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March 09, 2005

Healing, Curing, Black Politics & The Doppler Effect

I found something from the archives that I found particularly interesting. I was actually searching for something on Steven Levitt (the Chicago economist) but found William Levitt (the Long Island real estate developer) instead. Indulge me for a moment:

The early Levittowns also had an ugly secret: no black families allowed. "As a Jew, I have no room in my mind or heart for racial prejudice," Levitt insisted in 1954. "But, by various means, I have come to know that if we sell one house to a Negro family, then 90 to 95 percent of our white customers will not buy into the community. That is their attitude, not ours."

i was paraphrasing levitt in my westbury example because half of my library is in the garage.

let me step back and give you my interpretation of the scope of this thread because i do want to engage you on common ground. first off, i contend that the biggest racial problem in america is the institutional racism inherent in segregated housing, and that every major obstacle facing blacks and latinos in particular in achieving social equality stem from the fact that they are living, by and large, in internal third worlds. if you ever hear me say that america is a racist country i am talking about the structural facts of american apartheid. jim crow and racial segregation were the law of the land, and until the overwhelming majority of racial minorities are dispersed into housing built *after* fair housing laws, all those enequities will remain permanent. you cannot evade the fact of white flight, and you cannot evade the fact of ghettoes. by extension, everyone who has participated in this housing market strengthens this aspect of american racism.

that is the short way of saying it. i am in 100% agreement with the theses put forth by glenn loury. here is his piece.

now. there is but one way out of this situation and it involves nothing short of the destruction of the ghetto. this implies mass migration and/or massive transfers of capital. these measures would, by and large, eliminate economic basis of and structural component for racism in america.

both mass migration and massive transfers of capital are, to put it mildly, politically unacceptable. and therefore we have moved from the area of CURE to the area of HEALING. when you move to the area of healing, you address the symptoms but not the root causes of racial inequality. nevertheless, HEALING is an important part of solving the entire problem.

so my approach to this part of the discussion of race first asks the question, exactly how important is healing, and who should be responsible for doing it? i contend that we have quite enough healing, and that our positive attitude towards healing ought to help us focus on curing.

so when i bring up the matters of white flight, segregated neighborhoods, and racist institutions i am pushing the envelope towards the personal. i am asking us to consider the political acceptability of curing. i am trying to get people to accept responsibility for failure to act on a curing basis, and i call into question the rationality of further healing.

moving forward, for example, it's clear that a sizeable portion of the electorate has had its fill of affirmative action. i would argue that affirmative action is part cure and part healing. to the extent that it removes people from the ghetto and places them into areas of american that *work*, it is a cure. yet to the extent that it is considered an act of charity and goodwill, of bending rules and making exceptions then it is an act of healing. in the largest scope of things, all of the affirmative actions in america have not significantly changed the relative gap in employment rates between the mainstream and the beneficiary class (except perhaps for white women). so affirmative action is clearly not a final cure.

enterprise zones and set asides address more directly the matters of transfers of capital. CURES. and yet the political acceptability of the combination of enterprize zones, set asides AND affirmative action is just about dead. so politically speaking, we are at an impass. american refuses to cure.

so all the healing leftover goes out to blacks and latinos who have essentially already entered the middle class, leaving ghetto residents in the lurch. the only thing left that will help those barrio dwellers are real cures.

The other day over at P6, we got into analogyland talking physics. We screwed up the physics, but the basic idea made sense, which is that the speed of the observer makes a difference in the perception of something that is actually constant.

To put the Doppler Effect into the black political analogy, the economic progress of certain segments of African America skews their perception of Republican politics. If they are moving forward, it sounds good, if they are falling backward it sounds bad. Republicans say the same thing and different folks hear it differently. To extend this metaphor of physics into the quantum realm, whenever a certain group of blackfolks investigates that message, it changes.

Now add on top of this epistemological problem the question of patronage. Let's just reduce it to a three dimensional problem with just a few variables.

Factor One: Progress
Individual Progress v Group Progress

Factor Two: Racism
Healing v Curing

Factor Three: Social Mobility
Moving Forward v Moving Backward

Now cross this matrix with what Spence is saying about Newt Gingrich and black health care and you have an interesting formula, which might be the beginning of an understanding of which African Americans might be attracted to the Republican Party and vice-versa.

[Republicans] They go after blacks who have the resources to carve space for themselves and their families without the aid of the federal government. And they go after blacks who believe in the cultural agenda of the evangelical wing of the party: health initiatives that focus on the individual rather than the community; school voucher programs that focus on individual parents rather than on neighborhood school systems; and empower those individuals best able to take advantage of the opportunity. In this case we're talking about a thin slice of black professionals who are more likely to have grown up imitating "The Cosby Show" rather than "Good Times." If the GOP is successful here and raises the 12 percent they received in 2004 to around 15 percent in 2008, then they look to be hard to beat. And as the number of African Americans leaving cities like Detroit for the suburbs increases exponentially, this scenario looks more and more possible. Probable even.

This is very much what I expected, a class-based split. The monkey wrench in this theory is that it doesn't account for the pure ideological affinity between social conservatives and many African Americans on the socially conservative side of the Old School. (I'm on the progressive side of the Old School).

Note however in asking blackfolks about the kind of patronage they expect from any political party, I think the matrix is very instructional in indicating an ideological preference independent (or maybe deterministic) of one's stances on particular government programs like Affirmative Action.

I will continue to use them as we talk about other issues.

Posted by mbowen at March 9, 2005 04:39 PM

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"the biggest racial problem in america is the institutional racism inherent in segregated housing"

I do NOT believe this is true. I believe it is the current black culture's acceptance of promiscuous sex, outside of lifelong committed marriage, which causes the communal failure seen in the black ghettos.

It is primarily the fault of the black fathers who are, literally AND figuratively, screwing the black mothers.

It's not racism that makes black men have sex with women they have no intention of marrying.

Most likely way to increase black mobility -- increase the size of the US military, add a lower paid pre-military training phase for those who don't initially qualify but are willing to add a year to their commitment for the training.

Push to get higher home ownership of everybody in America, now at 68%.

Posted by: Anonymous at March 15, 2005 02:10 AM