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Louis itself has been stable and has even started to grow. Louis’s downtown area and neighborhoods west of it to the city border went from 36 percent white in 2000 to 44 percent white in 2010.
Within that area, whites are now a solid majority in some neighborhoods for the first time in decades.4 The following pages tell the story of how St. Louis over the last century was duplicated in almost every metropolis nationwide.
Media accounts of how Ferguson became Ferguson have typically explained that when African Americans moved to this suburb (and others like it), “white flight” followed, abandoning the town to African Americans who were trying to escape poor schools in the city.
The conventional explanation adds that African Americans moved to a few places like Ferguson, not the suburbs generally, because prejudiced real estate agents steered black homebuyers away from other white suburbs.
Ferguson adjoined the very poor, all-black suburb of Kinloch where Williams had once lived (California Congresswoman Maxine Waters and the comedian and activist Dick Gregory grew up there). The Department of Justice is investigating the killing of teenager Michael Brown and the practices of the Ferguson police department, but aside from the president’s concern that perhaps we have militarized all police forces too much, no broader inferences from the events of August 2014 are being drawn by policymakers.