Clarkston, Georgia and Southern Demographic Displacement
The IRC and the Georgia Coalition of Refugee Stakeholders celebrate “World Refugee Day”
Clarkston, Georgia in DeKalb County in the Atlanta Metro Area is the ultimate example of Southern Demographic Displacement.
In the 1980s, Clarkston, GA was over 90 percent White, just a “sleepy little town by the railroad tracks.” During the 1990s though, the US federal government and its NGO partners like “World Relief” began to dump thousands of foreign refugees in Georgia through the same program that the League of the South is protesting in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville, Tennessee on Oct. 12th:
“Until the refugees began arriving, the mayor likes to say, Clarkston “was just a sleepy little town by the railroad tracks.”
Since then, this town of 7,100 has become one of the most diverse communities in America.
Clarkston High School now has students from more than 50 countries. The local mosque draws more than 800 to Friday prayers. There is a Hindu temple, and there are congregations of Vietnamese, Sudanese and Liberian Christians.
At the shopping center, American stores have been displaced by Vietnamese, Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants and a halal butcher. The only hamburger joint in town, City Burger, is run by an Iraqi.
The transformation began in the late 1980s, when resettlement agencies, private groups that contract with the federal government, decided Clarkston was perfect for refugees to begin new lives. The town had an abundance of inexpensive apartments, vacated by middle-class whites who left for more affluent suburbs. It had public transportation; the town was the easternmost stop on the Atlanta rail system. And it was within commuting distance of downtown Atlanta’s booming economy, offering new arrivals at least the prospect of employment.
At first the refugees — most from Southeast Asia — arrived so slowly that residents barely noticed. But as word got out about Clarkston’s suitability, more agencies began placing refugees here. From 1996 to 2001, more than 19,000 refugees from around the world resettled in Georgia, many in Clarkston and surrounding DeKalb County, to the dismay of many longtime residents.
Many of those residents simply left. Others stayed but remained resentful, keeping score of the ways they thought the refugees were altering their lives. …”
By 2010, the White population of Clarkston had plummeted to 14 percent. Foreign refugees from over 40 different countries – the largest group of refugees are from Somalia – are now over half the population. The White population responded to the destruction of the traditional social fabric by abandoning Clarkston to the refugees and a “low income” black population:
“For example, though refugee children usually learn English quickly, they often have difficulty with standardized tests. That has left some area schools with abysmal achievement records, and has kept families with children from settling in Clarkston.
Crime is high in Clarkston, with out-of-towners often preying on vulnerable refugees. Leonetti says the town has hired more police, but hasn’t received federal funds to help add the new officers. The per capita income in Clarkston is $17,000 a year, and drawing new businesses to town is difficult. That makes finding jobs difficult for refugees.”
A high crime area. Abysmal schools. A low-income population. High unemployment. Plummeting property values. Business flight. The demise of a common culture. Low civic engagement.