Why I live in a white neighborhood

elmhurst“Don’t take this the wrong way, but you sound like you’re a white guy.”

In her clipped, Back of the Yards accent, our realtor began to communicate her concerns about our initial choice of neighborhoods. We were about to get a lesson in Chicago house-hunting that would take years to fully absorb.

We tend to think of racism purely in terms of personal bigotry. That distortion makes it difficult for us to recognize institutional racism in action. A racist system can produce an unjust outcome without active assistance from bigots. Racism without racists continues to dampen economic outcomes for black families long after everyone has forgotten the original logic behind those institutions. Beyond the impact to minorities, those deep cultural forces help to explain the growing tension between upper and lower income whites. Understanding the Trump phenomenon might start by exploring how I came to live a white neighborhood.

Relocating from Houston, we had three weeks to pick a place to live in the Chicago area and no idea what we were doing. Needless to say, that unsettling call with our realtor did not quiet our nerves. Our realtor, let’s call her Rose, wanted to channel us toward the obvious landing point for an outsider with no ethnic connection to a particular Chicago neighborhood. She suggested distant suburbs like Naperville or Aurora and we balked. We weren’t moving our family a thousand miles from the familiar comforts of Houston just to live in a colder version of Katy. If we couldn’t live in Chicago itself then we wanted to live near enough that we could still experience it.

With the benefit of hindsight I better appreciate my realtor’s dilemma. We wanted to live in a safe, affordable, diverse neighborhood close to the city, featuring great public schools and first class infrastructure. In other words a fantasy town conjured from the imaginations of idealistic young idiots. Rose was fumbling for a means to explain the realities we faced without violating a code of silence around race.

Our realtor was a cog in a machine, playing her role as she understood it. On the second miserable day of searching we surrendered. We got everything else we wanted by giving up on diversity. As it turns out, that’s a wider compromise made by lots of Americans, with implications not just for black families but for lower income whites.

Social, economic and political forces too big for us to recognize processed our identity and nudged us toward the place we belonged: Elmhurst. For us, a well-educated, middle-income young white family with a promising future, that machine served our interests better than we could have imagined. It does not operate in such a benevolent fashion for everyone.

When we discuss racial issues in the US we often personify the forces involved, describing the actions, choices, or opinions of certain groups as though they were the product of conscious deliberation. Those characterizations may be accurate as a summary of an entire group’s attitudes or behaviors, in the same way that many ingredients result in a single stew. However, very few individuals consciously recognize their relationships to those aggregates. Ask an Elmhurst resident why they decided to live in a “white’s-only” neighborhood and you might face some hostility as they correct your assumptions.

A more accurate picture emerges when we recognize that these wider cultural and political tides operate more like evolutionary forces, far less deliberate or intentional than we generally expect. Institutions, operating with uncritical support, can take on a will of their own. You don’t have to be racist to live in a white neighborhood, but willful blindness will certainly make it more comfortable.

Becoming conscious of the ways our individual choices impact our collective reality is a necessary prelude to achieving any deliberate political outcome. The white neighborhood in which I chose to raise my family is not white because of pointy hoods or burning crosses. No laws prevent a minority family from moving here. Its character rose from ordinary people making choices that served their interests inside a system shaped by centuries of racist attitudes.

There have been no landmark moments in the desegregation of Elmhurst, or of DuPage County. No laws had to be challenged to make it possible for African-Americans or other minorities to live here. Our Elmhurst History Museum preserves a photograph from the 1930’s of our semi-pro football team. That team included a black player, but there is no mention of whether he was the first or whether that was unusual. It doesn’t seem to have been meaningful enough to warrant any comment at all. The relatively powerful racial segregation that exists here, as in most Northern cities, was not created or enforced by hooded thugs. Segregation rose from larger forces.

Elmhurst and the county around it took its present character from the block-busting campaigns of the post-war era. The practice and its implications deserve a longer description, laid out at this link. There was no need for Jim Crow-style laws to explicitly prohibit black families from purchasing homes in Elmhurst during the post-war boom. The machine took care of that.

Until the late 80’s no realtor who valued their job would share listings in the white suburbs with African-Americans or post them in places that black families might see. The kind of sorting I experienced in 2004 as a “white guy” with access to Internet listings was relatively benign, but still powerful. In previous decades that machine was nearly impenetrable. If a black family with the available income was able to find a home for sale in Elmhurst they still couldn’t get a mortgage. To live here, they would have needed extraordinary will, income and luck. That simply couldn’t happen on a meaningful scale.

Towns like ours were built in layers, first by generations of open racial discrimination in housing, then by block busting, and finally by the concentration of wealth as more affluent whites carved themselves out from the wider community. Perhaps no one intended to build a machine that would sort people into charming pockets of affluence like Elmhurst and desperate neighborhoods burdened by blight. Yet that’s what the rules of the game rewarded, so that’s what we got.

The fate of blue-collar white towns like Maywood, torn apart by blockbusting, steadily drove up real estate values in places like Hinsdale, Western Springs and Elmhurst. These villages managed by virtue of distance from the city, political organization, and higher cost, to retain de facto racial segregation. As the process advanced, minority families weren’t the only ones locked out. Those towns became almost impenetrable to middle income whites, not just financially but culturally.

In the past couple of decades, as overt racism became unacceptable politically, whiteness mattered less and less. Middle and lower income whites saw the protections they once enjoyed from a shared identity with wealthier whites slipping away. By the time I moved to Chicago in 2004, sounding “like a white guy” still mattered, but only if you could write a check to back it up. By that time places like Elmhurst had taken on their unique character and no one remembered why.

With money, you can still buy your way into a sheltered world of white privilege. In fact, by paying an additional premium that few can afford, minority families can now gain access as well. That premium is steep. White, black, brown or purple, if your family did not build up capital in an era when whites enjoyed explicitly protected status, you probably will not raise your children in Elmhurst. As access to the economic ladder comes to be increasingly defined by education, the consequences of residential segregation worsen.

Mitt Romney accidentally described the shape of this problem in his 2012 campaign. Now that laws openly favoring white economic interests have been stripped from the system, everyone is free to achieve on equal terms. Romney described how this brave new world operates, suggested anyone can be successful if they just had the gumption to borrow $20,000 from their parents and launch a venture.

America has responded to centuries of white supremacy with a new “colorblind” strategy. Explicit racial preferences are being stripped away, but whatever capital families accumulated while those protections were in place is considered “earned.” Looking for a way to make a living? Just borrow tens of thousands of dollars from your parents. Your parents don’t have that kind of money? Why not?

Black families have been pointing out the flaws in our colorblind aspirations for decades. Lower income whites are only just waking up to the ruse. As wealthier white families retreat into places like Elmhurst and roll up the ladders, race-based protections that once shielded working families from the impact of their lower incomes are disappearing.

Here’s a dirty secret about life in America’s white islands. The income it takes to continue living here is far less than the income you’ll need to get here in the first place. Paying a mortgage requires an income. Getting a mortgage requires capital. Where does a couple with small children in their early 30’s get the capital to live in a place like this? Few get it from their work alone.

That explains why the places that were solidly white 25 years ago are still solidly white today, even after our explicit racial preferences were repealed. For those who had help from parents to finance college, and then “borrowed” just $20-30K from family for a down payment on a “starter-home,” getting to Elmhurst is not a stretch.

Conversely, if you borrowed all or most of your tuition and had to accumulate a down payment in cash on your own to buy your first home, no matter how successful you are in your career it is unlikely that you will ever live in Elmhurst or a place like it. By the time you climb those mountains, your life will probably already be established somewhere.

How many young minority families started their lives with the kind of family capital enjoyed by white peers, even their “middle class” white peers? Virtually none. The additional cost, hassle, and transition involved, along with the absence of ties to those wealthier places means an overwhelming majority will stay put even if their incomes rise over their lifetimes. Thanks to its pedigree, Elmhurst stays white more or less in perpetuity without the need for any discriminatory laws.

No one stands guard to prevent “the wrong people” from living here. In a cringe-worthy irony neighbors occasionally complain about the absence of diversity. A machine we choose not to see and virtually never question makes this place what it is and keeps it this way. With few exceptions, these enclaves are the preserve of those who benefited most from centuries of white supremacy. For the most part, we don’t even know it.

This might not matter but for one vital twist. Access to a nice neighborhood is not merely a question of living in a fine home. In fact, in many of these elite neighborhoods your home will be far less impressive than those available at cut-rate prices in a distant exurb. No one comes here to buy a house. We are buying a membership.

An emerging knowledge economy is spawning a new aristocracy of education. Earning the mere chance to compete means capitalizing on educational opportunities early. These white islands are educational incubators.

With a few notable exceptions, education in America is a local enterprise. When Chicago’s most affluent white families fled into these elite suburbs, they took their resources with them. Their capital now fuels educational dynamos. In our newly colorblind society we are all equal, but some are still more equal than others. Having early access to one of these supercells may not guarantee future success, but it makes that kind of success an assumption rather than a stretch.

Our personal choice of neighborhood meant that unlike many middle-income families, black, white or purple, my family was able to ride the slipstream of wealthier whites as they pulled away from everyone else. As a consequence of those ties, the capital we have accumulated has been magnified at a level that whites at lower incomes and minority families do not experience. In this neighborhood, our income buys us access to benefits we could not otherwise afford.

We spend practically nothing on security. Our children have access to some of the best educational and social opportunities that exist. Our investment in a house, thanks to the invisible and unspoken membership it includes, appreciates consistently at a level we would not have experienced in a less affluent block. The implications of this choice were not obvious to me when we moved here. It might never have been clear to me at a conscious level if I hadn’t been too curious for my own good. None of us have to recognize the machinery at work in order to benefit from it.

Our colorblind settlement of years of racial discrimination produced some strange outcomes. A world of apparent racial equity made places like Elmhurst wealthier and as white as ever. For whites just slightly farther down the income scale, the end of racial segregation led to some very different outcomes.

Unable to attach themselves to wealthier whites, this new era of racial “equity” meant they experienced a new opportunity to be treated more or less the same as minorities. The energy behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz boils down to one critical dynamic – for blue collar whites, the growth of pluralism offers nothing but the chance to share a common fate with black Americans. There is a quiet, functional dimension to racism in America that promises to be far more persistent than mere personal bigotry and much more painful to dismantle.

Why do I live in a white neighborhood? I live here for much the same reason as everyone else up and down the street. A deeply racist history and culture shaped the landscape over hundreds of years to make this the most attractive option for those who can afford it. The conditions that created this place are no longer visible. Yet, like the glacier that carved out Lake Michigan, this history still impacts our lives.

Racially enlightened liberals may sneer at the bigotry of blue-collar voters, but no one seems concerned that New York’s solidly Democratic Westchester County is so strangely white. America is flirting with the promise of authentic pluralism, but like a plane pushing at the sound barrier, invisible forces are pushing back.

We will not achieve the powerful benefits of pluralism on the cheap. Cruz or Trump may fail to win the White House, but demagogues will continue to resonate with struggling whites as their protections fall away. Ironically, failed racist activism by those at lower income levels may be the force that compels us to recognize how white privilege still shields the wealthy and limits broader opportunity.

White voters disadvantaged by our “color-blind” approach to racial justice might finally provide the political energy to question this arrangement. Martin Luther King once dared to believe that lower income whites might recognize common interests across racial lines. If we understand how I came to live in a white neighborhood, will that insight give us the vision and willingness to build something better? Will we ever be able to see far enough beyond our personal needs, to recognize the broader wealth that a more just society could generate?

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Civil Rights, Economics, Uncategorized
151 comments on “Why I live in a white neighborhood
  1. Kayla says:

    Very nnice blog you have here

  2. There are no genuine diverse neighborhoods. Those are only places in transition. Eventually one ethnic group wins out. Humans are tribal by nature, get over it. Aside from restaurants, what are the benefits of diversity?

  3. Mike says:

    Here’s an experiment: instead of moving to a diverse neighborhood that makes you feel both morally good and socially comfortable, make a permanent move to an all black neighborhood.

    You won’t do it, because you’re a racist.

    Every White person is racist by necessity of survival; it’s only by a matter of relative degree of comfort that we vary in expressing it.

    But there are heavy social costs to your brand of agitation; costs that you don’t have to pay for because you can afford to move away from the costs when the bill comes due. Costs that you demand that poorer whites than you pay, instead.

    Those costs come in the form of:

    increased community racial tension and the lower community trust and social isolation that results,

    increased forced wealth transfer from lower middle class white families to black families in the form of affirmative action job loss and home equity loss when crime goes up and housing values go down,

    cultural loss when schools are forced to lower their standards to accommodate always poorly performing minority groups,

    higher violence in schools that white children must endure,

    loss of home ownership when long time residents are forced to move out due to the aforementioned effects of community racial displacement,

    and perhaps worst of all: some whites become trapped in newly hyper violent and socially isolating neighborhoods and schools because they cannot afford to move away.

    All because people like yourself, the absolute worst scum in the Western hemisphere, wish to sate your guilt complexes and social signal to one another.

    A day is coming, and you are not going to escape it.

    • pbasch says:

      Lots of white people move into (at least until they get there) majority black neighborhoods. That’s why Harlem is one of the most sought after neighborhoods in NYC!
      As for your rather dramatic final statement – well, it’s obvious that “a day is coming” because a day is always coming, and, short of death, we do not escape the coming day. Perhaps you could expand on it so it’s not tautological, and say what you mean.
      I’m old enough to remember talk in the 60s about “race wars”. They didn’t quite happen then, but are you saying that’s what’s going to happen now? Or is it something else? Give us what we want, or we’ll unleash fascism on you? I think that may be what’s happening.

    • Candiru says:

      Perfectly said, and the utter truth.

  4. pbasch says:

    Your freeways are blocked because “black lives matter”? What, permanently? How does that work? BTW, I’m a NYer who also learned to drive in my 30s, and it’s pretty common knowledge that there are poor whites, not a shock at all… but they can speed with a broken taillight and a gun on the dash and probably not end up with a cop’s knee in their kidneys. So, poor, but still privileged. Enjoy!

  5. deb2 says:

    Chris, this is the second post I’ve read on your blog, which I’ve just discovered, and I congratulate you. Good work. I’m mostly pretty much a lefty, excepting on abortion. (If I absolutely had to label myself, I suppose I’d be something like a pro-life social democrat. Yeah, our conventions, they’re pretty small . . . ha.) Your work is interesting and engaging. I’ll be back to read more. May your tribe increase.

  6. This guy represents the GOP leadership. Republicans truly despise their base. They are privilege-for-me, guilt-for-thee anti-White liberals. you know, these pluralistic neighborhoods he wants to create… he’s planning to create them in OUR neighborhoods, not his own. Because we have unearned White Privilege, since we’re not rich. Whereas his privilege was earned, since he is rich. And if the transition is painful, so what? Poor Whites are all racists anyway, and we’re not very smart (since we’re poor and we like Trump.) So it’s OK for rich utopian dreamers to pass us over.

    This sentiment is no different from hypocritical Christians in the past that thought poor people deserved to be poor, because it was God’s will and they were sinners.

  7. 1mime says:

    OK, here I go again, but these two articles are worth reading, even if they are kind of OT. I say “kind of” because medical expenses can devastate an individual or family’s budget, especially those who are on the low end of the earning scale….but, as the article points out, with the shift in costs by insurers, even insured people can be horrendous.


    The other link relates to the absurdity of America’s gun paranoia as compared with other countries….which is topical AND part of the deeper problem of how individual rights balance with societal rights.


  8. Martin says:

    Chicago: America’s most segregated city: “Whites in Chicago have seen their income grow, while black’s income has withered”, CNN.


    • goplifer says:

      Two important trends sit beneath those numbers. First, black families in the Chicago area have done remarkably well compared to peers in some other parts of the country – well enough that they have left their previous homes.

      Lots of black migration into the southwest suburbs over the past decade or so. And some of the black families that accumulated the most wealth, mostly retirees from govt jobs, have actually returned to the South.

      The other factor is the financial collapse, which was particularly destructive in minority neighborhoods. It produced a storm of secondary consequences impacting everything from family stability to homelessness.

      What you see with Chicago’s numbers on income levels for black families is, to a certain extent, the consequence of a sorting effect.

      • 1mime says:

        “…black families in the Chicago area have done remarkably well compared to peers in some other parts of the country”…

        You observe that Black families in the Chicago area have done well is comparison to other areas. Which other areas are you including in your comparison and what percentage of Chicago Black families are succeeding? If the data within Martin’s link is accurate, we are looking at a really small subset of the entire population. The sheer size of the Chicago metropolitan area with its robust business sectors undoubtedly benefits residents, but dis-proportionally according to race, which is not unusual. It’s the huge number of “others” who are in desperate poverty that tell the whole story. I’m not inferring that efforts aren’t being made to address poverty in this area, only that it appears few have actually benefited as they would in any large urban area that has thriving industry. So, what’s different about Chicago?

        Poverty is pervasive in its reach. Childcare, poor educational quality, crime, health care access, job opportunities, welfare, etc. When industry left SW Chicago, was there no recognition or pragmatic planning for the problems that would naturally ensue from hoards of displaced workers? Even something as simple as re-training would have been helpful. The expense, folks intone….until some smart economist quantifies the cost down the road of lost earned income to tax rolls, subsidized welfare and health care, an uneducated/poorly trained labor pool, crime. We all agree that there are people who make little or no effort to help themselves and that government can’t and shouldn’t do it all for them. But, the problems poor people face in climbing out of poverty are so huge that this becomes a trap that overwhelms them and then they are lost. They give up or give out, whichever the case may be. We penalize people who want and try to work by denying them sufficient help to stabilize them as they fight for air. Surely, that benefits no one.

        Pay now or pay later. When is America going to get this? That is why so many foreign industrialized nations are emphasizing educational access at either free or subsidized levels. America has much to offer but too many are cut out of the mobility process. The broadening gap between the haves and the have-nots is not going away. Shouldn’t it be obvious and make sense to invest in an educated, skilled populace who can contribute to a society instead of draining it?

  9. MassDem says:

    It occurs to me that one important consideration for young families deciding where to live is the quality of the school system. If we got rid of funding by local property taxes, as Duncan suggested, would we achieve a more equitable distribution of resources? I think wealthier communities would still find ways to funnel more $$$ to their schools via the PTO/PTA or charitable local education foundations, but it would be a step towards a more level playing field.

    • 1mime says:

      In public school districts all over this nation, wealthier counties supplement basic per student educational allocations through property taxes and other means. This has basically defeated the concept of equity in public education – more more ways than just dollars, though funding equity is hugely important. Take pupil-teacher ratios – states mandate them because they do improve the quality of education (and I am ready and willing to take that argument on if anyone here is so inclined), but they are not fully funded by the state formula. Therefore, the wealthier districts can pony up more local revenue and maintain those ratios whereas a poor district cannot. Same is true for attracting quality staff who are fairly paid and materials of instruction, not to mention facility quality and a myriad of other components. Need school volunteers? Schools with non-working moms can lend a hand. The taxpayer base of each area varies according to socio-economic organization, and the kids within them are either lucky or unlucky as to where they are assigned. If you can afford to live in a “good” school district, you likely have “good” public schools, pay much more for your home, more in property taxes but avoid the cost of private education. It’s a closed shop for all who can’t afford the price of entry: a homestead and a property tax they can’t afford

      This is where magnet programs and vouchers (if properly designed) could be great balancing forces. Transportation access for children of working parents without the aid of public services is another challenge. You won’t see lines of parents waiting in a car queue to drop off and pick up kids in poor neighborhood schools – those parents are working and kids either walk or ride a bus. There are always exceptions to the limitations posed by poverty, but they are “exceptions”.

      • SA says:

        Read about the Kansas City desegregation case, and you’ll see money won’t solve the problems of poor schools. All it will do is increase mismanagement and graft; poor districts are already corrupt, imagine what they’d do with more money. More money will just turn poor districts into another federal jobs program of bad employees getting great pay. http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/americas-most-costly-educational-failure

      • 1mime says:

        More money sent in to unaccountable, fraudulent management systems will never get to the kids as designed. That doesn’t mean poor kids don’t need the resources that more money can provide, what it means is that the system is failing the kids and the taxpayers. Show me a school with a great principal, dedicated teachers, parents who participate, and disadvantaged kids will achieve. Smaller classes, early childhood programs, and in many cases, after school programs for safety and extended educational help, all cost money. Money alone will not solve educational inequity, and I completely concur, that fiscal accountability as well as educational accountability are inseparable.

    • johngalt says:

      Texas has been fighting some version of the redistribution of funds from property-rich districts to property-poor districts (“Robin Hood”) for two decades without a resolution that has satisfied state courts. I can say that large districts, such as the one my kids attend (the Houston Independent School District, which is the 3rd or 4th largest in the US, with 220,000 students), spends way more on a per-pupil basis on badly performing schools in poor neighborhoods and has an extensive magnet program that means that virtually all parents who care can apply to get their kids into schools better than the ones in the poorer spots. Yet I also know that my elementary school raised $100,000 grand in one night last year, and will do the same in a heartbeat in a few weeks. You can’t fix this and you cannot educate every kid, but the combination of spending more resources in poorer areas and giving those parents a way out to better schools is a reasonable start.

      • johngalt says:

        Wow, my grammar there is atrocious. Sorry.

      • 1mime says:

        JG, at your “worst”, your grammar is excellent (-: This is an important subject and absolutely relates to Lifer’s post regarding “why” people live in certain neighborhoods. It is a critical decision for all parents but one that poor people can’t always alter.

        You are absolutely correct in your comments. The court battle in TX regarding equitable funding of poor school districts has dragged on for years. It’s complicated. There is a battle between the state courts and local districts over the funding equalization formula which allocates funding based upon needs and the ability to meet those needs by the local tax base.
        Absent an ability to generate sufficient tax revenue from an impoverished tax base, these poorer school districts struggle. They would be lucky to raise $200 in a fundraiser vs the $100K JG’s school raised. This is where the educational equity question is most significant. Children who live in poorer neighborhoods have the greatest chance of breaking the cycle of poverty if they receive a quality education. Absent that, these children likely grow up and become drains on society and never have a real chance to achieve personal success. A quality education is not totally dependent upon adequate funding, but, in combination with all the other factors intrinsic to poor communities, it can help level the playing field somewhat.

        Which brings us to magnet programs. Unless TX operates their programs in a different manner than other states, application doesn’t guarantee acceptance. Even more critical is the limitation of lack of transportation to the program site. If it is not provided via school bus pick up or indirectly through public transportation vouchers (for older children), many working families simply can’t work out the logistics. There is no denying the fact that most of these programs work (not all, which is a topic for another day) and that children and families who make the change and commitment have improved opportunities. Many magnet programs begin at the middle school level and this can be too late to make a difference for many children. The early years are critical to the basic educational foundation necessary to later academic opportunity.

        Affluent parents will neither accept a poor academic environment for their children nor are they without means to make changes. Poor parents lack financial resources and the sophistication and time to confront these problems even though they want the best for their children just as other parents do. The Committee for Economic Development study that I discussed in a prior post spent many precious hours studying public education predictors and found, (as most educators could have told them), that the single greatest predictor of a child’s educational success is their socio-economic environment. IF business and elected leaders ever buy into this rather obvious fact and focus funding and talent accordingly, more of America’s children can succeed academically….all who aspire will at least have the means.

        Everyone who is concerned about equality needs to bore down on the subject of educational equality, without which, poo children are doomed to the same cycle cycle of poverty their parents faced. We will never be able to save all children but, at the very least, we should do what is possible to make a quality education available to them.

      • SA says:

        Read about the Kansas City desegregation case, and you’ll see money won’t solve the problems of poor schools. All it will do is increase mismanagement and graft; poor districts are already corrupt, imagine what they’d do with more money. More money will just turn poor districts into another federal jobs program of bad employees getting great pay. http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/americas-most-costly-educational-failure

    • Glandu says:

      In France, not. The state pays & manages the teachers career. Local taxes just pay the buildings. School directors have nothing to say about which teachers works there(yeah, it’s rather stalinian – without the executions, fortunately).

      Still, the best teachers end their careers in the “best” schools(because they are the best, they have the choice), that happen to be in the “best” areas. Another strong factor is the other kids. Some teachers told me that “with 5 or less non-french speakers in the class, french speakers act as a locomotive & bring everyone to a satisfactory level. Above 5, it’s the opposite”. Same if you classroom is filled with gypsy children, who don’t take school seriously(at all), you’re going to have more problems than if it’s filled with educated middle class children.

      So we have a few people who dream about sending the best teachers to the worst areas, with a financial bonus(to motivate them), to reduce the gap. And noone votes for them. The poor dream of finding a way through the membership areas(I love the concept), and the not that poor trying to keep the status quo by fear of social demotion & increased taxes.

      Said otherwise, the quality of the local school system is not only a product of a budget(even if it plays a role). It also comes from a local environment, a set of traditions, the “quality” of students(motivation, mastery of the local language, knowledge of the bankable culture), etc…

    • unarmedandunafraid says:

      I wonder what would happen if we “surged” support for children in poor school districts. Let’s say expand on this program.


      Could we use existing school infrastructure to improve the lives of the children. In a race neutral way, of course.

  10. Rob Ambrose says:

    Watching Clinton on CNN in his first public stump speech.

    Hes going right after Reagan and failed trickle down economics, and talking about single payer. I’m liking the new muscular porgressiveism in the democratic party Its not afraid to be seen as progressive, as oppose to center left.

    I think you’re going to see a lot of concrete things on gun control if a Dem wins as well.

    I think the fundamental reason is that in the past, Democrats were worried about losing the blue collar white voters they had by being tough on guns. The GOP’s policies have cemented that divide though. There’s almost no Americans who strongly believe in opposing gun control who would vote for Dems anyway, so it frees up Dems to get away from the mushy middle.

    I feel very optimistic that even though the next ten years will probably be the most tumultuous time since the 60’s, that we will also make some of the most progress since that time, by not being afraid of the fundamental Conservatives anymore. They’re all dying off in large numbers and not being replaced.

    Hopefully when the dust settles, a sane and intelligent Republican Party (or a similar party if the GOP is too far gone) emerges and takes its rightful place at the center right of American politics.

    • Ryan Ashfyre says:

      With respect to guns, it’s not just Republicans’ policies that have cemented the divide, but rather it’s the dim reality that far-right groups like the NRA (or the NRA’s leadership, to be specific) have an agenda that is focused purely on profits and political gain rather than any substantive agenda about guns and the 2nd Amendment.

      Just ask former Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor. He tried to play nice with the NRA, touting his pro-gun record and finding that “nice mushy middle.” Of course it didn’t make a damn bit of difference. Being a Democrat was cardinal sin enough and the NRA went after him anyways and he lost in a near complete rout.

  11. Rob Ambrose says:

    Trumps first ad is out, and its got all the finesse of a donkey.

    I honestly thought it was a Jummy Kimmel spoof or something at first. It just sounds so silly. Only a person truly ignorant of the political system would think these things are even POSSIBLE let alone desirable.

    Both the phrasing of the message and the message itself just reaffirms that Trump supporters are just not that intelligent.

    I mean, seriously…..hes going to halt Muslim immigration “until we can figure out what’s going on”? Like, what does that even mean?

    Terrorism isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. If we haven’t ” figured it out” by now, not sure we ever will.

    • 1mime says:

      Playing on people’s fears….all of them. Despite his lofty opinion of himself, he’s not a builder of things, he tears down things. Important things. And builds walls where there needs to be conversation. No surprises there. As bad as he presents himself, he is still better than Cruz. At least you know the good, the bad and the ugly about Trump. Cruz has much deeper, darker ambitions.

  12. tuttabellamia says:

    An interesting and rather revealing conversation below between Mime and Mass Dem. The current blog entry is based on the assumption that Blacks aspire to live in a neighborhood like Elmhurst, or would, if they only understand how great life is there.

    • tuttabellamia says:

      Also, Lifer talks of living in Elmhurst as if he’d been railroaded into living there by circumatamces beyond his control. He could have moved into a more diverse neighborhood if he had truly wanted.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Sorry for posting in parts but I am on my phone.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        We will only have true equality when Blacks can be as cluless as Whites about where their success came from, when a Black man can tell someone to just borrow money from mom or dad and problem solved.

        As things stand now, though, and for decades to come, any success on the part of Blacks will come with the constant reminder that it was thanks to the generosity of Whites.

        A few months back when I pointed out here how Dr. Carson owed most of his success to his mom and his faith, it was pointed out how he wouldn’t be where he was without special government programs.

        Not only do we need to establish equal opportunity for Blacks — we need to step back and become invisible.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Another embarrassing typo — should be CIRCUMSTANCES beyond his control.

      • 1mime says:

        Vouchers are complicated. The strength is that people go to the schools they want (if they can get in), and that some private school cost can be avoided by subsidy from the federal dollars that follow the student. The weakness, and in MHO, a big one, is that vouchers allow all the benefits of public schools without having to meet many of the difficult obligations. They can “select and reject” whoever they want and whenever they choose. Public schools have a much higher hurdle on the rejection part and, unless it is a magnet program, or a “school within a school”, have to accept all who come – which, of course, is the premise of public education. Level the playing field whereby private schools must accept all students who “want” to come and must meet the same exit requirements as public schools, then we have a whole different ballgame. Transportation is usually not provided to private schools except in LA which is a whole different ballgame as well.

      • MassDem says:

        My town is pricey enough to move into, but if you want a more diverse town AND a decent school system, you will have to pay 1 1/2-2X as much in metro Boston.

    • Tuttabella says:

      Wow, sorry for the typos but I blame the phone . . .

      I’m Hispanic myself, and I would not want to live in a boring, bland, mostly White, cookie cutter neighborhood. I need not just diversity but ethnicity, and the vibrancy and unpredictability that come with it. Ok, my boyfriend is White, but he is rough around the edges and nonconformist . . .

      • goplifer says:

        Exactly. In our case, we wouldn’t live here if we could get reliable access to good schools in the city. That said, this is a very nice place, if you’re into that sort of thing. Pretty homes. I can walk to the train. We walk to restaurants and movies. But it is boring as hell. It is basically an incubator. As we’ve gotten older, many of the parents of the older kids are already moving back to Chicago as their kids go to college. It’s a strange arrangement.

      • 1mime says:

        And what do incubators produce? More of the same? I guess there’s safety in that fact.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        My dear friend from Ireland, when faced with the prospect of living in Kingwood, said, “they may as well slit my wrists right now.”

      • objv says:

        I was wondering if I was the only parent here who had ever chosen to put their kids into a school where they were in the minority.

        My husband and I moved around quite a bit. My daughter went to three different high schools and three different middle schools. In some ways, it was rough on my kids, but at least they were exposed to all kinds of different cultural environments.

        Maybe I am judging this group a little harshly, but I’ve met so many white parents who have been absolutely obsessive about getting their kids into the right schools starting from preschool and scheduling their free time to the point they have no free time. Ironically,they then wonder why programs like Head Start don’t get minority kids up to speed. A liberal conundrum, indeed.

        And yes tutt, you’re right about black parents not being keen on sending kids to exclusively white schools either.

      • goplifer says:

        We did in Houston before we left for Chicago. We kind of expected that we would do the same here, but things in Chicago are…more complicated. Basically, I knew Houston well enough to know how to pull it off successfully. Chicago was way to complex. We ended up defaulting to a more or less standard approach. I don’t exactly regret it, but it would have been nice to have an alternative.

      • 1mime says:

        Objv, I didn’t understand your comment on Head Start. Would you elaborate? BTW, your daughters are lucky they had such a diverse educational and cultural experience. I’m certain it will help them in their adult lives.

      • objv says:

        Tutt, I’m also on my phone – not that anyone would notice my typos since my comments usually suffer from lack of proofreading. 🙂

        Your boyfriend is certainly not boring. That is good in a relationship.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Would the GOP-endorsed vouchers and allowing broader “school choice” help with this?

        I’m skeptical of such a program because the high-quality schools that everyone wants can only hold so many kids, which means the lower-quality schools will still have kids in them.

        In Lifer’s situation, if your family had the ability to take vouchers to put your kid in a quality-school while still living in a less white-bread neighborhood, would you have been able to pull it off?

        With kids popping to schools outside their area of residence, you couldn’t have public school transportation handling it, so it would be the parents making arrangements to get kids to/from school, which would favor families with stay-at-home parents (disproportionately White).

        I’m not philosophically opposed to vouchers and greater school choice, but it just seems like it is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, and the people who most benefit likely will be the people who least need it.

      • A constant refrain in a lot of these posts is the “correct School”
        Even the post from France had this as core

        In the UK the correct school is very important
        Kids from certain schools outperform kids from the others so being in the correct school district is an important cut throat business

        This was one of the main reasons I decided to immigrate to NZ
        Here “the correct School” is much less important – we still have to great a spread of achievement by our schoolkids
        BUT the school to school variation is much less

        It really is NOT rocket science – you just need to provide MORE finance to schools in poor areas

        From what I am reading if you guys would do that a lot of the “correct area” stuff would dwindle away

      • 1mime says:

        That would help some but would not compensate for a lot of other factors inherent to poor families. There are many school districts whose per student expenditures are quite robust but outcomes less so. It’s a complicated problem that social and culture inequality makes even more challenging. Getting the “best” teachers to teach at the poor and most challenging (and frequently, inner city) schools is tough. They need much smaller classes to provide more one on one time with students. They need strong administrators and good peer support among the faculty. They want and need parental support which is often missing or so inadequate it might as well be missing. Throw racial and income disparity into the mix and it’s a wonder these kids ever get a high school diploma. Athletics (for Blacks) can be a ticket out if they possess a talent in demand.

      • duncancairncross says:

        Hi 1mime

        The answer is we don’t pay the same
        We pay MORE to schools in poor areas specifically because they get less support from the parents

        And the “control system” is simple increase the additional funding until the differences in outcome reduce to an acceptable level

        So far we have managed to get the outcomes a lot more similar – will we manage to keep them there?
        Don’t know,
        There is always a lot of pressure to reduce funding and the extra funding that the “posh” schools get is mostly invisible

      • johngalt says:

        My kids go to an HISD school that is 50% white, about a fifth Hispanic and a fifth Asian, and the rest black. So they are not a minority, but pretty ethnically diverse. My son has five native Arabic speakers in his third-grade class and his best friend “David” is actually Korean, though it never occurred to my son to mention that, so we didn’t know it until we met him for the first time. (Earlier, in kindergarten, he described another friend in exhaustive detail, omitting only that he was black – a lesson for adults in the colorblindness that is the natural state of human behavior.)

        The school is fantastic academically. What it is not is economically diverse. Only 11% of kids are on the school lunch program, a proxy for poverty, and most of these are magnet students from outside the zoned area. This will drop as the magnet program is being decommissioned (the school is overcrowded due to a population explosion in the neighborhood). Does this matter? I don’t know. All I can say is that I don’t care what color, religion, national origin, or income bracket the school’s families come from as long as their children’s education is a priority.

    • tuttabellamia says:

      Sorry for the typo — If they only “understood.”

    • 1mime says:

      Tutta, I’m curious as to what you felt was “revealed in the exchange between MassDem and myself.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Revealing as to assumptions being made about Blacks aspiring to live in and attend school in all-White environments, and being surprised to discover that the opposite might be the case.

      • 1mime says:

        That may not apply to all Black families, but I hope it is true of most. I think one should be proud of their ethnicity and race, just as they should be proud of their family, work, and how they comport themselves. Once Black people feel more comfortable around White people, I think you’ll see more blended neighborhoods. After all, most parents want the same things: security, quality education and conveniences. Low income people haven’t had the luxury of making these choices principally due to economic and racial barriers.

  13. Glandu says:

    Excellent entry. Thanks.

    As always as I read you, I’m trying to set parralels with the situation in my beloved France. There are some striking parallels, but also a few huge differences. Differences I can mostly explain by one single date : 1945.

    1945; France has been devastated by 2 world wars. The very few rich people who kept their fortune during the first one have disappeared during the second one. And there is no minority in the country yet. So it’s a time of opportunity and langgrab – from which most newcomers are excluded. Not all, Mohed Altrad built an impressive fortune in those times.

    But things are fossilizing rapidly today. Maybe 30% of the arabs & 10% of the blacks did find their way to the middle class, as my father did from a very poor family. and for others(and for whites whose family missed the train either), the situation is quickly getting nearly as sour as for your white or black poor, unable to join the club. I today live in a middle-clas area, with little hopes for my daughter to go up one day. Too costly. Not enough opportunities. At least, she won’t grow in the crappy ghettos that give you no future, be they arab like in Sarcelles, black like in Taverny, or white like in Amiens.

    Speaking of Taverny, where I grew up, there are 2 “Lycée”(high school ages 16 to 18) there. It’s a strategic place for having good study opportunities. If, like me, you went to “Jacques Prevert”, you will be welcome even with an average set of notes. If you went to “Louis Jouvet”, even the best notes cannot save you. The difference between going to the former or to the latter? Where in Taverny you live. That’s exactly what you describe with “membership”. Membership through living in the good part of the city gives you opportunities you cannot even imagine when you live in the bad part.

    And of course, all immigrants are parked in the “bad” places. But whites who cannot afford to go out of there massively vote for the nationalist parties. Not much surprising to you, I guess. More surprising is that many middle-class whites are joining them, but fear of being declassed to the lower class(and sending their children to the crap school with many immigrants) is a great driver to their vote, too.

    The other difference we have is that we have 3 big minorities : arabs, africans, and “Antillais”. I separate africans and Antillais because while Antillais are like your blacks, heir of a century-long story of people sold as slaves to the whites, africans are the heir of people who sold them(sell or be sold, it was the law of the African jungle for a few centuries, thanks to the white industrial-sized demand for slaves). And the prejudice they have is completely different. Africans have been submitted to 19th century “scientific” racism, which accept them as free human beings, but inferiors that had to be brought to the light. At all costs.

    I’m depressed reading you. What you describe is an highly fossilized society where everyone has equal rights, but opportunities are (nearly)set on stone at your birth, and we’re following you, not by far.

    • goplifer says:

      There’s something you allude to in your comment that I really should have considered before – the impact of peace on an economy. Nothing destroys an inherited fortune quite as finally as war. We are living through what is by far the longest period in European and North American history without a major nation-state war, with no new threat even apparent on the horizon.

      I should have thought of this, since this trend toward inequality started in the US right after the Korean War, but this may just be a consequence of peace and prosperity. It still needs to be addressed somehow, but it puts a different patina on the whole question.

      • flypusher says:

        “Nothing destroys an inherited fortune quite as finally as war. We are living through what is by far the longest period in European and North American history without a major nation-state war, with no new threat even apparent on the horizon.”

        From the American perspective, it’s been 150 years since we’ve had war and it’s effects on our lands (and we did that to ourselves) and almost 200 since foreign troops invaded. So that’s long past the memories of anyone alive today. In a discussion on another forum some years ago, I thoroughly offended a conservative participant by citing this to make a point that Anericans in general are pretty damn clueless about war and it’s consequences. Oh how dare I disrespect our military like that!! But our military is a very small percentage of our population, and even those who do see battle know that the war isn’t going to engulf their famines and communities. It’s a very fine thing that our county has been free of the plague of battle on our soil, but the downside is that people have no clue how horrible it is, and some of them find saber rattling all too easy to do.

      • 1mime says:

        Nothing destroys inherited fortune …as war, or “creates” a fortune or at the very least, good opportunities for average people and those with means to create a better life through plentiful jobs, steady income, and the active presence of the father in most households. These are powerful influences on one’s ability to do well. Contrast this with the Vietnam era which dragged on, lacked public support, and treated its soldiers badly upon their return. Sociology, that “soft” science, is a good place to turn to understand how war can both aid and destroy a stable society.

        This probably isn’t where you are going with your comment, but this is my reaction to Glandu’s comments and your response.

      • Glandu says:

        During WW2, my grandfather had to trap & eat cats to have some proteins, instead of just potatoes & onions. That’s war. My grandmother lived 4 years in a basement, while occupying soldiers were enjoying & looting the house. That’s war. Her father was not very rich, but still was ruined by the war. You don’t make money repairing cars, when the only ones to have cars – the occupying soldiers – did bring their own repair team with them. That’s war. And none of them fought. My grandmother saw a canadian plane in fire crashing next to her town. She saw the corpses of the unlucky pilots. Still today, she cannot have normal sleep because of the trauma. That’s war. Another guy I spoke with was 5 years prisoner. At the end, he had no more emotions closing eyes of the dead. It was a reflex. He did no more even think about it. That’s war.

        Soldiers see the fights(and those seem not pretty either), but don’t experience what civilians in countries ravaged by war experience. I spoke a lot to my grandfather, but my daughter is only 8. She’ll never hear firsthand witnesses about war. I hope for her she will never be a firsthand witness. But she will probably not understand as well as me what war really means. And I certainly cannot understand it as well as the witnesses who spoke with me.

        We humans are limited in our undertanding of the world. That’s why I’m reading bloggers outside my normal scope(France’s center & center-left, plus worldwide geekery). Because it forces me to bend my mind, and to push my limits back a little bit. You’re very good at that, Chris. Thanks for the insights.

    • 1mime says:

      “What you describe is a…..society where everyone has equal rights…”

      That is how it is represented, but that is not how it is, Glandu. Therein lies the problem.

      • Glandu says:

        Depends on what you define by right. According to the law, all citizens(assuming their preseonce is legal) have the same rights. In the whole western world, and many different countries(even in Erythrea where everyone is equal by having no right at all, but that’s another topic).

        But if a right is defined as what you can actually do, yeah, I’m following you. The kid that grew up alone, forgotten by its parents, fighting to survive instead of going to the school had the legal right to have studies as good as mine. But not the practical possibility. While I was training my mind(my father taught me computer programming & probabilities, amongst other things, long before I saw them at school) and my body(Ice hockey is a costly sport), they were learning the codes of the street. Which are not the good ones to be accepted in a selective kind of superior studies.

        In that sense, no, they don’t have the right to make quality studies that would help them going up in the social ladder. The opportunity will never arise for them.

        (or I misunderstood you?)

      • 1mime says:

        You heard me loud and clear, Glandu. Sounds like your dad offered you a great education well beyond that which you could access in a formal school setting. Good for him and you!

  14. 1mime says:

    One of the significant issues many worry about with the 2016 election is the probability of SCOTUS appointments, given the ages of several of the justices. Count me in with those who see this as significant. Here’s an interesting and alternative view as to the likely scenario to unfold, regardless which party captures the Presidency or Senate (unless the majority was filibuster proof). Very well reasoned and worthy of reading.


    • vikinghou says:


      I was thinking about this today and imagining a scenario where Hillary is President and nominates Barack Obama as the next Supreme Court justice. It wouldn’t be the first time a former president sat on the SCOTUS bench. But I’m afraid too many heads would explode!

      • MassDem says:

        Obama would make a great pick being a professor of constitutional law.

      • 1mime says:

        That would be delicious irony. Of course, Dems would have to “own” the Senate, hold the Presidency, but wouldn’t he be a great justice!

      • objv says:

        Too bad H and B dislike each other. I would rate the chance of Hill nominating B to the supremes as slim to none.

      • 1mime says:

        Ob, please provide evidence that H & B dislike oneanother. Disagree on some points, yes, dislike is a very damning choice of words. My impression is that they are both intelligent people who hold many common beliefs but, as smart people are wont to do, vary occasionally, but have a deep respect for oneanother. I’m interested in what you can offer to substantiate your statement.

    • Ryan Ashfyre says:

      While the argument itself is, as you said, well reasoned, it’s also based on a foundation of cowardice in that if Democrats DO retake the Senate majority (which, barring an absolute collapse on their part, I believe they will), they’ll reject any efforts to reform the filibuster regarding Supreme Court nominations. Personally, I don’t believe a President Clinton would idly stand by and watch this kind of logjam unfold, particularly when it comes to something as important as the Supreme Court.

      Don’t get me wrong, it’s very important to the Democratic Party that the lower courts have seen an influx of Democratically appointments and it’s nothing short of fantastic that an argument like this can be made in the first place, however it’s not a replacement for retaking the Supreme Court either.

      Come next year, if Democrats look on having kept the White House and retaken the Senate, they need to make perfectly clear that they won’t take any bs from the Republicans on Supreme Court nominations. They can either act like adults about it or they can act like petulant children and get treated as such.

  15. MassDem says:

    I live in a town that now more or less resembles what Chris describes: 96% white, great schools, fairly affluent, many expensive homes. It wasn’t always this way. A few years after we bought, house prices rose dramatically here. Only pretty well-off people could move here now, and I’m not sure that would include my kids.

    But what I found out only after I lived here a while is that there was a small enclave of African-American families who settled in this town in the early 1800s and their descendants still live here. A few of these folks are very active in town affairs, like the descendants of any of the other old families in town (the newer wealthier set are too busy working to pay for their mini-mansions to be engaged in civic affairs), so despite their small numbers, they maintain a high profile in the community. With this history, I believe that residents of my town would be fine with having a more diverse population.

    Is it possible that an African-American family (with a lot of money) might take a look at our town, and decide to buy elsewhere, some place that still had decent schools but wasn’t so overwhelmingly white?

    • 1mime says:

      Why not? If an African-American family has a lot of money, there is always the option of private schools for the kids while selecting a diverse neighborhood where they weren’t in such a minority. Where do wealthy Black athletes and entertainers live now? Money is not a problem for them and I wouldn’t expect they’d have a problem going the private school route for their children.

      • MassDem says:

        It’s one thing to be a celebrity & have the ability to live an insulated life and travel wherever you want, have schools fighting to accept your kids etc. I’m thinking more of ordinary families. This is what I’m talking about:


        Way back in college I had a black graduate student as an RA in my freshman dorm, and I remember him telling a bunch of us how he was tired of being the only black student in his classes. It made a big impression on me; I had never considered the situation from his perspective before.

      • 1mime says:

        MassDem – I guess my quibble is, what constitutes “a lot of money”? Otherwise, the couple was mixed race and they are always going to be challenged in their housing.

        You know what would be interesting? To write a post like Lifer’s “Why I Live in a White Neighborhood” from the Black perspective.

      • MassDem says:

        Median home price in my town is currently just over 700K. That seems like a lot of money to me for any young family, regardless of race.

      • 1mime says:

        Wow, MassDem, you’re sitting in your retirement plan (-: I hate to think of the NJ property taxes on this value …. bet those who bought early, like yourselves, remember the good old days…before prices zoomed up. What is it that’s said: “The right hand giveth what the left hand taketh away.”

      • MassDem says:

        1mime, I apologize because misunderstood your first reply.
        I guess what makes me frustrated about the whole segregated town situation is that I don’t see it fixing itself. Even if white people aren’t colluding to keep black people from moving into their town, I don’t think many black families would find towns like mine very appealing due to their lack of diversity.
        I myself don’t find that aspect of it very appealing either. But what can we as a society do to change the status quo?
        Also, you can probably tell that I’m not at all happy that it’s become expensive to buy in here, but actually that’s a separate issue.

      • 1mime says:

        Well, MassDem, I think you have run flat up against Lifer’s theme: “Why I Live in a White Neighborhood”. At the appropriate time, the appreciated value of your home will secure relocation to a more diverse, appropriately sized and designed space for later years. That’s a good thing! Good people like yourself want more people to have this experience and that’s the essence of equality based upon quality educational opportunity and color-free employment.

  16. vikinghou says:

    I watched Meet The Press this morning and there was a segment about a new Esquire/NBC News survey concerning anger in America. Here’s the link. There were some surprising findings (e.g., women are angrier than men).


    • tuttabellamia says:

      Social media makes people angry. Constantly harping and being reminded of all that’s wrong with the world. A culture of outrage. We need to take a deep breath and take a step back. Take a media fast.

      • 1mime says:

        Maybe so, Tutta, but the problem ain’t going away just because “we” go away. I am not denying media’s role and irresponsibility here, just noting that there is an underlying problem of heat and media is merely the fan.

    • 1mime says:

      Viking, I just had time to read through the whole survey. Very interesting and it basically coincides with my opinion of how these various groups think…..which is scary.

  17. Martin says:

    It seems to me that the rational argument of one’s economic interest has never really worked to explain someone’s political preference. I worked with a lot of affluent people over the years and while they all were susceptible to rational argument, political preference seemed unaffected either way.

    A number of years ago I came across the writings of George Lakoff. In his book “Moral Politics’ he makes a convincing case that all politics is moral. His findings are orthogonal to racial delineation. He identifies two fundamentally different moralities as the foundation of our thinking. A morality we all use to frame our world. If you are interested you should read his book if you haven’t already done so.

    The struggle of the 21st century might very well be between two fundamentally different moralities that go back to how families work in the first place. These two moralities represent two different forms of capitalism, two different forms of freedom and the meaning of life itself. With communism defeated the race is on to find out which form of capitalism will be most successful in a world eaten by software and technology. It is as profound as the clash between the two ideologies communism and capitalism during the previous century.

    Conservatives and liberals have very different views of democracy based on their respective moralities. For conservatives democracy provides them with the liberty to do what they want, without being responsible for others and without others being responsible for them. There is only personal responsibility, not social responsibility. Indeed, providing public resources is, to a conservative, immoral, taking away personal responsibility, making people dependent, lazy, unable to take care of themselves. Removing public resources is seen as providing incentives, and individual liberty is seen as the condition in which you can carry out your incentives: A morality centered on discipline and individualism.

    For progressives empathy is at the center of the very idea of democracy. Democracy is a governing system in which citizens care about their fellow citizens and work through their government to provide public resources for all. In short, in a democracy, the private depends on the public, and prosperity requires both the public and the private to flourish. In that sense the Liberal’s tent is broader. It is not socialism, but a capitalist model that seeks a balance between the private and the public: A morality centered on nurturing.

    In the 21st century one of these moralities will win and the other will loose. Which model will create more prosperity for its citizens? Should we harshly punish those who are not disciplined or should we invest in the common good?

    It is understandable that low-income whites, feeling the decline of white supremacy and hit by stagnation, more easily rally around a conservative morality. This is the way white supremacy was instilled and justified in the first place. Religious doctrine forms the foundation and often moral justification of a system that is truly unjust and racial at its core. An era of stagnation then further amplifies the conservative morality as it allows the definition of an in-group and promises to distribute the remaining pie unevenly inside this in-group.

    It is hard to imagine that we as a country can discipline and punish ourselves to prosperity, leaving large parts of the population behind. Open carry does not mix well with a high-tech society. Incarceration does not make us more disciplined. Prohibitively high cost for education does not create the workforce we need. The lack of a pension does not provide dignity. The lack of healthcare does not offer the security we need to innovate. The denial of science does not make it easy to lead in scientific research. The crackdown on immigration does not attract more qualified people required to build new industries. The exploitation of fear as a political tool does not make us feel safer. The ever expanding investment in defense does not make our infrastructure better. And the demagoguery does not blend well with intellectual aspirations.

    The geographic area in this country of ours where high-tech innovation takes place is shrinking. It concentrates in a few blue states on the costs. The international playing field is more level today than it ever was. We don’t produce nearly enough software and materials science engineers to keep up with demand. It does not look good for our country at the dawn of the 21st century. Over the last 20 years the conservative morality has consistently been gaining, while our economy peaked and started to decline vis-a-vis our competitors in Asia and Europe. Whether or how these two things relate I will leave to you to decide. This is often hard to see from inside the US, but for those looking at the US from the outside it is very obvious. Try keep that in mind.

    What is required is a framing of these economic ideas into an articulate morality. Something George Lakoff has talked about for years. And something the Democrats to this day do not understand. So maybe this is what Chris is looking for when it comes to a re-definition of the Republican platform.

    • 1mime says:

      Martin, that was a brilliant piece of writing. Thanks for the recommendation of Moral Politics.

      What are Lakoff’s recommendations for “framing economic ideas into an articulate morality”?

      • Martin says:

        @1mime: Thanks. Lakoff’s research is pretty neutral as you would expect from research, but his opinion pieces are not. Here is his latest book directed at the Democrats: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/160358594X/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_1

      • 1mime says:

        I’ve ordered it and look forward to seeing what you mean by it being directed “at” Democrats. I guess it’s my cynical nature, but I rarely expect political analysis to be even “pretty” neutral. Still, I haven’t read his work and you have whet my interest. When I finish it, I’ll give you my thoughts, FWIW. Based upon the depth of your comments and thinking much of which you attribute to Lakoff, I will probably be in agreement. My personal values and beliefs hew to a liberal perspective but it’s good to challenge one’s thinking. Lifer’s blog offers that opportunity as well. Thanks for your thoughtful remarks, Martin. They add much to the seriousness of the discussion.

      • Martin says:

        @1mime: ‘Moral Politics’ is his research. ‘Don’t think of an elephant’ is meant to be a handbook for Democrats to teach them how to frame the issues. They both are very informative and worth a read. It made me think for sure.

    • MassDem says:

      Excellent points, well said.

      My only quibble is that I think that many Democratic legislators & the President actually understand these issues, but for some reason they are absolutely the worst at communicating–Obamacare being a case in point. The general public actually approves of its provisions unless they are identified as being part of Obamacare.

      • 1mime says:

        For all his oratorical skills, Obama and the Democratic Party, have not “sold” the ACA to the American public, which is a damn shame, because it’s fed into the conservative position that it’s not needed. Accurately, the plan is flawed, if only that a universal plan is really what is needed in the U.S. The other problems in the plan can be “fixed” but we all know how that is going. So, yes, Dems have not sold their platform effectively and those who should run to the polls and vote them into office, are instead buying into the pap they’re being fed about how they’re being taken advantage of.

      • MassDem says:

        Too many Dems remember what happened in the 90s when the Clintons tried to enact universal health care- massive, massive flop.
        Half a loaf is better than none.

      • 1mime says:

        Half a loaf is better than none……….for some 17 million persons, sure. But there are another 23 million or so who are still uninsured, or greatly uninsured, and most likely, regular visitors to our nations’ ER centers. Which services (indigent or uninsured), the last time I checked, are mostly taxpayer subsidized.

        Either fix what we have or replace it with something better. I deeply believe health care is a right not a privilege in civilized societies.

      • 1mime says:

        So how well is ObamaCare actually working?

        “There has been a historic increase in the number of people with health insurance, and the law appears at little risk of fully collapsing. But with 29 million people still uninsured, can ObamaCare still go further? And how much will it all cost, both to the individual and the system as a whole? ”

        “One of the main worries, though, is that while there are heavy subsidies to encourage low-income people to sign up, there is less financial help to entice middle-class people. ”

        Well, who’s worried about the middle class? This group will soon be non-existent, so let’s just wait til everyone gets stinkin’ rich or incredibly poor. Voila! The problem will take care of itself as there will be no middle “what was that name again”?


      • MassDem says:

        Here is an interesting recent report by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation & Urban Institute looking at why enrollment in Obamacare was less than projected in 5 states that had expanded Medicaid. There are several reasons; a big one is that as the financial aid phases out with increased income, the more people opt out of healthcare due to it being too expensive. MA deals with this problem by supplementing the federal aid with state money, but I’m not sure this would be an option for WV. Some individuals refuse to enroll because of sheer pigheadedness, excuse me, I mean political opposition.


        I am completely in agreement with you that health care is a right, not a privilege, and would have preferred a single-payer option. I’m just not convinced that is feasible in the current climate. It will happen eventually, I have no doubts about that.

  18. Bobo Amerigo says:

    It’s probably for good reason we feel overwhelmed, unable to solve this problem.

    In the NYT’s Debt and the Racial Wealth Gap, the author, a ProPublica writer, says, “The modern roots of the racial wealth gap can be traced back to the post-World War II housing boom, when federal agencies blocked loans to black Americans, locking them out of the greatest wealth accumulation this country has ever experienced.”

    (A commentor said the whole problem goes back further in history, to 1873 and the collapse of the freedman’s savings bank and — no surprise here — unpunished bankers.)

    The generalized lack of resources in reserve means a black family can be undone by a medical expense or a fine for not mowing the lawn.

    Excerpt: “The most recent federal survey in 2013 put the difference in net worth between the typical white and black family at $131,000.

    That’s a big number, but here’s an even more troubling statistic: About one-quarter of African-American families had less than $5 in reserve.

    Low-income whites had about $375.”

    Data-based journalism shows promise in bringing clarity to these issues.

    But getting them addressed via policy changes and criminal culpability seems impossible given that there’s Obama to oppose and immigrants to bash and Hilary to demonize.


    • Rob Ambrose says:

      Very interesting.

      Obama had a tough choice to make with the Bundy Ranch, and while incant blame him for not applying pressure (even though it was pretty clearly an illegal act) it appears this has emboldened the wackos.

      In all likelihood, its the Bundy clan (Ammon Bundy is leading the charge) trying to recapture that intoxicating feeling when he was warlord of his own private army.

      And this case is the best example of “tyranny” they could find. Not surprisingly, the details if the case are not sympathetic to the defendants. After illegally poaching deer on public land, the defendant apparently handed out strike anywhere matches and told witnesses he was going to “burn the land to the ground”.

      What a tyrannical government, jailing a true patriot like that.

      These ppl think they can just take public land (I.e. land that belongs to all Americans) and mine, ranch, burn etc as they see fit and no gub’mint is gonna trample their God given right to do so.

      Thieves and criminals, the lot of them. Bordering very closely on terrorist.

      Apparently, even the local school board has cancelled schools ” until further notice”. They need to start jailing ppl.

    • Rob Ambrose says:

      This situation has the potential to really blow up.

      I don’t think the federal gov’t will back down this time. And these nutjobs are aching for a confrontation.

      They sure didn’t pick an overly sympathetic case to champion though. Public support will be low.

      I can’t help but wonder if a group of armed BLM members took over a gov’t building, what the response would be.

      • goplifer says:

        We don’t really have to wonder, we can just roll the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eHpRjxk7N4

      • 1mime says:

        We have seen the enemy and they are ours.

      • 1mime says:

        “I can’t help but wonder if a group of armed BLM members took over a gov’t building, what the response would be.”

        Surely, you jest.

        Need I remind you that the President is on the cusp of releasing recommendations to address gun violence by E.O.? Speaking of “perfect storms”….

        Obama cannot ignore this nor should he.

      • MassDem says:

        MOVE bombing was horrible, but not the only example of poor strategy trying to diffuse a situation involving a fringe group.
        After Ruby Ridge (1992) and Branch Davidian compound (1993) the Federal government has backed off of armed standoffs–they don’t want to create martyrs.

        Cut off their water, their electricity, internet access, jam their phones, block all supplies in or out–starve them out. And then throw them all in jail.

      • MassDem says:

        BTW, my husband has often said that the combination of bitter and angry conservatives combined with their cultish belief in the supremacy of the 2nd amendment is a far bigger danger to our country than anything ISIS is likely to do. I like to think of myself as an optimist, but I am coming around to his viewpoint.

      • flypusher says:

        “Cut off their water, their electricity, internet access, jam their phones, block all supplies in or out–starve them out. And then throw them all in jail.”

        Good idea. Making martyrs of these idgits is bad, but doing nothing is worse. They probably have supplies, so it could be a long siege.

      • Creigh says:

        I really dont like the “terrorist” labels. Yes, they are as misguided as terrorists, but in actuality they’re just wackos with guns. Let them play hero for a while, and when they realize the great uprising they hope for isn’t happening, wait for them to come dribbling out and then put them on trial.

      • 1mime says:

        How is that any different than letting Bundy get off the first time? All three sons are in the thick of this altercation, so obviously, not much was learned. I think it sets up a tinderbox as they are urging all these angry men to show up and help them “defend” their rights….No, I think MassDem and Righton had it correct: freeze them out then arrest the lot.

      • 1mime says:

        Rob, Found this excellent piece of history on the Bundy/federal lands issue in a link through The Week today. From Harper’s Bazaar:


    • rightonrush says:

      Wonder if they brought their women and children to hide behind this time.

      • 1mime says:

        Hi Righton. No, these SOBs sent out an appeal for every angry white man with a gun to come join their fight against big government.

        I’m with MassDem. Cut em off from utilities, communications, food. Like living off taxpayer land scott-free? Tell that to the Indians. Well, now they have their chance to be real outdoorsmen. It’s time for some hardball by government.

      • rightonrush says:

        Cut off their supply of beer. I’ll wait until they start killing each other. With that many idiots in one place trying to be the lead commando there is bound to be trouble.

      • flypusher says:

        “Cut off their supply of beer. ”

        They’d probably cry about that being a war crime.

      • 1mime says:

        (-: You and Righton are on a (binge?) roll!

      • flypusher says:

        Got to love the Twitter snark : Y’allQaeda (or VanillaISIS) trying to wage “YeeHawd”.

    • texan5142 says:

      Hellfire missile that shit and kill them all, time to send a message.

  19. Ryan Ashfyre says:

    Mayhaps I’m just tired and still trying to process all this, but frankly I don’t see how there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of doing much to change this kind of entrenched institutional racism. At the very least, it seems like the kind of problem that’s going to take a gradual phasing out over the course of many, many years.

    The only avenue I see by which to take this problem head-on is to continue to work on the economic front to see that minority families have the same kind of established opportunities – via a minimum income, educational access, universal health care, etc, etc. – and work to build them up in the same way that white families did over the course of many, many years in the era of white supremacy.

    We live in a new age today and, with any luck, hopefully the time it’ll take to accomplish that will be noticeably shorter than those who have come before us, but slow and steady will have to win the race in this instance. I don’t see how it can work any other way.

  20. Martin says:

    You made a strong, comprehensive and eloquent case for why lower income white Americans do not vote against their interests: “Explain how you can offer them something better than white supremacy”. Your latest piece on institutional racism and geographic segregation is powerful. It helped me shed light on an aspect of American life that is so uniquely American.

    You mentioned the fact that there are predominantly white areas that consistently vote Democratic. It is a growing trend that started long ago in affluent towns in CA, New England, Illinois, and other states; towns that also drive a lot of the country’s innovation and entrepreneurship. I would be very interest in your view on the underlying mechanics. Do these affluent white voters also vote against their self-interest as much as the low-income whites do when they vote Republican? What motivates or drives them?

    I find your analogy particularly strong when you say that maybe over time low-income whites will find that their interests are more aligned with blacks, latinos and immigrants than with the white upper class. With a significant percentage of affluent whites already voting with minorities, wouldn’t that be the start of a new coalition that could govern the country for decades? However, so far the Democrats failed miserably at reaching low-income white voters with a message of self-interest.

    • duncancairncross says:

      Hi Martin
      Your question about the more affluent whites has at its core a misapprehension
      The idea that Republican policies benefit the affluent

      In practice GPO policies don’t benefit the affluent – arguably they don’t even benefit the hyper affluent 0.01%

      The argument is that the GOP is “Business friendly”

      “Business friendly” is code for “Rich businessman friendly”, despite the two being almost entirely at odds. Business growth is higher under left-wing governments because they encourage reinvestment of profits in wages, R&D and modernisation, rather than allowing a small number of execs and owners to extract all the money as market rent.

      (In the same way that spending is actually often lower under left-wing governments, after an initial burst, because preventative maintenance is much cheaper than crisis management. The right wing does everything by crisis management, because their ideology insists on “saving money” by cutting long-term preventative programs.)

    • Rob Ambrose says:

      Martin says: “You made a strong, comprehensive and eloquent case for why lower income white Americans do not vote against their interests”

      I agree a compelling case has been made, and ibalso agree Chris isbright in that whites probably aren’t quite as cluelesssly voting against their self interest as I had thought, but I still think they are.

      I, and others, had said that these whites seemed to be VATSI in a clueless fashion, trading impotent rhetoric (I.e., voting for Bevin in KY because his opposition to gay marriage, even though as governor he has zero power to do anything about it) over their own self interest in the form of health care, or voting for a candidate willing to tax the rich etc.

      Chris argument has swayed me to concede that perhaps these candidates aren’t quite so blindly VATSI, and that perhaps there is more strategy to their vote (by ACTUALLY voting for white supremacy).

      That said, I still believe that is against their own self interest. It is by and large Republican policies that are keeping them from achieving their financial goals (even more tax cuts for the rich, preventing minimum wage increases, fighting health care, cutting social spending etc) and so even if they are not VATSI so cluelesssly as many had suspected, they still are, in the overall, VATSI by voting for most GOP politicians. Doubly so ifbthat politician is a tea partier like Bevin.

      • Rob Ambrose says:

        I should add, and even if a return to white supremacy WAS in their own self interest, it is just as futile as voting for Bevin because of gay marriage.

        Its a genie that’s never going back in the bottle, and so continuing to vote for extremist GOP candifates, even if the INTENT is a clear eyed vote for white supremacy, is still VATSI. Because its never coming back.

      • 1mime says:

        The most lasting social progress for Black people will come through “real” economic and educational access coupled with change in societal values – in a word, through “equality”. Our Millennial population is leading the way. Those who vote against their own best interests while resenting the advances of minorities through equal access, talent, education and intellect, are doomed to become the very underclass they fear and resent. There will be continued pain along the way as willful ignorance will stubbornly prevail, but we are making progress, however slowly.

        The Republican Party has won the marketing war against equality up to now, but life is a powerful teacher even for reluctant learners. Those who take advantage of opportunities will benefit; those who stand on the sidelines and obstruct and bemoan how their rights are being trampled will ever so slowly come around. The very forces that drive their anger and resentment will become a trap of their own making. Life is a powerful teacher. Equality of opportunity, education, health care accessibility, and individual choice in all things is what America is supposed to stand for. It is time for it to mean more than words on paper for a privileged few.

  21. duncancairncross says:

    Why is it easier in a small country?

    • flypusher says:

      Being closer to your reps for one. I don’t buy into the argument that local is always better in every situation, for every task of government. But I wouldn’t federalize everything either.

      • duncancairncross says:

        Hi Flypusher

        “Being closer to your reps”

        My “reps” are the other side of Cook Strait – over 400 miles away
        I can see “being closer” making a difference if it was 50 miles or 100 miles but once you are more than say 200 miles it’s all the same,

        The only difference that I can see is that at least they are in the same time zone

      • flypusher says:

        Hi Duncan, Physical distance is one consideration, but a bigger consideration is how many constituents is any given official trying to serve? Here at the local level, HISD is a pretty big, cumbersome bureaucracy. Take it up a few notches to a federal level and I’d question how well it could response to all the various local issues that crop up.

      • duncancairncross says:

        Hi Flypusher

        Part of the problem is how things are organised,
        In an education system you have teachers – front line workers

        But they need to be supported – think of them as soldiers they need the guns and ammunition

        The support functions – making the guns – are separate
        BUT each school does not need its own gun manufacturing operation

        In a well organised operation the supply is separate from the operation

        So if you want to help/advise/criticise the actual teaching you go to the school

        If you want to do the same with the materials used or the curriculum – then that is a separate organisation

        Making a National System would mean that you could take advantage of the best teaching materials and techniques
        BUT local issues could still be dealt with at a local level

        Another part of the problem is the US approach to democracy,
        You guys insist on electing the actual “workers”
        Most democracies elect the leaders and the workers are part of a separate non political civil service
        With less elected officials and more actual experts things run a bit smoother AND it’s actually easier for the public to input their concerns

  22. Rob Ambrose says:

    Way OT here, but I found this interesting.

    The GOP establishment just doesn’t get it. They can’t fathom that they’ve lost control of the party.


    Inexplicably (to them) Jeb! somehow fizzled. So clearly, that leaves Rubio. Right?

    The base is aaaaaangry and nobody associated with the establishment is going to win.

    I really think it’s going to be Cruz. And that is going to be fascinating to watch in the general.

  23. Rob Ambrose says:

    Excellent piece Chris. You’ve got a lot of talent as a writer, but I think your biggest strength is the ability to disseminate complex situations clearly.

    I think you’re right about the institutional racism, and I think that’s a big problem for much of the disconnect.

    There are very few true “racists” out there, in the sense of someone Hating someone purely on the color of their skin. Most people don’t realize how stacked the system is against minorities and that this is a firm of racism. Much more subtle, but possibly more insidious.

    Nobody wants to be called racist, and I think people take it sometimes that they personally are racist when they hear progressives speak, and they (naturally) push back against that, even while they remain oblivious about the ingrained racism in the system that they (and all of us) play a part in sustaining.

  24. goplifer says:

    Chris Rock, as usual, describes this situation far better than I ever could. Here’s what desegregation looks like now.

    “Do you know what the white man who lives next to me does for a living…?”

  25. 1mime says:

    Thoughtfully done, Lifer. The practice of “red lining” (which was eventually struck down) was another ugly, stealth practice that further segregated housing. As you noted, there are “many” ways to subtly discriminate. Having worked in new home sales for a period of years, I was fortunate to sell homes in a middle to upper middle class development that didn’t discriminate by race. If you loan-qualified and “you” wanted to live there, you could, which is how it should be. The Black families who sought homes there were primarily young professionals with children who wanted a better, safer environment and one which would offer quality public education for their children. They wanted their children to have an easier chance to succeed in life and made huge financial and personal sacrifices to make that possible. They were excited and proud to be able to live in such a nice area. Obviously, these are the same things that all young families want, regardless of race, but not all can climb that hill. I never witnessed any community racism but these Black families were definitely few in number and thus didn’t “threaten” the racial balance there.

    One day, it won’t be so hard for a White couple to shop for a home in the Chicago area, or a Black couple to shop for a home in a Chicago suburb. We have a ways to go before that is a reality, but it’s coming. What’s going to be challenging are the lower income neighborhoods that are experiencing more Black residents – possibly more renters, as White families move out. This presents a visible reality that contributes to the anxiety and anger of these individuals who feel t;hey are bearing the burden for racial equality at home and at work. A sad and ironic reverse situation is happening in the old Black neighborhood areas within Houston that are being bought up and re-developed with very expensive and densely built housing. The result is that the Black residents who lived there for generations can’t afford the increase in property taxes. They are being displaced from the homes they grew up in, and forced to relocate to other areas which may not be as nice or as safe as the homes they owned for generations.

    It’s an ever shifting dynamic in large cities. In smaller communities, I wonder if segregation is as obvious.

    • stephen says:

      “The result is that the Black residents who lived there for generations can’t afford the increase in property taxes”

      Which is why Florida has a law called Save our Homes. The most your tax can increase is 3% per year. This was designed to protect fix income elderly home owners. But applies to everyone. My property has appreciated a lot in the last forty years I have lived on it. But my tax is much lower than what someone buying now would pay. But this throws more of the tax burden to younger home owners and lets some older well off home owners off the hook for taxes. Nothing is prefect.

      • 1mime says:

        Not to get too off topic, but the lament that older folks are benefitting at the expense of younger folks is one I don’t buy.

        In TX, there is a senior tax exemption which does lower taxes, but not eliminate them. Consider the fact that seniors were young once (most of us, anyway (-: ) and paid just as the young today do. It’s generational progression of taxes. Most seniors don’t impact the community resources like young families with kids do. Of course, TX like FL doesn’t have a state income tax, but the property taxes are pretty high. We lived in FL in the nineties and our sales and property taxes were lower than they are here in TX. Even though we no longer have children in public school, we do have grandchildren there, and so are happy to still contribute to public education.

        Like you, we down-sized when it was the right time and haven’t looked back. My only regret is lack of diversity of the extent I would prefer. Like Lifer’s situation, wealth is a limiting factor, but a major difference is the relative young age of the community which will generate greater diversity over time due to the high educational and professional opportunities in the area.

      • vikinghou says:


        In my neighborhood property values have skyrocketed and some seniors are being forced out because they can’t afford the property tax. As I understand things, the tax “rate” is frozen in TX when the owner reaches age 65; however, the assessed property value is not. Thus, seniors must pay higher taxes if their properties appreciate in value.

        The property values in my neighborhood are all about location. HCAD assesses the land and dwelling values separately. Where I live everyone’s land is worth more than the dwelling. There are some lots where the homes have not been well maintained. In such cases the dwelling actually has a negative value as per HCAD. The property would be more valuable as a vacant lot!

        We would be ripe for the the McMansion phenomenon were it not for the deed restrictions that prohibit subdividing lots and building structures taller than two stories. Fortunately, people are choosing to renovate the existing homes.

      • 1mime says:

        It’s a little more complicated than most people realize…..A 65 year age homestead exemption (only one residence and it must be the principle residence) applies only to those taxing districts which elect to offer it and they set the amount (not all offer it). The largest taxing authority is the school district which taxes are automatically frozen at the amount calculated for the first full year of qualification (year you purchased home). If the area is expanding, the governing body may have sufficient revenue to avoid raising property values to full utilization of the 10% cap. So, you are correct, even with the 65+ exemption, your taxes still go up if your appraised values are rising, but it is a savings to the elderly.

        This stacking of increased appraised value is what is causing escalation of property values and consequently, property taxes for all who pay taxes. Supply and demand, but it’s tough on people on fixed incomes and even worse on those of modest income who live in areas that are being gentrified.

        Don’t want to deviate from Lifer’s excellent post, so here’s a link to a taxing district for more detail.


      • Kebe says:

        “Save our Homes”, like its ancestor, Prop 13, can have a wildly unintentional consquence: severe housing inflation. With more people staying in their homes, the market forces of lower supply come into play. This is incredibly visible in Silicon Valley, where there still may be some grandparents holding on to their Sunnyvale rambler which they bought in the 70s for less than $100k, while the house next door to them LITERALLY just sold for 10x that.

        I escaped the valley because we couldn’t afford to buy a house without winning startup roulette. And on top of it, if we had, we’d have to tell our children why they aren’t getting a BMW for their sweet 16.

  26. Sara Robinson says:

    I live in the whitest major city in the US for its size, which got that way through an identical process. The Northwest has never been warm to people of color. While Seattle was bad enough that way, Oregon was even worse: it has the distinction of being the only state in the union that started out with a no-blacks-ever clause in its state constitution. Even when that clause was rolled back, sundowning did the rest: for decades (up until the Fair Housing acts of 1967, in fact), there was exactly one neighborhood in the entire state — a ghetto in downtown Portland — where you could live if you were black. Even though that’s been over for 50 years now, Oregon remains vastly lily-white. Washington isn’t much better.

    (“Sundowning” is a term invented by James Loewen, and his book “Sundown Towns” does a great job of explaining how the stratification Chris describes came about.)

    And yet, through a process I’d like to understand better, our little one-block cul-de-sac overlooking Lake Washington is the most integrated street I’ve ever lived on (and that includes four college years living on the border between a barrio and a ghetto in LA). Most of my immediate neighbors are either black or immigrants: South Asian, Norwegian, Russian, and (until one of them died last month) Chinese. What we all have in common, though, is high professional status and lots of education. One of my black neighbors is a retired Superior Court judge. The Russian is a neurosurgeon. Both South Asians have PhDs: one was a UW professor, the other a Boeing executive. The Norwegian served for decades as that nation’s diplomatic consul in the northwest. Another neighbor is a famous author of medieval fiction.

    The other thing we have in common is that the entire street is over 50, and at least four of our 13 households are headed by people over 80. There are no kids (except the occasional visiting grandkid), and nobody moves off this street any way except heels first. Collectively, we’re the parents who are fronting the down payments for the next generation of 30-somethings buying their first houses, as we hunker down in this motley collection of spacious, funky, rapidly-appreciating and slowly-decaying 50-year-old ranchers for our own golden years.

    Economic and generational homogeneity seem to trump race, at least on our little street. I suspect the fact that the first house on the street (ours, in fact) was built in 1964 may have a lot to do with this: most of the community was post-Fair-Housing-Act, so racist patterns weren’t laid down in our DNA the way they were in older neighborhoods. Our proximity to UW also guarantees the liberality of the neighborhood overall. Though this doesn’t always translate to racial balance in many places, it did here.

    • Rob Ambrose says:

      Interesting. Is Portland not a very liberal city?

      To the point of absurdness? (I.e. Portlandia)

    • 1mime says:

      Why does it not surprise me to see you’re a redhead (-: (who cares how!I) From your description, you don’t have to wander far from home for a stimulating conversation….in many languages.

      Since you’re from OR, have to ask if you’ve seen the documentary, “The Battling Bastards of Baseball”, about Bing Russell and the Portland Mavericks. I highly recommend it.

  27. vikinghou says:

    A very interesting piece, Chris. But you seem to be feeling guilty for being the beneficiary of circumstances that were beyond your control. Like you said, Chicago neighborhoods do not offer the diversity you and your family were seeking, so you had to do what was best under the circumstances. It isn’t your fault.

    But you are correct that the ongoing class schism within the white community is inevitably going to cause increasing social strife. Plus there are other cultural factors that will exacerbate the situation, e.g., urban vs rural, degree of education, religious fundamentalism, etc. I hate to use the cliché “perfect storm,” but it may be coming.

    One question I have is if Chicago is experiencing gentrification on the scale we are now seeing inside the Loop in Houston? Unfortunately, poorer families are being forced out of their neighborhoods. The new residents are mainly composed of affluent younger people and empty-nest retirees who want the city life. The new residents seem to be more diverse ethnically. Their common bond is wealth, not race.

    • stephen says:

      @ vikinghou:
      I am seeing gentrification in Central Florida where I live. I have lived on a large country lot for decades. Commuting daily to the city to work. But the city is now knocking at the door due to growth. Funny thing is due to being older and retired now I am seriously thinking about selling out and buying something like you described. Living most of my life in a very diverse environment I want nothing to do with the White, age restrictive, monolithic Villages (a retirement community) to my north. So I am seeing gentrification in Orlando where I lived and I may help cause some in another place. And yes I am a pretty well off retiree and would fit your common bond is wealth, not race.

    • flypusher says:

      Elgin St on the east side of 288 is an interesting place to observe (I drive it frequently). At one extreme you have lots of actual blight, houses that are in advanced states of decay and not safe for habitation. Every now and then one gets torn down, but there are still plenty of them. On the other end you see a few examples of brand new, upscale construction (stone, Hardie-plank, solar panels, etc.). In between are the smaller, older houses in various states of upkeep. The 3rd Ward is gentrifying, and not without controversy. I personally would not elect to be one of those “pioneers” buying one of those newer houses even though the location would be very convenient. I did rent in a neighborhood a bit to the south and west on the other side of 288 when I was in grad school, but I wouldn’t have bought there either at that time. Boarded up windows and weeds make me uneasy when it comes to financial commitments.

    • pbasch says:

      I would say that guilt is a many-faceted (and many-splendored) thing. We sometimes hear social conservatives ask “whatever happened to shame,” and it’s not a silly question. Where they err is in assuming that shame has gone away, when it seems to have shifted to different topics. Instead of being ashamed of (say) being a single mother or having divorced, we may sometimes be ashamed of unearned privilege. Good move, I say. While Ladd may not need to feel guilty, it’s good that he’s at least aware. And if guilt is what leads him to be aware, then guilt is doing a good job.

  28. flypusher says:

    Where do the high-earning non-Whites live in the Chicago area? Do they segregate into their own versions of Elmhurst, or are they sprinkled about in majority-White enclaves?

    • goplifer says:

      Great question. There’s another two and half times as much material that got left on the cutting room floor, including some material about Chicago’s successful integrated neighborhoods.

      There are two places in Chicago that have achieved a high quality of public infrastructure while also ending the kind of segregation that is typical of the area: Oak Park and Evanston. Both of them started attacking the problem a long time ago when everyone else was fighting to keep blacks out. Ironically, they are both pretty expensive places to live, more expensive than my neighborhood. There’s a lesson in their history.

      Chicago’s wealthier black families often live in one of these two suburban neighborhoods, or in Hyde Park (Obama’s neighborhood) or Bronzeville inside Chicago.

      Middle income blacks have been leaving the city in large numbers in recent years as many of the previous constraints have been removed. South and Southwest suburbs like Matteson, Flossmoor and Beverly have seen a big influx. A large number of older black families, especially retirees from government jobs, are leaving altogether and buying much cheaper homes in places like Atlanta or Memphis.

      • My tuppence worth from a different “system”

        A lot of your problems are caused by the fact that your property taxes seem to have to pay for too much and are too local
        This results in things like education (and policing) being heavily dependent on the local property taxes

        Here (NZ)
        Education, policing and most road costs
        Are paid by the central government

        Local government pays for
        Water, Sewage, Drainage, Parks, Libraries, rubbish collection

        There is no real “driver” to make segregated areas

      • flypusher says:

        “Here (NZ)
        Education, policing and most road costs
        Are paid by the central government”

        Setting aside the inherent hostility towards central gov’t in some parts here, isn’t that easier to pull off in a smaller country?

      • goplifer says:

        Yes, that is the core of the problem. It is going to be very difficult to do anything to change that, but we have to address it soon.

      • Griffin says:

        Also our government is basically designed to be inefficient from the get-go thanks to weird compromises that were made between the Founding Fathers in the industrial, mercantilist North and those in the agrarian, aristocratic South.

      • Evanston (where I live) hasn’t ended segregation. It’s internally segregated. There’s a triangle area near the middle of Evanston that’s the poorest part of town with the highest crime and where many of the African-American residents live (another poorer section is the south end of town bordering Chicago). The wealthier areas (NW and SE Evanston) tend to be heavily white. I moved to Evanston because the low housing prices in the triangle caught my eye, but the housing wasn’t good; then I noticed a good deal at a slightly higher price in the better area of Evanston. Only after I moved did I really understand the internal segregation of Evanston. Of course, despite the internal segregation, Evanston is more integrated than most of Chicago, since it has one high school and other resources, and it is very liberal-minded, so it is appealing to a middle-class black community as well.

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