The "re-segregation" of America


This week, CBS News "Eye on America" is taking a close-up look at one of the most sensitive subjects in the country: the issue of race.

In 2001, the United States is still very much a nation divided along racial lines. And it's not just so-called white flight creating these divisions. Take the case of Atlanta, Georgia, where, according to the latest U.S. Census numbers, 61 percent of the population is black. CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts reports more and more African Americans there prefer to live in black neighborhoods.

In Dekalb County, Georgia, just outside Atlanta and not far from where the Ku Klux Klan once swore "segregation or death," a new segregation of sorts is alive and well.

Joyce Harris, a realtor selling expensive homes built by and for African Americans, says that customers "very often ask for a neighborhood that will be composed of black professionals, where their children will be able to play with other children without any negative episodes."

Atlanta leads the nation in what social scientists call the "re-segregation" of America; a trend, according to the U.S. Census, occurring most rapidly in the suburbs

And it's not just occurring among middle-class blacks moving to suburbs outside Atlanta; the same is true for Asian Americans in suburban Oakland and Hispanics in suburban Miami.

Minorities with the means are moving to communities where they are the majority. People like Drake and Faith Reid, who are raising their two children in a predominately black subdivision outside Atlanta.

"There's a stress level that's removed because you don't have to worry about other cultures and races questioning or wondering what's going on or what you're doing and wondering how they feel about you," says Faith Reid.

Is this progress?

"I think so, because it's about choice," says Harris, the realtor. "And having the right to choose whether they want an upscale black community, or an upscale white community, or an integrated community."

But this re-segregation does not sit well with everyone. Sunday, it is said, is thmost segregated day of the week in America. And every Sunday one church states its position loud and clear.

Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, one of the largest churches in metro-Atlanta, is an integrated congregation where race shares the pulpit with salvation.

"There's no such thing as a black church," says Rev. Earl Paulk, the church's pastor. "And for God's sake there's no such thing as a white church."

"It is an experiment and I admit that it is," Paulk says, "and sometimes we feel like we're losing. ... But I do believe in all of my heart that if America is going to survive as a nation that's free, it's got to address the prejudice that still survives."

It's a message that Gary and Candi Martin, Ronald Reagan Republicans, believe wholeheartedly.

"I don't want to be part of all white. I don't want to be part of all black," says Gary Martin. "I think if we as a people do not work to understand the differences in cultures and races and integrate that into our daily lives, then we're in for a really hard road as time goes on."

The Reids believe in diversity as well. They're also members of Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, even though they've chosen to live in a mostly black community.

Faith Reid says blacks segregating themselves from whites today is not as bad as whites once segregating themselves from blacks.

Her husband Drake Reid says, "I don't think living in a predominantly black neighborhood is racist because we're not excluding anybody, we're saying come on in."

The Reids say their home is simply a reflection of "how it is" in America, while their house of worship a reflection of how it should be.