December 30, 2006

The exclusion of African Americans from "the social, communal and intimate cultural life of white Americans."

Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson calls this "The Last Race Problem" (TimesSelect link):
[A]ccompanying [the integration of African Americans into "the upper echelons and leadership of American society, public life and national identity"] has been the near complete isolation of blacks from the private life of the white majority. Recent modest improvements notwithstanding, blacks, including the middle class, are nearly as segregated today as they were in DuBois’s day....

The celebrated tipping-point theory of Thomas Schelling, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, has long appeared to offer a pessimistic answer to the puzzle. It holds that even where a majority of whites favor having black neighbors, the all-white preference of just a few will always rapidly escalate into total segregation.

However, the economist William Easterly, after examining data on segregation over the past three decades, has demonstrated conclusively that Schelling’s theory is groundless in regard to race. In the vast majority of neighborhoods studied, Easterly found no pattern of acceleration of white decline, no evidence of a sudden, extreme exodus at the fabled tipping point, but instead a steady, almost constant decline in the proportion of whites from one decade to the next. Moreover, the typical neighborhoods that did change from being predominantly white to predominantly black in this period still had a significant proportion of whites living in them.

So why does segregation persist? The evidence seems clear that, in sharp contrast with the past, the major cause is that blacks generally prefer to live in neighborhoods that are at least 40 percent black. Blacks mention ethnic pride and white hostility as their main reasons for not moving to white neighborhoods. But studies like Mary Pattillo-McCoy’s ethnography of middle-class black ghettos show that the disadvantages, especially for youth, far outweigh the psychic gains.

It would be na├»ve to discount persisting white racism, but other minorities, like Jews, have faced a similar dilemma and opted, with good reasons, for integration. The Jewish-American experience also shows that identity and integration are not incompatible, and that when the middle class moves, others follow. If America is ever to solve the second part of DuBois’s color problem, it will be on the shoulders of the black middle class.
So, according to Patterson, it is up to the black middle class to change its ways. Whether they are reading TimesSelect is another matter. I assume the people who get TimesSelect are already living in middle class white neighborhoods. Patterson is encouraging complacency on their part. That doesn't mean he's not right, though.

(Here's an article of his from last March about "the tragic disconnection of millions of black youths from the American mainstream.")

22 comments:

pablo H said...

Yes, Althouse you are a liberal. Posting this article proves it.

Why should anyone care whether Whites or Blacks want to live separately or together? It called Freedom of association.

As long there's no racial discrimination going on, who cares? Its a matter of no importance. And maybe we should stop obssessing about it.

And we should also stop writing about how many blacks there are in baseball, or how there are not enough Asian leading men.

Zeb Quinn said...

How about another civil right act that forces whites to include blacks, like the one in 1964 did, but this time forcing whites to accept them into their "social, communal and intimate cultural lives"?

Like Diogenes with a lantern, I'm looking for where that line is drawn.

PatCA said...

I would question his initial conclusion, that blacks are excluded from the cultural life of white America. It's certainly not true in California. There is no white communal culture any more. All racial groups here tend to cluster together, so if it's racism for one it's racism for all. Also, the total number of whites is declining in the aggregate, so of course they would decline in neighborhoods! I know many black people who choose to live in urban black neighborhoods in LA and raise their families there and all the rest because it's their neighborhood, it's where they grew up and have a history. Should they move to the burbs to satisfy our need for an abstract racial parity?

Gerry said...

In parts of New York and in parts of Pittsburgh (the two most diverse areas that I have lived), there are distinct ethnic communities. There are Jewish areas. There are Italian areas. There are Irish areas. There are, in New York, Chinese areas. Particularly in Pittsburgh, there are German areas. There are Hispanic areas. And so forth.

People tend to want to live with others who share their common ethnicity.

I have no problem with that. Part of New York that I missed is just those ethnic pockets. It was great to explore and experience the different cultures.

But it was good, in my opinion, only because there were other areas that were not ethnic; where there was a mixture.

Here is where I see the problem being:

"The evidence seems clear that, in sharp contrast with the past, the major cause is that blacks generally prefer to live in neighborhoods that are at least 40 percent black. Blacks mention ethnic pride and white hostility as their main reasons for not moving to white neighborhoods. But studies like Mary Pattillo-McCoy’s ethnography of middle-class black ghettos show that the disadvantages, especially for youth, far outweigh the psychic gains."

Why do the disadvantages outweigh the gains? The way to fix the problem here is not to force integration, but rather to fix why the black areas are bad for their children.

If we can figure out how to do that, then there would likely be less "white hostility" impeding the integration of blacks into 'white' communities, and there would be no detriment to blacks choosing to live in black areas, and the problem would likely fade away, or at least become significantly smaller.

As such, I do not see the problem with being with the black middle class. I doubt that the reasons that black communities have disadvantages for raising kids is on the shoulders of the black middle class. The problem is with the poor. As for how to fix that, well, we've been fighting that for a long time. Personally, I think that since solid family structures provide the best path to upward mobility, the best approaches would be towards repairing the damage that has been done to the family. The dual problems of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and of the fleeting nature of modern marriages are what I think should be addressed.

All IMO.

Gerry said...

"As long there's no racial discrimination going on, who cares? "

Except there is racial discrimination going on. There always will be, to some extent, but we certainly can do more to minimize it.

I have no problem with people choosing to associate freely. That said, we are talking about fellow Americans. We should want to help raise the level of all of our fellow Americans, rather than saying "who cares."

Balfegor said...

Yes, Althouse you are a liberal. Posting this article proves it.

Why should anyone care whether Whites or Blacks want to live separately or together? It called Freedom of association.

Well, it just shows she's not a libertarian -- something I think was plainly established a few posts down. People can care about private behaviour, like private association, because private behaviour in the aggregate creates the kind of society we live in. We may prefer not to live in a society that is polarized between Black and White. We may feel that Black exclusion (or self-exclusion) from the "social, communal, and intimate cultural life" of White Americans works to heighten and perpetuate a noxious racial divide, and undermines a broader national sense of community, identity, and unity. This doesn't necessarily mean that we think the terrible sword of the government is an appropriate mechanism to enact change here (shades of the private segregation issue discussed below), but there are other social institutions -- like clubs and churches, perhaps, or even just families -- that can play a role and take responsibility in fostering social cohesion.

Richard Fagin said...

OK, here's a quote from the earlier article that shoud cause everyone to stop and take notice.

"Likewise, a cultural explanation of black male self-destructiveness addresses not simply the immediate connection between their attitudes and behavior and the undesired outcomes, but explores the origins and changing nature of these attitudes, perhaps over generations, in their brutalized past. It is impossible to understand the predatory sexuality and irresponsible fathering behavior of young black men without going back deep into their collective past."

Black males did not engage in anywhere near the same degree of predatory sexuality and irresponsible fathering as late as the 1950s. How did all that come unraveled? How did black urban culture become worse as slavery receeded further into the past?

Ask Shelby Steele - it's white guilt. None of this racial nonsense will ever go away until white people quit holding blacks to different standards out of (understandable) guilt over slavery and Jim Crow.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the case with Jews is a good analogy however.

I was born and raised Jewish (although I'm not now) and I'm white and only two or three times in forty plus years can I recall someone looking at me and guessing I'm Jewish. So if a Jewish family moves into a white neighborhood, their immediate neighbors may guess when they see a mezuzah on the door or perhaps the name on the mailbox (though perhaps not-- my last name is certainly not Jewish, because my father was a convert.) A black family won't have this luxury. Just this week, we saw the Sheriff down in Phoenix have to offer a $5000 reward to try and get some information on who vandalized the home of a black couple who is trying to move into a previously all-white neighborhood in Litchfield Park.

This part of the story really disturbed me:

"Somebody out there knows who did this," [sheriff Joe] Arpaio said in a media release. "Perhaps $5,000 will persuade them to do the right thing."

...The couple said they're disappointed that a $5,000 reward may be the only way to solve their case.


You shouldn't have to pay someone to come forward with information. But in cases like this maybe you do.

I'm also not sure I would claim that this is the 'last' bastion of racism. Have you been to a reservation lately? You might find some things missing in a lot of communities that you are used to taking for granted-- electricity, phone service, running water... out of sight, out of mind.

Finn Kristiansen said...

I think Balfegor stated it rather nicely, that you can be concerned about a matter (racial harmony) while not believing the government is necessarily the answer.

Too often we hear the "Who cares?" reply, as though that solves it all.

I think much of the separation between races has to do with differences of how people have been socialized, with those social factors not necessarily representing a "black" or "white" culture, but basically standing in for it. And these kind of self perpetuated differences make closer connections difficult.

So many things that are attributable to "black culture" are simply bad methods of living, and there is a desire of whites to move away from that. That is, the same behavior in whites would not be tolerated by other whites either. (As in, Ann might not find a move to a trailer park to be rewarding in any fashion).

One cannot actually have any harmony or greater affinity if both blacks and whites do not look at themselves and ask hard questions about the things they say, think, and do.

It never helps when blacks get defensive and see no reason to change actual behaviors, rejecting those things that are annoying to others. But also, it is equally bad when whites go on their way, rather oblivious to how their actions or words sound to a black person.

For example I have a friend who heard me joke about the word nigger with a hispanic person. He later commented and joked, employing the word (a word I don't really use even in a brotherly way with other blacks), and it was contextual. But he is exuberant, and went on an on, till he made some comment.. I think it was "Nigger please" in black voice, and in front of a third person (white), who was not even a close friend of ours. I looked at him with an "exuse you" teacher face, and moved the conversation forward. He was oblivious, and there are any number of people who will be oblivious to any actual problem with this behavior.

But there are tons of behaviors by whites and blacks (getting loud in public places anyone?) that need adjustment if people really want harmony or want to enjoy each other's company. And that does not mean changing who you are at the core, but rather, getting rid of actual bad behaviors and ways of reacting.

Thus, in my observation, and perhaps entirely subjectively, some whites do move away from socializing (and living) with blacks, and further, many blacks make no effort to show a desire for friendship (while at the same time bitching about white racism and coldness).

The idea that blacks self segregate as far as where they choose to live has more to do with economics than actual black feelings though. Give the average black person P. Diddy's money, and he will show up in the Hamptons. Give him 70K and he will eventually show up in your suburb. I am not sure all whites glow with excitement or warmth when such happens.

Fritz said...

African American culture is very tribal, some because of security, but mainly the leftist takeover of the civil rights movement, encouraging the separatist movement . The segregation is not because whites are racist, but that African American culture is not conducive with the prevailing American culture. As Lani Guinier remarked, she doesn't like the creeping in of "individualism" among black youth. America is the build a better mouse trap mentality, having a predominate sub-culture that rejects capitalism and considers themselves as involuntary immigrants hurts our country. Ownership of the society is key to blending into to it. John McWhorter and I had hoped that 9/11 was a watershed event, 9-10 reparations to 9-11 they attacked US. Sadly, it didn't take long to get back to "George Bush doesn't like black people." I have attended dozens of community meetings on this subject, no matter what the facts are, racism is the culprit. I live in a predominantly black upper-class south suburban community in Chicago. The public schools stink, the retail sector deteriorated, even-though real incomes are higher than they were when it was white. I explain the economics, but the black folks contend it is white racism. The only way to change the dynamics, blacks must split their vote. It will be as successful as the Southern Strategy was for the South. Kill the politics that maintain the status quo, change will follow.

pablo H said...

I'm sorry but I think this liberal obsession with Race is frankly odd.

For some reason liberals love to obsess about racism and relive the civil rights struggle. To them its always 1965 and they're still fighting against Bull Conner and George Wallace.

Only its 2006, and that was 40 years ago. Almost everyone under the age of 45 has grown up in a world where discrimination has been outlawed and where almost every institution in society inveighs against racism 24/7.

Enough is enough. Stop living in the past and looking for racists under every bed, and fighting a war that was won 40 years.

We have laws against dicrimination. Enforce them if they are being violated. But stop with the racial bean-counting and the obsession "balance" which isn't going to happen, and doesn't matter anyway.

bearbee said...

....like Jews, have faced a similar dilemma and opted, with good reasons, for integration...

Jews, historically oppressed and/or a minority population, have millennia of experience in adapting and concurrently maintaining their identity and by a rigorious valuing of education, growing economic and political power as well as influence in cultural and other areas

Blacks mention ethnic pride and white hostility as their main reasons for not moving to white neighborhoods...

Is white hostility the same as black racism?

Fritz said...

Finn Wrote: The idea that blacks self segregate as far as where they choose to live has more to do with economics than actual black feelings though.

That is white guilt talking. I guess black women are much less likely to get married because of economics too. African American female culturists hate white males and settle for lame black males.

Pablo,
That would be great, but just like Ann Althouse can't give up the Meyer libertarian of the past, per Jonah's request, it will never happen.

Gerry said...

"How did all that come unraveled? How did black urban culture become worse as slavery receeded further into the past?

Ask Shelby Steele - it's white guilt."

I do not believe that.

I believe that a lot of it had to do with two things that happened since: the sexual revolution and no-fault divorce laws.

Both were things that enhanced freedom, and have positive aspects. I certainly enjoyed, in my single days, the fruits of the sexual revolution. And only a heartless person would wish that a person stuck in an abusive marriage would have no avenue out.

But those freedoms have had a cost. Out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Unplanned children. Abortions. Marriages more easily entered because they are more easily exited. Broken families. Divorce is financially difficult for all involved. Marriages that could be made to work, abandoned. On and on.

The poor are most impacted by these costs. They can least afford an unplanned pregnancy. They can least afford divorce. They can least afford to be single parents. They can least afford abortions. They can least afford transient marriages. They are the least educated, and as such are least prepared to avoid these pratfalls. And the poor are tremendously overrepresented by blacks.

How do we put the genie back in the bottle? That, I have no idea. I doubt the sexual revolution will be rolled back barring us giving in totally to Islam (God forbid). I doubt we will ever see a successful move to rolling back no-fault divorce laws, even though that might do more to help than anything else. I doubt we will make moves to make it harder to enter marriage, nor to make it harder to exit marriage.

However, I firmly believe that until we can rectify some of the damage that was done to the concept of the family by the cultural changes made since the sixties, it is going to be nearly impossible to fix our problems in the inner cities. That is not the fault of white guilt. It is a cost our society is paying for freedoms we enjoy.

Anonymous said...

There oughta be a law!

proudtobealiberal said...

Actually, as a Jew, I thought that Patterson had it wrong about Jewish behavior. Jews often look to live in neighborhoods with a substantial Jewish population because they do not want their children isolated as the only Jews in their class. That way the winter concerts have Hannukah songs as well as Christmas, exams are not planned on Jewish holidays, etc.

It is understandable that African Americans would like for their children to attend diverse schools. I have friends (both black and white) who would rather pay for diverse private schools rather than send their children to largely white public schools.

One African American friend who tried a white suburb found that he was routinely stopped by the police because he was driving a nice car "while black" -- even though his job was in law enforcement! He moved to a city and sent his daughter to an integrated private school.

Gerry said...

Damn. Your moderation post gets 40 comments. This one, which I think is significantly more important, gets 16.

:-/

Oh well. It is a tough topic.

Finn Kristiansen said...

Fritz said...
Finn Wrote: The idea that blacks self segregate as far as where they choose to live has more to do with economics than actual black feelings though.

That is white guilt talking.


Yea and if I were white, Fritz, your comments still would not make much sense.

cokaygne said...

Now, Ann, I'm beginning to understand what happened in Chicago. Some people just seem to exhibit a profound insensitivity. No way should a government agency be established to force every white to have lunch with a black person at least once a year, but that doesn't mean we should not worry about separation between blacks and whites.

I grew up in a state where slavery was abolished before the American Revolution and my parents were immigrants from a country where they were clearly second class citizens. So, I don't like affirmative action programs that make young white people, or Asian people as is so often the case, pay for the sins of southern WASPs over a hundred years ago.

Having said that, all of us must acknowledge that America's history of relations with black people is horrible and I think that we see the consequences on display even today. Were Jews treated worse in Europe? Were Koreans treated worse by the Japanese? Did the British mistreat the Irish? Yes, and yes and yes; but this is America and we are Americans. It is our problem. If you enjoy the benefits of life in the US, then you benefit in some tiny way from the 4 centuries of white terrorism toward blacks that preceded the present day.

I don't know what the answer is, and I wish I did. I do know that the answer is not to pretend that there is no problem, or worse, to say "who cares".

Gahrie said...

Excuse me a minute....

Who is demanding (and getting) segregated dorms at universities?

Who is organizing separate student unions?

Who has built a separate Greek system?

Who has organized separate beauty pagents and award shows?

Who created the phrase "acting white"?

Let's get a grip here...Blacks aren't being excluded from "white culture", they're isolating themselves on purpose.

Pogo said...

I don't think it's possible for relationships to become color-blind as long as ethnicity and "race" are recorded and tallied like this.

Either race doesn't matter, or it does. If it does, then separateness will persist, even prevail. If it does not matter, then it should not remain the goal of endless papers, grants, preferences, and academic expertise, all of which perversely promote balkanization.

For example, do Black History Month and Affirmative Action increase or decrease the exclusion of blacks from the social, communal and intimate cultural life of white Americans? Three guesses.

ronbo said...

"Proudtobealiberal" wrote: Jews often look to live in neighborhoods with a substantial Jewish population because they do not want their children isolated as the only Jews in their class. That way the winter concerts have Hannukah songs as well as Christmas, exams are not planned on Jewish holidays, etc.

My wife and I grew up in neighborhoods like that and made sure our kids would not. It was too easy and it made us too comfortable.

Where we live now is no more than 5% Jewish. The schools haven't quite figured out the High Holiday thing - one year they had a half day on Yom Kippur - but their heart is in the right place. And the "Holiday" concert includes at least one Hannukah song, usually something cringe-worthy.

We love it. We love the fact that our kids have friends from different backgrounds. We love the fact that our 11 year old had to explain that he does not wear a "fez" in temple. And we love the fact that many of our friends and neighbors have attended their first seder at our house. Because everyone is so freaking nice we still don't have the sense of struggle that our forbears experienced, but at least we feel like the minorities we are. It's real life, and it's great.

But unless they grew up in the kind of cocoon I did, I wouldn't expect African-Americans to share our sense of the joys of minority-hood. If I had grown up in the Connecticut of "Gentlemen's Agreement" I think it would take more than a generation for my anger to dissipate. But racism shouldn't be an excuse for failure when it can be a goad to success.

It's easy to say and hard to do, but it's still the right answer: Show the b*stards.

Finally, in the spirit of the season, the following from Professor T. Lehrer:


Oh, the white folks hate the black folks,
And the black folks hate the white folks.
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule.

But during National Brotherhood Week, National Brotherhood Week,
Lena Horne and Sheriff Clarke are dancing cheek to cheek.
It's fun to eulogize
The people you despise,
As long as you don't let 'em in your school.


Happy New Year!