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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Doomed: “White Flight” Killed Birmingham- Southern College

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on April 3, 2024


An Editorial Opinion

 

White flight” is the elephant in the room that nobody in City Hall, state government, the state’s legacy media, or Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) wants to talk about.

 

In May 2024, BSC, an elite historically white private school founded in 1856, is closing its doors for good.  The college was never able to survive and overcome the “white flight” that changed the character of Birmingham’s Westside in the 1960s and 70s. 

 

Whites left the Westside in droves as hardworking and successful black homeowners moved into the middle-class neighborhoods surrounding the college.  Whites abandoned their neighborhood public schools, churches, and businesses on the Westside and headed down Highway 280 and out to the nearby suburbs.

 

By the 1980s, the dramatic transformation of Birmingham’s Westside had reduced BSC to a “white island” in a “sea of black neighborhoods.”  At that point, BSC was doomed. 

 

The college was never able to flee the Westside and relocate to a thriving “white” community, even though it tried to do so.

 

Under pressure from white supporters to escape an area of town that was quickly turning black, BSC tried to sell its campus and facilities to Alabama State University in the 1970s, to no avail.

 

Then, under the guise of public safety, BSC walled itself off from the surrounding black neighborhoods.

 

Next, BSC wasted tens of millions of dollars in the 1990s and early 2000s buying up the homes and property abutting its campus.  The goal was to create a buffer zone between BSC and the adjacent black neighborhoods.

 

BSC’s response to “white flight” caused the college to become more isolated from its supporters, the surrounding black neighborhoods, and the world of in-state colleges.  In its truest sense, “white flight,” and BSC’s misguided response to it, were choking the life out of BSC. 

 

Its student enrollment tanked.  Alumni financial support for the college crashed.   

 

Birmingham’s corporate community placed BSC on a program of benign neglect. 

 

The college’s support from the United Methodist Church became strained because of its liberal survivalist policies.

 

Crime in the neighborhoods surrounding BSC is bad, and it is getting increasingly worse.  Last November, there was a wild west-style shootout on I-59 near the Arkadelphia Road exit that leads to the college.  The shootout injured four people and shut down the I-59 for hours.


A couple of months earlier, stunning TikTok videos went viral on the Internet when they showed scenes of a nearby Pilot Travel Center that had been abandoned by employees and looted.  The videos showed empty shelves, broken merchandise, and a ransacked ATM inside the travel center, which is located less than a mile away at Finley Boulevard and Bankhead Highway.

 

City officials never provided BSC with a public safety plan that protected its students when they are living, working, and traveling in Birmingham outside the safety of the walled-off and isolated college.  

 

Shootings and crime-related deaths are a daily occurrence in Birmingham.

 

Violent crime is out of control in the city.

 

BSC is located in Birmingham, Alabama -- the most depressed city in the state, as ranked by smartasset.com in 2022.


Birmingham is the second "most dangerous city in the United States," according to a study released in May 2023 by data site MoneyGeek.com.


Birmingham is located in a state that ranks at or near the bottom in many quality-of-life factors.


In the end, “white flight,” and the college’s response to it, set off a chain of events that killed Birmingham-Southern College.

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gajew30840
May 31

Whites are not stupid-they know once a neighborhood goes black, it never comes back to being the quiet, clean, safe place it was when it was White. In 1976 a White student, Quenette Shehane, was abducted, raped, tortured and killed by three black savage animals for no other reason than she was a White woman getting groceries at a local store. I am amazed Whites put up with this black violence for this long. Robert E. Lee, the man himself, was quoted as saying that wherever there are blacks, things are going down around them. They are far better off in Africa than here. Free to rape their own kind. Send them back.

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livingtho2
Apr 04

This is all familiar where white people pack up and leave ship. I've witnessed at least a dozen instances during my lifetime where American African families chose to move in neighborhoods largely white residential because of quality schools, and safe environment.


Unfortunately, most white people to date don't accept integration and immediately prepare for departure from homes they spent considerable part of their lives to acquire. Furthermore, many of them resent Lyndon Johnson's signing of the HUD Bill some sixty years ago in an attempt to eadicate longstanding barriers for anyone seeking decent housing regardless of race.


Birmingham Southern College is another clear example of those with enormous wealth willl go as far to close or abandon an institution they…

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torres573
Apr 06
Replying to

Are you saying that the crime and social depression grew because of the fleeing of the whites? Might it be because of the collapse of the family and not raising children with solid moral structure?. No, that’s not it. Failure to thrive is always somebody else’s fault.

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