Serial Forced Displacement of Blacks and the Negative Repercussions

Serial Forced Displacement of Blacks and the Negative Repercussions

Serial Forced Displacement of Blacks

Over the past 30-plus years I have invested a great deal of time and effort into understanding the plight of African Americans, with the intent on devising a comprehensive strategy that can be implemented and carried out first, on a national level, and then globally. One of the issues that I identified early on is the fact that there were some exceptional minds that had invested a great deal of energy and effort into coming up with solutions to specific issues within the black collective: however, rarely were these great minds working in unison with one another, which is actually a reflection of one of many pathologies that negatively impact the black collective.

Once I discovered this dynamic of fragmented strategic data, it became my goal to study and evaluate the information, assess the existing strategies, and develop a comprehensive program that takes all of the strategies and presents them in a coherent manner — allowing for easy cohesive implementation. I am currently in the second phase of a four-phase five-year research project that focuses on the psychological, socioeconomic, and political components that heavily influence the mobility, or lack thereof, within the black collective. To say that we have our work cut out for us, would be a gross understatement.

As I currently work on The Black Community Empowerment Blueprint 1.0, and other active projects, I am often compelled to share specific details concerning a certain issue that is of immense relevance in the attempts of blacks to rise up and become an autonomous nation within a nation.

Today, I would like to share some of my concerns as they relate to what is known in political science and social science as serial forced displacement — an act that has been accomplished through a number of distinct modalities over the last 100 years.

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Regardless of what modality has been used, serial forced displacement is defined as the repetitive, coercive upheaval of groups (Fullilove & Wallace, 2011). When mentioned here, serial forced displacement is specifically focused on Government sanctioned methodologies and tactics that are underwritten by federal, state, and local legislation that allows the wealthy to aggressively, and even hostilely encroach upon the rights and property ownership of the impoverished citizens of this country, with the vast majority of these citizens being people of color.

What I am proposing here, based on a preponderance of the evidence that is currently available, is that serial forced displacement creates a complex dynamic that produces interpersonal and structural violence within the social structure of those who are being displaced. The empirical evidence that is available to support this is statistically significant, meaning that the impact is so great that it cannot be considered a coincidence. Additionally, serial forced displacement also results in an inability of the affected group to efficaciously respond or react in a timely manner to either, threat or opportunity — facilitating a cyclical fragmentation as a result of the first two issues.

What must be understood here is the primary motive behind serial forced displacement. While it might be convenient to postulate that this is solely about the opportunity to profit from the weaknesses and ignorance of the less fortunate — it is necessary to consider a more nefarious idea — planned shrinkage & benign neglect as a form of population control. Planned shrinkage is a controversial policy in which the government looks to shrink and manage the size of large cities based on the premise of a hypothesis by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a man who once championed underwriting the Black economy by creating jobs specifically for Black men, in lieu of social programs, such as welfare, food stamps and Medicaid (Wallace, 2011). Moynihan had developed an ideology that suggested that larger cities were the cause of the development of certain social pathologies, and reducing the size of cities would reduce the occurrence of these perceived pathologies. Another part of this process was known as benign neglect, which is when a city’s services are purposely withdrawn from certain neighborhoods that are considered to be blighted.

One way that benign neglect was carried out was by using block grants to shift financial resources from the inner city to the suburbs — subsequently dismantling existing Model Cities programs, as well as violating the civil rights act and the civil liberties of organizations and individuals.

Serial Forced Displacement of Blacks

When examining the history of serial forced displacement, and its relentless aggression towards African Americans, displacing and diluting poor African Americans, it becomes apparent that it is necessary to investigate, in great depth, the manner in which this malevolent practice has impacted the physical health, mental health and social mobility of African Americans since this practice started decades ago.

The term serial refers to a series of either policies and/or occurrences, and in this particular instance, serial forced displacement refers to a series of policies and the perpetuation of a series of occurrences in which blacks have been displaced through some form of coercion. Some of the policies that had a direct impact on the displacement of black families in the inner city include redlining, urban renewal, gentrification, segregation, planned shrinkage, mass criminalization, deindustrialization (Something that completely decimated the inner city neighborhoods in Detroit, MI), catastrophic disinvestment and more (Fullilove & Wallace, 2011).

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Other processes that have worked against blacks in this strategic move to displace and disorganize the black populace include the crack epidemic of the 1980s and the over-criminalization of behaviors that are considered to be highly appropriated into the black culture. We have actually seen disaster be used as a method of forced displacement, with the most prevalent example of this being New Orleans and the government’s handling of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, which displaced hundreds of thousands of blacks. While the city is rebuilding and its economy has definitely rebounded, blacks were not included in the rebuilding equation. A city that has always had a dominant African American representation no longer does. Currently, the water crisis in Flint, MI is simply another instance in which a disaster, although man-made, will likely end up displacing and an exorbitant amount of African Americans.

While I use Redlining, Urban Renewal, and Gentrification synonymously in most of my prose, it is necessary to illuminate the fact that while these different mechanisms accomplished the same goal, the instruments that make them possible are distinctly different — representing different eras. Basically, when one form of forced displacement would be outlawed through constitutional amendment of statutory evolution, another method would be created to replace it.

Redlining was a mechanism that was instituted by the U.S. Government, through the Home Owners Loan Corporation in 1937. This was an act that was intended to discourage lending in what was considered risky neighborhoods, resulting in people from certain neighborhoods being denied financing. These neighborhoods that were classified as risky were those with older buildings and black residents. To further elucidate the pernicious intent of this particular policy, the existence of even one black homeowner in a particular community would result in the worst possible rating, which also created a hostile environment in which whites would fight to keep blacks out of their community.

Urban renewal was another modality through which the government was able to successfully displace millions of African Americans. This policy was instituted by the federal Housing Act of 1949 — providing for the seizure of property, through the policy of eminent domain, in areas that were deemed blighted. Once the property was seized, it was cleared of all structures and personal property and sold at a discounted price.

Gentrification is a subtler form of serial forced displacement in which investors buy up property in poor inner-city neighborhoods for pennies on the dollar, and then they build properties and businesses that drive up property values — placing poor families in a position in which they can no longer afford the property taxes on their homes. In many instances, poor black families have lost homes that they have owned for decades.

Gentrification is the practice of replacing lower-income families with more economically affluent residents, the rapidity and relentlessness of this particular practice have increased exponentially over the last 15 to 20 years. While the dominant society views gentrification as a normal and organic occurrence, it is anything but. The more affluent, predominantly white residents that push out the impoverished, predominantly black residents are not simply acquiring vacant property, they are forcibly creating those vacancies — revealing this practice for what it is authentically — hostile and forced displacement.

In addition to the consequence of creating a de facto internal refugee population, serial forced displacement also creates a number of significant health and behavioral characteristics that are inextricably connected to this dynamic, including interpersonal and structural violence, substance abuse, family disintegration, sexually transmitted diseases and more (DeGruy, 2009; Rothstein, 2014 ). To help us understand the dynamics and effects of social disintegration Alexander Leighton created what is known as the stage-state model of social disintegration, which was designed to effectively articulate what happens to communities that are negatively affected by a series of policies designed to forcibly displace them (Leighton, 1959).

Leighton presented two distinct polarities that were identified as integration and disintegration, with integration existing as an internal interconnection that was underwritten by mutual support. Conversely, disintegration was characterized by an individualistic paradigm that encouraged individualism and disunity. The stage-state model presented a hypothesis that proposed that disintegration was the result of a natural progression in which individualism resulted in a series of negative events that would ultimately lead to the collapse of the community creating changes in social results.

Beverly Watkins also contributed to the understanding of the nefarious effects of serial forced displacement in her study of Harlem (Watkins, 2000). The studies by Watson produced empirical data that confirmed that individuals that experienced serial forced displacement suffered from increasing levels of dysfunction after the occurrence of each negative event. The work conducted by Watson confirmed the predictions of Leighton — there were consistent occurrences of social organization decline, fragmented families, and disease increased. In fact, violence emerged as a new behavioral language that had been adopted as a form of communication within the context of social engineering and manipulation. Basically, forced displacement resulted in increasing levels of dysfunction and violence.

In a significantly more complex dynamic, it was proven that planned shrinkage policies focused on withdrawing fire services from the impoverished South Bronx literally exacerbated the AIDS epidemic, expanding the area of infection from what was initially a small interconnection of intravenous drug users confined to the South Bronx to a phenomenon of the interconnectivity of social networks that had become fragmented due to the forced displacement that would have otherwise remained distinct, meaning that forced displacement connected individuals who would not have otherwise came into contact with one another on a large scale — allowing the disease to spread beyond its original parameters of confinement (Wallace, A Synergism of Plagues, Planned Shrinkage, Contagious Housing Destruction, and Aids in the Bronx, 1988).

Additionally, there have been several studies that reveal that the de-industrialization of black neighborhoods and forced migration has contributed to the obesity epidemic (Wallace & Wallace, Gene Expression and Its Discontents: The Social Production of Chronic Disease, 2010)

Empirical data produced by Barker and colleagues suggest that all of these negative effects will persist across generations due to epigenetic influences (Barker, Forsein, Utela, Osmond, & Eriksson, 2001)

What the aforementioned findings and other studies suggest is that the negative effects associated with forced spatial and economic displacement will continue to be an issue that must be addressed over the coming decades if the black collective is to prosper despite them. The challenge is the fact that there is a proclivity to ignore these negative effects, or even to pretend that these conditions do not exist.

Additionally, what must be resisted is the attempt to ameliorate these conditions through programs that perpetuate further displacement. What has to be understood is the fact that the poverty that created this vulnerability in the first place is the result of an imbalance in the power relationships between two specific groups, which is, in essence, the reverberation of a racist caste system that has remained consistently in place sense these relationships began between slaves and slave masters more than 400 years ago. ~ Rick Wallace, Ph.D., Psy.D.

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Barker, D., Forsein, T., Utela, A., Osmond, C., & Eriksson, J. (2001). Size at Birth and Resilience to Effects of Poor Living Conditions in Adult Life: Longitudinal Study. New York: BMJ.

DeGruy, J. (2009). The African American Adolescence Respect Scale: The Measure of Prosocial Attitude. The University of Portland, 1-3.

Fullilove, M. T., & Wallace, R. (2011). Serial Forced Displacement in American Cities 19-1916-2010. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, Vol. 88, No. 3, 381-382.

Leighton, A. H. (1959). My Name is Legion: Foundations for a Theory of Man in Relation to Culture. New York: Basic Books Inc.

Rothstein, R. (2014). The Making of Ferguson: Public Policy at the Root of Its Troubles. Poncy Institute.

Wallace, R. (1988). A Synergism of Plagues, Planned Shrinkage, Contagious Housing Destruction, and Aids in the Bronx. New York: Environ Res.

Wallace, R. (2011). Benign Neglect and Planned Shrinkage. Brookly History.

Wallace, R., & Wallace, D. (2010). Gene Expression and Its Discontents: The Social Production of Chronic Disease. New York, NY: Springer.

Watkins, B. (2000). Fantasy, Decay, Abandonment, Defeat, and Disease: Community Disintegration in Central Harlem 1960-1990. New York, NY: Columbia University.


Dr. Rick Wallace is a man who has committed his life to investigating, examining and anatomizing the struggles of African Americans for the purpose of developing comprehensive strategies that are capable of efficaciously resolving the enigmatic issues that are at the forefront of the African American experience.

Dr. Wallace has written 24 books that include: Born in Captivity: Psychopathology as a Legacy of Slavery, The Invisible Father: Reversing the Curse of a Fatherless Generation, When Your House is Not a Home, and his latest release, The Mis-education of Black Youth in America: The final Move on the Grand Chessboard and he is currently working on his latest project, The Black Community Empowerment Blueprint, a comprehensive step by step strategy that has the capacity to facilitate the complete elevation and empowerment of Blacks in America and abroad.

You can support the work of Dr. Wallace by donating to The Odyssey Project! Your donations will be directed to the numerous existing programs, the development of future programs, further research and studies associated with improving the Black Experience. Thank you in advance for your support.

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