant, group admin, regional admin, development team member, and Equity Team member. It is republished here with permission by Liesl Clark & Rebecca Rockefeller on behalf of the Buy Nothing Project. All rights reserved by the original author and the Buy Nothing Project.