This is the third in a series about the continuing disappearance of whites from American cities (see our earlier entries for Birmingham and Washington, D.C.). Many people still pretend that The Great Replacement is a myth or a conspiracy theory, but the graphs that accompany each article in this series prove them wrong. Every city has a different story but all have seen a dramatic replacement of whites by minorities.
It’s hard to believe that until 1980, New York City was overwhelmingly white — and it was traditionally conservative. Even during the Ellis Island period, it was a white city except for black Harlem. After the 1965 Immigration Act, the city turned multiracial and declined. Though it recovered in the 1990s and early 21st century, the white population is still declining, and the city is now a bastion of the far left.
New York started as New Amsterdam, a Dutch settlement seized by the English and renamed in 1664. The British controlled it for the entire period of the Revolutionary War; it was a loyalist stronghold. New York abstained in the critical independence vote on July 2, 1776. After the war, it was the headquarters for Alexander Hamilton and High Federalism. During the Civil War, many New Yorkers, especially working-class whites, sympathized with the Confederacy. Many blacks fled the city after the 1863 Draft Riots, and by 1865, there were fewer than 10,000 blacks left.
More than 12 million immigrants came through Ellis Island from 1892 to 1954. Almost all were white, though many were Italian, Eastern European, Jewish, or otherwise different from the Northern Europeans who founded the United States. This stopped after the 1924 Immigration Act, championed by Representative Albert Johnson. “It has become necessary that the United States cease to become an asylum,” he said. Today, the official House of Representatives website calls the bill a “legislative expression of the xenophobia, particularly towards eastern and southern European immigrants, that swept America in the decade of the 1920s.”
Of course, it wasn’t just migration from white nations that worried Americans. In 1910, central Harlem was about 10 percent black. By 1930, it was 70 percent black. By 1950, it was about 98 percent black, and Harlem was the center of American black cultural and intellectual life. It was also heavily leftist, with figures such as poet Langston Hughes and singer Paul Robeson supporting the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin. In 1964, the Harlem race riot, which began after an off-duty police officer shot a black teenager, was the first major race riot of the decade.
However, Harlem was the exception, and the city stayed overwhelmingly white until after the 1965 Immigration Act, which opened the country to non-white countries. President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill on (Statue of) Liberty Island, with Ellis Island visible across the water. He claimed the bill would “strengthen us in a hundred unseen ways.” It didn’t.
After 1965, the Hispanic population grew and became more diverse. In the 1970s, Puerto Ricans were about 70 percent of Hispanics in the city, but now they are now less than a third. NYC’s Asian population has increased by 30 percent between 2000 and 2010.
When New York first started becoming heavily non-white, it entered a time of troubles, immortalized in films like 1976’s Taxi Driver. Many Americans remember the “Bronx is burning” incident, when a fire blazed just a few blocks away from Yankee Stadium during the World Series. Looting and violence during the 1977 power blackout showed that the city had almost no social capital. The filth and danger of 1970s became almost legendary. The 1992 AmRen article “The Late Great City of New York” paints a harrowing picture of the city at its worst.
But New York came back. Under mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michel Bloomberg, strict policing greatly reduced crime. Times Square, once a haven for peep shows and porn theatres, proudly hosts some of the most prestigious stores in the world. Scholar Heather MacDonald claimed in 2000 that the New York City Police Department was the “best urban police force” in the country. The city still has relatively low crime rates. Gentrification is transforming many neighborhoods, even Harlem.
Sadly, there’s trouble coming. Staten Island is the city’s one conservative and mostly white borough. Every other borough is majority non-white. Under far-left mayor Bill de Blasio, crime is increasing. Nonwhites have humiliated police by dumping water on them and vandalizing patrol cars. The coronavirus epidemic has hit New York state and city harder than any other region. When businesses shut down, burglars went to work.
New York city did not collapse when it lost its white majority. However, its revitalization was dependent on cutting the crime rate and stopping graffiti and public degeneracy. The current mayor, Bill de Blasio, has famously turned his back on the police. The city DA decided in 2018 to stop prosecuting subway turnstile hoppers, and in late 2019, there were unruly demonstrations calling for “No more cops” in the subway. Some of the old signs of collapse are back. Even the feared and hated squeegee men, whose elimination under Mayor Giuliani was widely seen as a crucial step back from the brink, have returned under the new mayor. Eliminating cash bail for many crimes means there are more criminals on the street.
These are changes that drive out the middle class, and for the first time in over a decade, the city is losing population (except for majority-white Staten Island.) Anyone who lived through New York City’s darkest days knows that civilization is fragile. Those days could come back.