Philadelphia Is a New Chocolate City

The city of brotherly love is now a majority Black city, but that could mean that there’s trouble ahead for Philadelphians.

Posted: 04/25/2011 03:24 PM EDT
Filed Under Philadelphia, Census

The information obtained via the 2010 census has thus far given us an amazing glimpse into how the Black community has changed in the past decade, and how it will continue to change in the future.

One of the most interesting findings is the African-American mass exodus from metropolitan areas. Between 2000 and 2010, Blacks moved to the South in droves, and they also moved out of urban areas and into the suburbs in record numbers. Other numbers showed that formerly predominantly Black cities, like Washington D.C. for instance, are likely to be far whiter in the near future.

But what of the cities that remain Black and proud? Look to Philly.

For the first time in Philadelphia’s history, Blacks outnumber every other ethnic group within the city limits. This isn’t because Blacks have been emigrating to the City of Brotherly Love, however—in fact, Philly lost 1,800 Black residents in the last decade—but because whites continued leaving the city the way they have for years now.

In 2000, the Black-white split in Philadelphia was pretty even—about 42 percent apiece, with the other 16 percent being Latinos, Asians, and others. Now, however, Philadelphia is about 37 percent white, 42 percent Black, and 21 percent Hispanic, Asian, and other groups. The total population of Philly is now about 1.5 milion.

To divide the city’s population even more, the census showed that the Blacks in Philadelphia tend to be less educated and have less income than the Blacks moving away from the city. In other words, not only is the city’s population becoming Blacker, it’s also becoming poorer.

The problem there is that economic wealth tends to lead to political strength, something Voffee Jabateh, director of the African Cultural Alliance of North America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing African immigrants, knows very well.

“Yes, Philadelphia has 42 percent Blacks,” Jabateh told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “[But] these are not Blacks that have a strong economic voice.”

This leaves a minority city vulnerable to the views and motivations of an elite upper-class, which often doesn’t have the best interests of the poor in mind. So while it’s nice to think of Philly as a new “Chocolate City,” it’s a bit worrisome to think of what that could mean for the citizens there.

(Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)