Diverse northern urban centers like New York City have long been considered the hub of opportunity for people of all races. But New York-based writer Reniqua Allen (@rnz1) is noticing a new trend among black millennials: They're moving south.
Allen joins Here & Now's Robin Young to talk about why they're moving, and about public perceptions of racism in the South.
On research showing trends in black millennial relocation
"I heard stories of people moving to the South, I knew many of my friends and colleagues were thinking about moving to the South, and I knew that some of it seemed to be economic but some of it seemed to also be cultural, that something was drawing people to the South. When I started thinking about this book that I'm writing about black millennials and the American dream and just what the future meant, I looked at this research about where black millennials were moving to, I was shocked to see this research that they were moving to the South, but I was even more shocked to find that white millennials and Asian millennials were moving to distinctly different places."
On how millennial black culture is influencing the shift
"It's kind of crazy, but I guess not so crazy when you look at young black culture. Like for me, after I saw those statistics and was kind of shocked, I thought about what was happening in popular culture, I thought about my favorite new shows in television. And those shows were 'Atlanta' — which is based obviously in Atlanta, by Donald Glover — I thought about 'Insecure,' which was based in LA, and then I thought about 'Girls,' which Lena Dunham writes and stars in, I thought about 'Broad City,' which is incredibly funny and I love it. But these were all shows about white millennials looking for their American dream, they were centered in New York City, kinda the traditional space for creatives and writers, but the shows about black millennials were centered outside of New York City, which was something that I think is reflected in those statistics about black millennials. Person after person I spoke with said that New York was not the center of black young life anymore, which is kinda shocking to me. I grew up here, I love New York City, I grew up with Tupac, and Biggie and Nas, and to see that this new culture that was based out of the South was emerging, and has been for years, I had to take a step back and think about why I'd been so attracted to the North and why I was so hesitant to the South, and where I think that the best life that I can live, where is that located? And I'm not really sure anymore."
"For years, I'd heard that the South is cheaper — that's not a surprise at all. But this real connection to the South, this connection to this land, this real sense of home, it was also about the South being a 'black mecca.' "Reniqua Allen
On what she observed in a recent trip south
"I think the hardest thing for me about the South, I think of the South, I see Confederate flags, I think of the Civil War, it's really hard for me to kind of get past that. I feel like I see more racism there, but when I really sat down to think of it, honestly I felt more racism in the North."
On talking with her great aunt about cultural ties the South
"For years, I'd heard that the South is cheaper — that's not a surprise at all. But this real connection to the South, this connection to this land, this real sense of home, it was also about the South being a 'black mecca.' It's interesting because for me, [my great aunt] said, yes, New York City has tons of black people, but it felt like a black community [in the South] in ways that it didn't in New York City. I think we don't have that connection in the North. I went to Manning, South Carolina, where my family is from, and met up with this wonderful woman... she was young, she was bright, she was professional, and I kept sitting there saying, 'Could this be me?' I just felt this sense of connection, this shared history, this visibility that I think it's harder for me to feel in some ways up here."
On if she'll move, and where
"I think I'm trying to figure out what this idea of a promised land looks like, and what that means to me."
This article was originally published on August 08, 2017.
This segment aired on August 8, 2017.