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Brad @ Burning Man
In the last week, I've seen arguments in three places (the NYT, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and on a blog I read) about why some former residents are giving up on New Orleans lately, why many of those who were the first to move back after the hurricane are leaving and why some of the ones who haven't come back are settling where they're at instead. And it completely and utterly disgusts me, as an American, to hear one of the most common rants about this. It goes like this: "those people" (meaning black people) ran such a corrupt city even before the hurricane that of course people are leaving.

If you think this, please explain something to me. Miami, a city even more famously violent and corrupt than New Orleans, was hit even harder by Hurricane Andrew than New Orleans was by Hurricane Katrina. In both cities, incompetent and/or corrupt government engineers signing off on things they shouldn't have signed off on were responsible for most of the damage. And yet the simple fact that remains is this: by this time after Andrew, the debris was entirely cleared, city services were fully restored, and most of the destroyed housing had been rebuilt or replaced. Contrast that with the condition of the now-famous Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, and then offer me any explanation for the disparity other than the one that is obvious to me, and that is that while the rest of Miami held no grudge against their white and Cuban neighbors who'd lost their houses, a substantial number of people in New Orleans are seriously hoping that the majority of the black population won't come back, and that's why they're putting every possible obstacle into letting them have any place to live in New Orleans. And the rest of America, sympathizing with this quiet but ugly racism, are not intervening to make them honor the promise that we all, as a nation, made to New Orleans, to rebuild.

And it is absolutely critical that we rebuild, and I'll tell you why. At least once per generation, every generation since the Civil War has been offered a chance to do the right thing. And every generation since the Civil War has done the wrong thing, instead, and then blamed the victims. If this generation, my generation, wants to be thought of as anything but yet more bigots, if we want to prove that we're as race-tolerant and color-blind as we claim to be, then we absolutely have to prove it by acting better than our elder siblings, our parents, our grandparents, and their parents and grandparents did. This is Secret History, Forbidden Lore in white America; you weren't told this in school. You have to have either been black and lived it, or to have studied as much economics as I have, to know the following cycle:

1866-1875ish: Blacks freed from slavery. Some of them managed to scrape together enough earnings to buy small farms; others to rent tiny store fronts in small towns and open grocery stores or clothing stores. Many black families invested their hope, and their sweat, into the American Dream. They worked hard, for long hours, spent little or nothing, saved for the future, and educated their children the best they could. And as soon as some of them started to make it, they became targets of actually organized campaigns of lynching. Studies of the lynching phenomenon in the 1870s have turned up a disquieting and disgusting fact: the "criminal" charges were all trumped up, and the mobs knew this. The targets were chosen for economic reasons, targeted almost only those black Americans who'd worked the hardest and saved their money the most carefully, killed those families' wage earners and chased their dependents far away. And in every single one of those lynchings, a poor white neighbor bought the deceased's store or farm for a few cents on the dollar in a rigged auction. As soon as the American Dream started to work for black people, it was taken away from them by force by white people.

1875ish-1899ish: In American history, the general "boom" in industrial employment following the expansion of the railroads. Factories desperate for workers went into majority-black counties in the South and offered the survivors of the lynching campaigns the American Dream: come up to St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and so on and work in our factories. We'll start you out in slums, but if you work hard, save every penny, and educate your children, you can live the American Dream. But as the 1890s ground along, it turned out that the railroad stocks were fraudulently propped up bubbles, desperately out of new suckers to sell the now-worthless shares to. So an organized campaign began to convince black Americans that they were poorer than whites because whites had had the good sense to invest in the railroads. When the few black families not to fall for this trick turned out to have their money in banks, instead, this did them no good. White people, having lost less per capita, were better able to take care of each other. Black America, having lost so much, depleted their savings trying to keep their friends and family members from starving. By the end of that collapse, whites owned everything once again and black America was destitute. As soon as the American Dream started to work for black people, it was taken away from them by fraud by white people.

1900-1940: Nothing more need be said; the pattern pretty nearly exactly repeats. When the banks collapse and trigger the Great Depression, not only were black Americans who'd worked hard and saved their money more likely to lose everything than white families were, it turns out to be black workers who are thrown out of jobs in such higher percentage than white workers, too. So once again, just as after the last stock market bubble and collapse, just to feed their families they had to completely deplete their savings. After another 30 years of effort, the American Dream had just started working again for black people, and it was taken away from them by fraud by white people.

1940-1945: Most American military units didn't want black men, so proportionately more of them stayed home. In a sense, this looked like good news for them: the factories were desperate for workers to build the famous Arsenal of Democracy, and there were some jobs for which women lacked the strength and illegal Mexican immigrants lacked the language skills. For the fourth time since slavery, and even more than in previous times, black men prospered and began to save money up for their families. But the exact second that World War II was over, every woman and every black man was fired to make jobs for the white men who "needed those jobs more." Just at the point where the American Dream was starting to work for black people, it was taken away from them by force by white people.

1945-1965: Starting all over from nothing, some black families tried to work any job they could get, save every penny, and try desperately to invest in a house and to educate their children. 20 years later, the Draft began for the Vietnam War. And one of the under-reported facts about the Vietnam War draft is that almost any white person who tried to get a draft deferment (not everybody tried) could, except for the poorest of the poor, but almost no black men received draft deferments. As a result, a nation that was 10% black sent a military into the jungles of Vietnam to kill and die that was almost half black, including a substantial percentage of the black community's hardest workers. When they came back, they found out that their Vietnam service had, through disability or through public perception, rendered many of them completely unemployable, and far too many of them froze to death and starved to death in our alleys. Now, some of you will call attention to the fact that this is, with the exception of the GIs after WWII, the general fate of American veterans after every conflict. But remember, unlike every conflict before (or in no small part after), Vietnam was a war that American fought disproportionately with black people. Nor should it escape your attention that around 1965 the Italian and Jewish mafias made a conscious decision to flood black American neighborhoods with heroin. Nor should it escape your attention that, for the second time in a hundred years, there was an organized campaign to lynch and/or assassinate almost any articulate black American in the South. As a net result of all of these 1965ish crises, despite 20 years of saving and investing, just at the point where the American Dream was starting to work for some black people, it was taken away from them by force, and politically, by white people.

1965-1981: But the Civil Rights Acts did pass, and slowly employers were forced to make room at their jobs for at least some black Americans. And black American families took those jobs, and many of them did exactly what the American dream asked them to do: work hard at any job you can get, save every penny you can, buy a house, invest in your kids' education. But when the bills came due over Vietnam, and when OPEC imposed an embargo, and the economy started to spiral down out of control, rather than fix those problems or just wait for them to be over, America elected a President who decided to solve the problem by forcing wages down, and to do that by doubling the unemployment rate. And guess what? Last hired, first fired. Unemployment rates, calculated by traditional as opposed to politicized means, reached 20% in white America ... but over half in black America, and over 70% in some places. And once again, the few who kept their jobs ended up emptying their savings accounts to keep their out of work relatives from starving. Why? Because just at the point where the American Dream was starting to work for many black people, it was taken away from them by force by white politicians.

1981-2001: The OPEC embargo ended, and Vietnam receded into the past, and the American economy slowly recovered. It recovered for both blacks, and whites, but much more slowly for blacks because once again they were starting with a lot less to invest, a lot less saved. Then for freakish technological and economic reasons, we had a run-away stock market bubble from about 1990 to 2000. But like all stock market bubbles, by 2000 this one was running out of suckers to sell the increasingly over-valued, increasingly worthless stocks to. And it was right at this time that, for the second time in just over a century, the public began a dedicated campaign to convince black Americans that the reason white Americans were richer wasn't because they'd started with more, but because they'd had the good sense to invest in computer company stocks. By 2001, most black families with any savings had been persuaded to invest in these worthless companies right at the point when many white people, like myself, were getting out. So while many white people were wiped out of their savings, nearly all black families with any savings were completely wiped out right at the point where another Republican set out to intentionally raise the unemployment rate for the good of the economy, even before 9/11. By the end of 2001, there was a lot of economic hardship, but once again it was disproportionately the black Americans who hadn't lost everything, and who still had jobs, who had to completely deplete their savings to keep their families and friends fed. Because just as kept happening over and over again, just when the American Dream started to work for black Americans, it was taken away from them by fraud by white investors and by government action by white politicians.

The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans matters because an awful lot of that neighborhood consisted of middle class and working class black families who had, despite everything that I just told you, chosen to invest their energy one more time in the American Dream. They worked hard, they saved every penny, they bought the nicest homes they could afford and fixed them up. And once again, those houses and everything they had saved were taken away from them by fraud by white claims adjusters in the insurance companies, many of whom are now thankfully be found liable, and by white politicians in Washington, who unfortunately aren't.

There's this awful stereotype in America that black people are lazy and stupid and don't want to work. That's disgusting. Let me tell you something. I know white people. I am one. I was raised around them. And I know for an absolute fact that if white Americans had lived that history, if they had grown up knowing that every 20 or so years another group of people were going to come along and steal everything they had saved up, I guarantee you that white people would have given up long before now. There wouldn't be any white people who were still trying to work back-breaking, family-wrecking hours at any miserable wage they can get, living in absolute penurious squalor to save that money so that they can some day buy a house where they can educate their children, and leave that money, that house, and that education to their children in hopes that their children can live better. That there are any black Americans who are still trying, who keep trying after every time the total wealth of their neighborhoods and their families are stolen from them, who are willing to do this imposes on us an obligation to stop that theft. Those people lost their homes due to white incompetence and white fraud, and they lost their savings through even more white incompetence and white fraud. We would not tolerate this if it happened to anybody but black people, if it were anybody but black people we would have long ago by now raised the money among us, by taxes and by public borrowing, to give them back the houses and the savings that they lost. We do this, for everybody but black people, so that they don't lose faith, so that we don't lose faith, in the American Dream.

Are we, the generation that prides itself on having gotten "over" race, going to demand that our government provide black Americans in a wrecked city the same assistance they have given white Americans over and over again, to protect those black Americans' American Dream? Or are we going to be no better than every other racist generation that came before us, and make up intolerable excuses to blame the victims, excuses we would never pin on anybody but a black American? You tell me.


( 41 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 17th, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)
I understand crime went up greatly in Houston after many black families were sent there. What are your thoughts on this?

I do agree with most of your comments. I personally worked once for a junior black manger man, who's life long dream was to have a Corvette. He saved for that car for years. Upon buying it, he discovered that every few miles he would be pulled over for the offense of driving an expensive care while black.

After a couple of years he traded it in for a square boxy invisible car, because his dream had turned into a nightmre.
Feb. 17th, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)
What's underreported is that those black families were the /targets/ of much of that crime, not the perpetrators. And then the media and the locals blamed them, because it's a lot easier to hate the stranger than it is to consider the actual problems.

Anytime you increase the population of an area quickly, with strangers to the neighborhoods, add economic hardship and scarcity of resources, there will be an increase in criminal activities, with the strangers both as victims and instigators. Because, gasp, people in dire straits do dumb things, /and/ they make good victims.
Feb. 17th, 2007 07:06 pm (UTC)
most of the crime increase was criminals relocating.
a disproportionate number of gangbangers and such from nola ended up in a specific part of houston where a lot of local criminals end up also (an area of town where landlords don't have very stringent requirements for renters). so you ended up with a bunch of turf-competition and some other people caught up in it.

but it was hardly black nola residents in general, but a specific and narrow subset of that population that created the crime increase.

you're doing the very thing brad just spent an entire insightful post describing. heh.

Feb. 17th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC)
Re: most of the crime increase was criminals relocating.
Speaking as a Houstonian who taught in that specific area of town last year, I can verify this description. Most of the evacuees were indistinguishable from the rest of my students*, and were more likely to be the targets of fraud than the perpetrators of any crime; to the extent that I interacted with them, the same seemed to be true of their parents/guardians. There were a few troublemakers that caused a disproportionate amount of ruckus, and I don't think they occurred in statistically improbable numbers compared to any other population. (There was also B-Stupid as an individual troublemaker, of course, and the side issue that apparently the NOLA gangs and the local Houston gangs deal in incompatible sets of drugs, but those are merely an expansion on the basic idea.)

*Behaviorally, I mean. Educationally, the difference was startling. I have had no reason to think highly of the Texas educational system, but apparently some of the New Orleans public schools make us look pretty good.
Feb. 18th, 2007 01:12 am (UTC)
Re: most of the crime increase was criminals relocating.
true. Just sitting back, watching the TV and believing the news. because of course the news is TRUE and UNBIASED.
Feb. 18th, 2007 03:20 pm (UTC)
Re: most of the crime increase was criminals relocating.
On a completely-off-the-point-of-the-original-post note -- has it ever been that? I mean, I want it to be, and it pisses me off when its not, but it never has been, so it's more like something to work towards, than something to mourn the passing of.
Feb. 17th, 2007 02:52 pm (UTC)
there was an organized campaign to lynch and/or assassinate almost any articulate black American in the South.

I don't think there were many lynchings in the 60S (he said, being a pedant). Like, single digits - which is too many, of course.
Feb. 18th, 2007 06:45 pm (UTC)
What is a lynching, anyway?
IANA social scientist, so am having trouble laying my hands on numbers. I suspect he says lynchings *and assassinations* because of the shift towards the later framing during the 20th century.

Anyway, you are correct about the downward trend. However, from what I can till, although lynchings were more common in the earlier periods, more of them were local events or went unreported altogether, while the assassinations and lynchings of the 1950's and 60's were much more national events (although not as much so as it would be today). So if a lynching is, in part, killing someone to make an example of him, it would take fewer cases. I think the problem here is in the word "articulate"--perhaps charismatic is closer to it, but the kinds of people who can command a following.

If a lynching is, more broadly, a form of economic control, as Brad was also implying above, then we have many other institutions to fill those shoes, such as prisons and, our favorite, the payday loan places. Similarly, if lynching is harassment, terrorism, genocide, we do so today more subtly via police, zoning, etc. The shift to less blatant forms of force was already taking place. In the limit it comes to the same thing, just it takes longer to get there (a longer breath to try to tie it off).
Feb. 20th, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC)
>I don't think there were many lynchings in the 60S

Oh, noooo... just bombings, shootings, beatings by cops, dog-attacks, fire-hosings - dude, where were during the 1960s? Do the names Selma, Birmingham, Memphis and Watts mean anything to you? If not, look 'em up.
Feb. 20th, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
Brad said there was an organized campaign of lynchings in the 60s, I noted that there were very few lynchings in the 60s. A "lynching" is a very specific form of public violence. If Brad had said "There were a large number of car-bombings in Toronto in the 1990s," and I said "No, there might have been one or two, but not very many," would you then ask me why I didn't mention all the stabbings and shootings?

I don't think my comment can be reasonably interpreted as general unawareness of the existence of organized and even institutional racism or racially motivated violence in the 60s.
Feb. 20th, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC)
There you go, invoking 'reason' again.
Feb. 17th, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC)
What an excellent and thoughtful essay. I agree with your assessment of the treatment of Black Americans throughout our history, and once again, I do NOT think we're going to "do the right thing."

I have a (White) friend who lives in New Orleans. He tells me that every building associated with his childhood – schools, church, parent's house – is completely gone. There are miles of city that simply aren't there any longer. The way he talks about it makes me very sad as I cam hear the sadness in his voice. He does not believe the city will ever be the same again.

There are some areas of New Orleans that should not be rebuilt, as they should have never been built in the first place. Building neighborhoods that have to be protected by an expensive levee system because they sit below sea level is not good city planning.

However, anyone who lost their home should receive a new home in a safer, more stable area of the city. Other than Habitat For Humanity and a few other groups, nobody is helping Black Americans rebuild their homes and lives. (I bet this is true for Poor White residents as well, because we treat the Poor nearly as badly as we treat the Blacks.) Some of the court rulings on insurance have been outrageous, some just. But some people cannot get a new insurance policy now and are therefore reluctant to rebuild.

My in-laws (who are wealthy White people,) in Florida are having a terrible time with their home insurance. The insurers don't want to do what they were intended to because a hurricane costs them too much profit. They are quickly backing out of all hurricane-prone areas, including the entire state of Florida.

It's a failure of politicians, of insurers, of White America, of everyone. And if an earthquake destroys my home here in the San Francisco Bay Area we'll see the same failure. The one favor the Bush Administration has done for America is they have destroyed the illusion that our federal government is a benign, paternal figure. Some Americans are finally waking to the fact that our government is not on the side of the people. This holds true for all of us.

The outstanding question you so eloquently pose is: What are we going to do about it?
Feb. 17th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
Building neighborhoods that have to be protected by an expensive levee system because they sit below sea level is not good city planning.

Tell that to the Dutch.
Feb. 17th, 2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
But the Dutch developed elaborate systems for flood control and home preservation, much more comprehensive and technologically advanced than anything built here.
Feb. 17th, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC)
That they did. What's the excuse of the wealthiest, most powerful, and most technologically-advanced nation-state in human history, then..?

I started reading Brad's post expecting to disagree with it - it seemed a bit too cut-and-dry. Now, I'm not so sure. :P
Feb. 18th, 2007 12:05 am (UTC)
So? Hire the Dutch to design and build one here. It makes as much sense to rebuild New Orleans as it did for them to build their levees. Moreso, really; we need a port city there, and the dry land nearby isn't extensive enough to support the size of city we need. That's why we put in the (poorly maintained) drainage and levy system we did, after all. It made sense then, and it makes sense now.

New Orleans is no more geographically doomed than the Barrier Islands off the coast of the Carolinas, but we spend billions on stabilizing those glorified sandbars. We keep rebuilding even the most flimsy of trailer parks in Miami after every hurricane. So the reason we're not hiring whatever expertise it takes and spending similar sums of money to rebuild black people's homes in New Orleans has to have more to do with it than geography.
Feb. 18th, 2007 07:01 am (UTC)
I don't disagree. I have never been there, so I was basing my assessment on news reports and what little I've heard. I also hadn't put it in context. I assumed there was ample surrounding land on which to build.

I think all those people deserve to get their homes back, and I agree with you this is (another) terrible decision our country has made. Everyone's so busy distancing themselves from our government we've forgotten we ARE the government, and we're not demanding many things we should.

I also know this country has screwed over Black Americans at every turn. I grew up in a town (Palo Alto) right next door to a large Black (and poor) community (East Palo Alto.) A freeway was the literal dividing line between wealth and poverty, Black and White. There was thinly disguised racism in a town that claimed to be progressive, and crimes were often blamed on the Blacks that later turned out to be committed by White kids.

I kept wondering when we'd start taking their land because the San Francisco Peninsula is prime real estate and geographically limited, and even though it's taken close to 30 years that's exactly what we're doing under the guise of "redevelopment" and "increasing property values." The city of San Francisco is also doing the same thing in a neighborhood called "Hunter's Point." (Once they clean up the toxic waste from the old shipping yard.) It's prime real estate with bay views and the only "obstacle" is a vibrant Black community, (although plagued with crime and drugs like many poor communities.)

New Orleans is merely a dramatic example of what we're doing all the time. I knew we were going to screw over those people from day one, when we failed to evacuate every single person. In my wealthy (White) neighborhood they would be landing helicopters until everyone's dog got out.

I went to visit a friend in East Palo Alto and there were no street signs. It’s a way they're trying to say "go away," "stop trying to steal our land." It was so painfully obvious to me, yet when I relate this story nobody gets it. There is a siege mentality happening there for a very good and valid reason, yet my White friends wish to deny that's the reason.

So I agree with you. If that's the only land available, rebuild it better than before. The fucked up thing is White people would probably take that land too.

How do we break with history? (As Whites and Blacks seemed equally chained to it.)
Feb. 18th, 2007 12:58 pm (UTC)
Hire the Dutch to design and build one here.

We did hire the Dutch to come and build a levee system.

They quit.

The Dutch have absolutely no tolerance for fraud, waste or abuse. You are expected to work, and work very hard for your money. Inefficiency is pointed out immediately and ineptitude is expunged with ruthless efficiency. The Germans are similar to the Dutch in this aspect, except that the Germans are a lot more polite about it. The Dutch don't give a damn about polite and will say so to your face, or to your rump as you're shown the door.

They managed to endure our unions and labor relations department for a few months before they simply decided that we couldn't pay them enough money to put up with "The American Way of Construction".
Feb. 18th, 2007 01:44 pm (UTC)
Word from the UK on Drainage
We DID import the Dutch to drain our lands in the 18th Century, and it's STILL working pretty damned well. I spent my very dry childhood living on part of it.

However coastal erosion will violate part of the system in the next 20 some years, and not even the Dutch have a solution to that one!

It's a vile situation in NO... and as an international observer of the passion play, I can only say I am appalled...

Feb. 20th, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC)
>Tell that to the Dutch.

Holland also doesn't have hurricanes. The Gulf of Mexico has them every year.
Feb. 17th, 2007 05:40 pm (UTC)
If by "given up" you mean 'started an organized killing spree'. Speaking of which: there was a Jewish mafia? When did that happen?
Feb. 17th, 2007 08:39 pm (UTC)
1940s-ish (and likely before and maybe still), probably, the movie Bugsy is about a very well known Jewish gangster.
Feb. 17th, 2007 11:39 pm (UTC)
Bugsy Siegel was hardly the only Jewish gangster, and he had an entire Jewish gang. What I've read about the mafia in the US from the 1920s through the 1950s tends to report that somewhere around a quarter of all the gangs were Jewish, for the same reason that about a quarter were Irish and about half were Italian: they couldn't get jobs. And the decision by the generation of New York mobsters that came into power in the late 1950s and early 1960s, both Italian and Jewish, to reverse course and allow heroin imports to the US, but only on the condition that it only be sold in black neighborhoods, is one of the best-documented incidents in mafia history.

I don't mean to pick on either Italians or Jews by pointing this out, only to point out that it was people who are by our standards white (admittedly, not by the standards of the time, but by our standards) who decided that the only places in America where heroin would be sold would be black neighborhoods. The heroin epidemic that exploded thereafter was often blamed on blacks, because blacks were often the street-level dealers, but it was white people who were bringing the heroin into the country and hiring those black street dealers.
Feb. 19th, 2007 09:31 pm (UTC)
1965 the Italian and Jewish mafias made a conscious decision to flood black American neighborhoods with heroin

Would you cite your source, please?
Feb. 19th, 2007 10:26 pm (UTC)
I don't have any one source handy, but it's something that's shown up in every mafia history I've seen in the last 10 or 15 years, namely that the wave of intra-mafia assassinations around that time was by the pro-heroin younger generation clearing away any older anti-heroin mafia bosses; it was the younger generation's opinion that heroin money was the only way that the mafia could remain relevant, could be anything more than small potatoes.
Feb. 20th, 2007 01:21 am (UTC)
If you're looking for references, I recommend "Hep Cats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams," by Jill Jonnes.
Feb. 20th, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
>1965 the Italian and Jewish mafias made a conscious decision to flood black American neighborhoods with heroin

>Would you cite your source, please?

The plot of The Godfather hinges on this "policy."

Oh, and Jewish mobsters often attained their power through superior knowledge and understanding of finance and law - areas where Italian and Irish gangsters often faltered.

(NOTE: This is not a racist/ anti-Semitic observation - I'm a Sicilian-American who was married for half a decade into a Jewish family.)
Feb. 20th, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC)
The plot of The Godfather hinges on this "policy."

Erm, is this meant to be a credible academic reference?
Feb. 20th, 2007 11:15 pm (UTC)
And yet, my Jewish boyfriend's only marginal family connection to mob anything is some accounting while my great uncles on the Sicilian side were lawyers. Italian gangsters know well the benefits of knowledge. It appears we are the balance to each other's family mob backgrounds.
Feb. 17th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC)
Do you have any recommendations for what can be done to prevent the next iteration? (My best guess is that it will be a depression caused by the extraordinary irresponsibility of the current administration.)

The vast majority of white people didn't take part in most of what you're describing, and in some cases were badly hurt by the force and fraud which hurt black people worse.

As a libertarian, I'm used to saying that conscription is slavery. I didn't realize that the connection was quite so literal.
Feb. 17th, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC)
I'll give you the same answer I gave Lil_Mischif, which boils down to hold politicians' feet to the fire on this subject. Treat betrayal of New Orleans as a betrayal of America. And if they say anything that blames black Americans for their own poverty, that suggests that it's because of black people's own choices that they keep losing everything, assume that that politician is an idiot at best and a monster at worst, and vote accordingly. Also, know this history and when people around you, white or black, say stupid crap about how slavery was the only bad thing done to black people and that was 140 years ago and they need to get over it, or that it's entirely black people's fault that their poor, answer them with what you now know.
Feb. 17th, 2007 07:19 pm (UTC)
I know a (white) fireman who went down after Katrina to try to rescue survivors and bring them food and such. And when they started shooting at his group, he said nothing about what race the shooters were. I suspect, despite the stereotype that blacks are more likely to commit violent crimes (and if they are, I think all this mistreatment of them kind of explains why), that there were an awful lot of white shooters down there. Because it's the whites that got spoiled over the years and expect things to always turn out their way and have lots of resources, and at this point they had nothing.

I think basically all these examples boil down to money, and our obsession with it. Slaves continued to be slaves because whites didn't want to let go of their money to pay them, and whites now bitch about how many blacks are "stealing their jobs". (Though I'm not sure why they think they're "their" jobs, since from a national standpoint it doesn't really matter who has a particular job, as long as someone does.) And so, I don't see any of this changing until we stop being so damn greedy. Do you see this happening any time soon? Neither do I.
Feb. 17th, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC)
i'm linking this to blackfolk, hope you don't mind.
no text.
Feb. 17th, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC)
I agree that both this iteration and the entire cycle are deplorable. But what can we, as individuals, do to change things?

Personally I am struggling as well. I don't even have a job currently. Though I am looking. So I can't afford to "throw money at it". So what does someone in my position do?
Feb. 17th, 2007 11:23 pm (UTC)
Hold your elected officials' feet to the fire. Write letters to Congress and to the White House demanding that the promises made to New Orleans be kept. Don't vote for anyone for national office in 2008 without asking them what they intend to do about New Orleans, and treat any answer short of "rebuild every person's home" the way you would treat any other deal-breaker answer.

And as for the rest of the cycle, what you can do is recognize that it's not because of some inherent deficiency in black people that so many of them are poor and that some of them have given up on the American Dream, and when you hear somebody who thinks so say something that suggests it, counter with what you now know. Tell them that hard-working, educated black Americans were singled out nation wide for murder and robbery in the 1870s, targeted for stock frauds that wiped out their savings in the 1890s and the 1920s, lost three times as many farms and jobs in the Great Depression, lost all of their jobs to white returning soldiers after World War II, had half of their wage earners drafted to Vietnam, and were thrown out of work three times more often during the Reagan recession, and that all of those things were done to them by white politicians and white business owners. Ask them if their family had been robbed every 20 years, with full government approval, if they'd still be trying to pursue the American Dream?
Feb. 17th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC)
I'm visiting from blackfolk and I think this is a great essay. There are so many people who don't understand that if slaves had been paid for the work they did and if Blacks (and other people of color) hadn't been barred from certain levels of acheivement, even after slavery, the US would have a vastly different economic landscape right now.
Feb. 17th, 2007 08:59 pm (UTC)
I'd love to read more about this. Do you have any recommendations?
Feb. 17th, 2007 11:33 pm (UTC)
Not in any one place. That book probably exists, and maybe someone coming over here from blackfolk now that it's been linked there can recommend one. But I'm white, and went to vast-majority-white schools, so I wasn't taught this stuff in any coherent way. I only know it because I picked it up in pieces here and there. Some museum put together a great on-line exhibit about lynchings called "Strange Fruit" last year or year before. I learned about the railroad bubble and the Great Depression from studying economics. And almost every book about the immediate post-war era, the late 1940s and early 1950s, talks about the fact that women and black men were thrown out of work immediately in 1946, but they almost never put that fact in any kind of broader historical context.

Some of this I remember watching from my own life. I grew up during the years that the KKK was retaliating, in an organized way, for the Civil Rights Act by slaughtering black people; even as a very small child, it seared me. Vietnam was the first political issue I ever cared about, as a 12 year old; I remember seeing articles in the paper about the disproportionate impact of the draft on black people and seeing that nobody but black people could be persuaded to care, or do do anything other than blame black people for not having doctors who'd lie about deferrable medical conditions and for not going to college, without asking why they couldn't afford to do those things. I read the business pages during the Reagan recession, and saw Reagan officials asked if it bothered them that the manufactured unemployment was disproportionately hitting black people, and saw how callous their answers were, and I'm no more likely to forget that than I am the assassinations and bombed churches and random murders by cops and the KKK during my youth.

And as for noticing the cycle, well, *shrug*, we Aspies are good at pattern recognition.
Feb. 17th, 2007 10:17 pm (UTC)
We need more people who know telling the truth. Thank you.

I'm going to friend you if that's okay because your blog is awesome.
Feb. 21st, 2007 05:13 am (UTC)
-1 Too racist to comment on.
Feb. 21st, 2007 02:58 pm (UTC)
I know this is a minor point and really tangential, but it bugs me. Partly because it's that tangential - let's just throw out that these people oppressing African-Americans were Italians and Jews.

As someone who's borne the insults Christ-killer and Nigger-lover, the implication that it's us yids keeping the Black man down, disproportionate to how many Jews there actually are in this country, in the Mafia, and tangential but positive within African-American history... well, that just rankles.

I mean, how many Jews could have been involved in the Mafia in 1965, apparently enacting anti-Black prejudice as some weird genetic part of our ethnic heritage?

I did some quick Google searches. "Jewish civil rights activist" as a string gets me a first hit which is, and which contains gems like;

Jews made up half of the young people who participated in the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964. Leaders of the Reform Movement were arrested with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964 after a challenge to racial segregation in public accommodations. Most famously, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched arm-in-arm with Dr. King in his 1965 March on Selma.

By contrast, a search for "Jewish gangster" - the top hit is a discussion of gangs of the '30s and '40s. The top hit for "Jewish Mafia" is, which clearly has a Jew-hating agenda - and you notice that their list of "Mafiosi" consists of relatively few people involved in organized crime, and nearly none involved in organized crime in 1965. Aside from Meyer Lansky, how many Jewish gangsters were there out there, in the '60s?

So far, this suggests that it's far more accurate to call the equal rights movement, "the Black and Jewish equal rights movement" than it is to label the Mafia, "the Italian and Jewish Mafia." Not only is specifying Jews in mix unneccessary, but it's also inaccurate.

So why do you go out of your way to tag an ethnicity key in helping African-Americans, as an ethnicity responsible for keeping the Black Man Down?
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