Dallas Has a Lesson to Learn About Segregation from Scary Detroit

Categories: Schutze

SHZ_GetOffMyLawn_TitleImageV2.jpg
Stories about my old hometown, Detroit, are no longer merely depressing. The word, depressing, just doesn't get it. Detroit is beginning to be fascinating. Its plight is almost mesmerizing, in a science-fiction post-apocalyptic kind of way.

Terrible awful unbelievable story in The New York Times today saying, among other things, that if you have a real medical emergency in Detroit you're probably toast. Most of the city's ambulances, some of which have logged more than 300,000 miles, are broken down and out of order at any given moment. That's just an example.

Detroit has a recurring urban myth that's not a myth: Somebody reports a dead body. Nobody shows up. In 2009 an anonymous person called Detroit News columnist Charlie LeDuff to tell him about a body frozen in an elevator shaft with legs sticking out of the ice "like Popsicle sticks." LeDuff called the city three times over two days, even identifying himself as a reporter, before anybody showed up. Homeless people told him the body had been there since the previous month.

Yeah. Scary. That's part of the fascination. The other part is, "There but for the grace of God ..."

detroit.jpg
Dan Harder
Detroit
Couple weeks ago I got a little bit unhinged here about Dallas school board member Bernadette Nutall after she tried unsuccessfully to kill a special program of subsidies and outreach for dysfunctional high schools in her district. Nutall, who is black, wanted to turn down $20 million because she saw the program as a threat to her own political hegemony in a black part of the city.

Her posture was actually perfectly consonant with the position that black elected officials from the city's segregated southern hemisphere have taken over the years. If you look closely at the speeches and actions of her mentor, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, you see that black control of black neighborhoods has always been more important to him than black upward mobility.

He's the one who told me five years ago he didn't care about 65,000 new well-paid jobs with benefits offered by the city's "Inland Port" shipping and warehousing project because jobs and work, in his view, are associated with slavery. He said it on the radio, too.

But dwelling too much on Price and Nutall is a mistake, because it diverts us from a larger much more positive truth about race and diversity -- something Detroit and Dallas have in common. Over the last several decades, the overwhelming trend among urban African-Americans has been to reject the feudal racial separatism of leaders like Price and Nutall and move instead to racially diverse suburbs. In fact the growth of racially diverse suburbs in both cities has far out-stripped the racially segregated urban core as a magnet for black Americans.

In the 1990s, relatively affluent black people made up 80 percent of the people leaving Detroit for the suburbs. The same phenomenon is notable here, as well. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of racially diverse suburbs in the Dallas area went from 48 to 68 while the number of predominantly white suburbs went from 67 to 37.

A significant part of that picture in both cities is international immigration. In both places, the 1950s Ozzie-and-Harriet white-as-a-sheet suburb is being replaced rapidly by the new upwardly mobile everybody's-from-everywhere suburb where you don't even ask people about their origins because you don't have time to hear it.

In both places that's a good story -- a story about hope, opportunity, perseverance and the good old American dream. It's why we're even here, most of us -- what the country is all about. Another thing Detroit has in common with Dallas is that nobody ever moved to Detroit because he had always dreamed of living near the Detroit River, as no one ever moved here to be near the Trinity River. Moving to pretty places where you can go snowboarding is for the next generation, maybe even a couple generations out.
Detroit and Dallas have always been places for the generation that's trying to make it, here and now. Screw the view. If you want a view get a postcard. The view from here is the dream of tomorrow.

In both places, that dreamscape is every bit as much a black view as it is a Latino or white or Arab or Chaldean or Ukrainian view. What Price and Nutall represent is another view, a crabbed world hunkered beneath low horizons, a culture left behind by those who have already moved up and out.

Does that mean we should ignore Price and Nutall's communities? Oh, hell no. Children are born into those communities every hour of every day, and they didn't get to vote for Price or Nutall. If you look closely at the tremendous success and upward mobility of African-Americans since passage of the voting and civil rights acts in the mid-1960s, then you know that the children born into the failed segregated/separatist neighborhoods of southern Dallas bring all of that same promise and basic human worth with them into the world. The trick is getting them out from under the Nutall/Prices of the world so that they can achieve that potential.

The truly scary thing about Detroit today is the brutal lesson it offers about segregation and separatism. Segregation has always been and will always be fundamentally evil. The authors of segregation are not always white. Some of them are black elected officials who would rather rule the dump than be nobodies in the promised land.

All of us, of every racial and national and ethnic stripe, are capable of figuring that out, but we have to figure it out now, pretty fast, because we don't want to wind up with all of our ambulances on the blink and dead people's legs sticking out of the ice like Popsicle sticks. There isn't even time for blame. I don't want to get back into the back-story of the white enablers of racial separatism in Dallas simply because we all know it already and it's another tale that just takes too long to tell.

The longer bigger story here, as in Detroit, is good. It may not have a happy ending yet, but it has a happy middle part while we get there -- a tough, demanding, sometimes exhausting middle part that's happy because it's about getting there, as opposed to getting nowhere.

But, man. Look at Detroit proper these days. If that doesn't put some giddy-up in us all, nothing can. And when I say us all, I mean us all.



Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
74 comments
Subnx
Subnx

So absolutely correct.

thechuckwilliams
thechuckwilliams

Where is Omni Consumer Products (and Robocop) when you need them?!

roo_ster
roo_ster

"If you look closely at the tremendous success and upward mobility of African-Americans since passage of the voting and civil rights acts in the mid-1960s, then you know that the children born into the failed segregated/separatist neighborhoods of southern Dallas bring all of that same promise and basic human worth with them into the world"

Hate to burst your bubble, but the voting & civil rights acts of the 1960s did not set off a boom of success and upward mobility for black Americans.

 If you look here [ http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/maloney.african.american Table 4: Mean Annual Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers] you will note that the income gap/disparity/ratio between whites & blacks closed faster between 1939 and 1959 (.11) than it did between 1969 and 1989 (.04).  That is a significant SLOWING of the reduction in income disparity.

If you look here [ http://www.census.gov/prod/99pubs/99statab/sec31.pdf page 12, table 1427 "Money Income of Families—Median Income in Current and Constant (1997) Dollars, by Race and Type of Family: 1947 to 1997" ] you see a similar phenomenon in median black family income: greater rate of increase before the 1960s, lesser rate after.

The downside is that baby boomer liberals can not honestly take credit for black upward mobility because they supported civil rights & voter acts in the 1960s.

The upside is that individual _black men and women (since the 1930s, not just 1960s) can rightfully be credited with their own upward mobility_.  They moved upward most rapidly in the face of corrosive discrimination and slowed the pace after being adopted as a project by white liberals.

==============

As for Detroit vs Dallas, they both endured having their chief industry go tango uniform (Detroit autos in the 1970s, Dallas oil bust in the 1980s).  Dallas recovered and Detroit did not.  I think the lessons to be learned are to be found in the deltas between the cities/states.  Texas's greater economic flexibility allowed it to recover, while Michigan's rigidity left it flat on its back.  "Flexibility" defined as a lighter regulatory & tax burden, as well as a less cartel-ized labor market.

Americano
Americano

Every failing city in America is run by Democrats.  Probably just a coincidence.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

The lesson is that cities are like everything not made out of rock on this planet for the last 6 billion years:  you evolve or die.  Detroit was an average city when the auto firms decided to build there.  It grew into a giant.  Then the auto firms, challenged by market changes, resisted change until near death.  They realized they had to move or die.  We build as many cars in the USA as we ever have.  We just build fewer of them in Detroit.  Detroit did not respond, did not evolve and now is very sick.  NYC evolved, Chicago evolved, LA evolved, even Dallas evolved,  Detroit did not.  It thought its history and size gave it an inherent claim on the future. 

Like the Nazi in Indiana Jones and Holy Grail, it chose poorly.  Now it needs to start consolidating, not privatizing.  Pick a new boundary maybe enclosing 25% of current area and sell everything outside it, no exceptions. 

newmexafrica
newmexafrica

Detroit seems like a good argument FOR segregation.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

The real problem with JWP and Bernie is their braids are too tight. Cutting off the blood flow to the little gray cells, the few they have anyway.

adam578
adam578

It is not and has never been "white flight". It is and always will be "wealth flight". The sooner you dummies realize it is about class and not race the sooner you can begin to understand the world around you.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

People who don't mind mixing with others not of their race bolt for the burbs.  Those that are left vote for racists because they are.

Dead-enders.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

I love LeDuff and his flair for writing and even his correspondence on Fox News now...but wondering since you quoted his article and the anonymous tip about the body in the article named "Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse"...if you read the article by Metro Times poking holes in the story?

http://www2.metrotimes.com/news/story.asp?id=13739

newmexafrica
newmexafrica

The only hope for a progressive future is for whiteness to be eradicated, the black and latino populations to increase, and for the country to become more like a combination of Africa and Mexico!

ruddski
ruddski

Upside being, the Latino power structure that will inevitably run Dallas will fix the underlying problems.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

The unclear Jim wrong today.

Maye I'm just slow, but how is Dallas supposed to avoid Detroit's fate? What did Detroit do wrong? Did it allow the JWPs and the Nutalls to carry the day?

Or maybe you're saying Detroit's fate isn't necessarily so bad. Or maybe you're coming around to the view that the suburbs are Where It's At. Or where its gonna be. 

Or maybe you just needed the wise, firm guidance of an editor today. You DO get edited at DO, don't you, JIm?

Obummer
Obummer

Yo it's important fo' us ta explain ta our nation dat life iz important. It's not only life o' babies, but it's life o' chil'ns living in, you know, da dark dungeons o' da Internet.

BitchPlease
BitchPlease

@roo_sterThe upward income of blacks in earlier years was due to farming, labor and other blue collar jobs that are on the way out, if not extinct. It was the only way blacks could get ahead, of their past standing, and buy a modest home and send their kid to college. As those industries disappeared, the disparity grew.  If you look at the white collar industry today, compared to the time between 1939 and 1959, blacks, other persons of color, and women are much better off today, however, looking at the statistics of corporations, we have a long way to go.  


Take real estate, for example.  How many real estate corporations have blacks, other persons of color or women on their executive management teams, or how many are represented in training programs, on real estate non-profit boards? Very, very, very few! But certainly, more than between 1939 and 1959. 
Real Estate drives a city and we talk a lot about the Dallas Citizen Council.  That isn't the only board in town. Check out the Downtown Dallas Board and other real estate related boards across the city and country. How many, who are not politicians, someones relative, Holly Reed, cough, cough, or a token socialite, no one can figure out how she supports herself, who doesn't know jack shit about real estate, zoning or permitting, sit on those boards?  Is it because they are not interested in real estate?  It's because they can't get partners or financing for commercial projects. All a good old guy, with no experience, has to say, is, "I think I want to do this on this corner", and 50 other good old guys line up with investment money.  Not true for women and other minorities. Instead, they have to jump through hoops, classifying their businesses as minority or "disadvantaged" owned businesses, which puts them behind the psychological eight ball, deal with the small business administration and on and on. By that time, a good old guy has scooped them on their deal. Game over! 

Richland Hills is one of the few towns I can think of who is predominantly white, but whose City Council is extremely ethnically diverse. Very refreshing! At least from the outside looking in.  

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@Americano Care to post up some stats?  I'd be particularly interested in seeing the cities over 1 million population in the US that are run by Republicans vs Democrats, then the 'success/fail' stats.  I'd be willing to bet that yes, more 'failing' cities have a democrat administration, but also that most large cities in general have a democrat administration.  You can't really compare cities of various sizes against each other, because, for instance, Tyler is going to have a very different set of problems, solutions and resources than Dallas is.

Were you never warned that absolute statements are rarely true, and paint the one uttering them into an argumentative predicament.  There are only 9 US cities with populations exceeding 1 million.  All of them have democratic mayors and administrations.  So if every failing city is run by democrats, so is every succeeding city.

ruddski
ruddski

How about "Black Flight", Is that class or race/color based?

Threeboys
Threeboys

Because they are doing such a great job at running Mexico, Central America and South America?

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

@ruddski  If they can ever get their act together and vote en bloc.  Thay haven't been able to do that consistently at the city, county or school district level yet.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@bmarvel

This story has morphed so enormously during our lifetimes, Bill, that it requires a lot of reaching outside the paradigm for all of us. I will take a 50 percent discount for bad writing if you will take the same for bad reading. The toughest thing for old white people is that in order to catch up we have to stop focusing on black failure and look instead to black success to understand what's happening. We also have to go cold turkey on arguing with racist white idiots all the time. Success and diversity are all around us, just not in the inner city and not in the Park Cities.  The inner city is still fighting the battles of the '60s, and the park cities are still fighting the civil war. We need to pull ourselves out of both those paradigms, look to what's working and get in on it. 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@bmarvel What was left out is the revitalization of Midtown Detroit.  I wonder how that's coming along.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@BitchPlease @roo_ster BP:

Very interesting local information, but only moderately plausible theory unsupported by data.   Yes, opportunities were denied black men & women pre-1960s.  One would expect a faster closing of the gap, but reality says otherwise. 

Americano
Americano

@RTGolden1

Name one that is succeeding.  Absolute statements are dangerous, but Socialism Always Fails.

ruddski
ruddski

I don't think diversity of the vote is the underlying problem.

ruddski
ruddski

They already did, chiquita. Now be a good little white bitch and let your boss homies cop a feel to further your diversity training.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@JimSX Probably so, Jim. We all read through the eyeglasses of our experience, and my experience of Detroit is pretty bad. so when I saw your column, I thought, uh-oh, more bad news. 

That said, in hindsight, it might have been helpful if you had elaborated on Detroit's...whatever it is. The last I heard, some folks were growing crops in the burned-over sections of the inner city. That's picturesque, but hardly qualifies as an urban renaissance.

It's good to hear that it's too early to write off Detroit. Not so good to read that Dallas' future depends on the upwardly mobile flocking to the suburbs.   



bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @bmarvel  Last time I was there, it wasn't. But it's been a while. Maybe after they dismantle the art museum and sell off its paintings it will get revitalized.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

"Camptown Races" and the Minstrel Tradition


The original title, "Gwine to Run All Night," referenced the African-American stereotype dialect in which the song was written. The lyrics talk about a group of transients in a camp town, who bet on horses to try to make some money. The song was intended to be humorous and was written in the minstrel tradition, which had performers painting their faces black to mock African-Americans.

While the minstrel tradition is now considered incredibly racist, this and other songs written during that period have managed to stick around in our national repertory. 

---Kim Ruehl, about.com

BitchPlease
BitchPlease

@roo_ster The response regarding then and now for blacks and women was a quantitative analysis of the data  you provided in the links above.... 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@Americano @TheCredibleHulk @RTGolden1

Governments don't succeed or fail, as it were. Mostly they just muddle along - if a given society is lucky - for a few centuries.

I feel pretty lucky  to have been born into this particular place and time. Looking at history, this is pretty much as good as it gets, for the common man. As little as 100 years ago, Kings and Aristocrats didn't live lifestyles as opulent as the American middle class lives, today.

The decline is going to take awhile. Feel free to stock up on ammo and pork & beans if that is your thing. I'm not holding my breath for the coming dark ages.

Everything falls apart sooner or later. It's the way of things.

Americano
Americano

@TheCredibleHulk  @RTGolden1 

I am aware of that.  I give the US another 100 years, tops, because of it.  Just look at France and GB coming apart at the seams.  Study up on what happened after the fall of the Roman Empire, we may be living it sooner than you think.  Dark Ages II, coming to you soon.

observist
observist topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  Detroit was a boom town, like the Western mining towns to the third power.  It rode the development of auto manufacturing up, and then back down again without ever developing a broader economic base to keep the city thriving after the auto manufacturing employment bust.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

I so hope Detroit makes it.  The city was a bastion of hope and was a shining example of the American Dream.  The unemployed and destitute flocked to Detroit and found jobs that enabled them to lift themselves up economically.  Let's not be snide and snarky at the expense of millions of hard-working, value-rich human beings.  

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@JimSX @bmarvel @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz There are some amazing urban homestead projects going on in Detroit.  It's a sad commentary on the population evacuation that went on for years, but at least some good is coming out of it.  I like Detroit's method of handling their decaying and crumbling neighborhoods by allowing the remaining residents to claim and obtain title to the properties if they show improvement.  It's led to some block-size urban farms sprouting up.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@JimSX If so, that's good news. 

But your piece still needed a pair of editor's eyes. it was, in ophthalmological terms, unclear.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@bmarvel @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz 

Young woman of my acquaintance interviewed for an ophthalmology residency at Wayne State earlier this year, said Midtown Detroit is booming, bustling, you can't get an apartment.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...