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Despite the gradual move towards integration in the United States, segregated communities, divided along socio-economic and racial lines, continue to exist, and indeed have taken on new forms. Given the choice between racial segregation and integration as minority members of a community, some middle-class African Americans have chosen to create their own communities, thus forming the modern day middle-class black suburb. Now, majority African-American suburbs rest adjacent to majority-white suburbs, but the segregated communities share little but the town line.

In this Article, Professor Cashin addresses the timely and difficult question of whether the middle-class black suburb is a new utopia, or merely a separate, but unequal community. In weighing the benefits of the middle-class black suburb, she raises the even larger issue of whether the advantages of not feeling outnumbered by the white community are worth the costs of segregation. After tracing the development of the black suburbanization movement, and outlining various theories regarding its inception, Professor Cashin articulates the costs of separatism, paying particular attention to the higher crime rates, lower school funding and greater poverty levels prevalent within these African-American enclaves. Recognizing the benefits of these separate communities, including the opportunity for African-American political power and a renewed sense of spirit and culture, Professor Cashin nonetheless argues that systematic market forces, and societal biases engender unavoidable, negative externalities that may cloud any anticipated advantages. Professor Cashin concludes that the persistence of African-American segregation, spurred by discriminatory real estate practices, a unilateral desire of all races to live as a majority in a community, and fiscal zoning is a reality, whose driving factors must be challenged and defeated before the elusive dream of residential integration can come into being. Finally, Professor Cashin contends that it is only through honesty regarding the existing state of unequal affairs, increased enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, and the development of bridges between communities in the form of geographical and political regionalism, that equality can advance and take its place as a social norm in the twenty-first century.

Publication Citation

86 Cornell L. Rev. 729-776 (2001)