Sender: H-Net/H-Urban Seminar on History of Community Organizing & <COMM-ORG@UICVM.UIC.EDU> Subject: Re: PAPER: Planning, Community Control, & Cincinnati Ghetto, 1950s-70s ========================================================================= Date: Tue, 2 Jan 1996 20:41:16 CST
Posted by Stephen Barton <stb1@CI.BERKELEY.CA.US>
I enjoyed Charles Casey-Leininger's paper "Planning, Community Control and the Persistent Ghetto in Cincinnati, 1956-1980", examining the negative side of community control as a part of progressive politics. Too often people just ignore the tensions, or take one side or the other of a debate between "community control" versus "universal rights" on an ad hoc basis rather than exploring what I think is a necessary ambivalence that must always be grounded in the application of the principle to the actual circumstances. His perspective is reminiscent of Jennifer Hochschild's fine book _The New American Dilemma: Liberal Democracy and School Desegregation_, Yale University Press, 1984.
I am not persuaded, however, by his claim that calls for community control in African-American areas strengthened efforts of white communities to prevent housing integration. There is a long history of white neighborhood resistance to integration, particularly well documented for Chicago, for example, by Philpott's _The Slum and the Ghetto: Neighborhood Deterioration and Middle-Class Reform, Chicago 1880-1930_, [Oxford U. Press, 1979] for a period going back a full century. Wealthy neighborhoods organized with racially restrictive covenants in the San Francisco Bay Area go back to at least the creation of St. Francis Woods in S.F. in about 1912, and it was far from the first nationwide (Stephen Barton, "The Neighborhood Movement in San Francisco", _Berkeley Planning Journal_, V.2#1, Spring 1985,pp.85-105). The fact that a few scattered African-Americans defended white opposition to public housing in the name of community control does not mean that these white neighborhoods needed such support to make their claims, rather it suggests that some black activists were making a desperate attempt to draw on the long-standing exclusionary elements in American culture to gain some additional political resources for themselves.
I think it much more likely that the calls for community control implied a comparison with the existing level of control granted to higher income, white neighborhoods and implicitly drew on the older exclusionary tradition to strengthen claims to equity for minority neighborhoods. It is now much harder to site toxic waste or subsidized housing in minority neighborhoods than it used to be. (It should go without saying that I do not say this to condone treating poor people who need subsidized housing as the equivalent of toxic waste, but to make the point that we seem closer to equality of exclusion than of inclusion.)
The broader claims made by this historical analysis of community control in Cincinnati will not be convincing without directly confronting the earlier history and showing where the "progressive" version of community control fits in.
Stephen Barton firstname.lastname@example.org (510) 644-6534
Planning and Development Department City of Berkeley 2180 Milvia Street Berkeley, CA 94704
[In the announcement of Charles ("Fritz") Casey-Leininger's paper, I mistakenly identified the author as a Ph.D. candidate. In fact, Fritz received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1993, and is currently working as the research staffer of the Cincinnati office of the Children's Defense Fund and teaches at the University of Cincinnati's Evening College on occasion.
To obtain a copy of the paper, send e-mail to email@example.com with the message: GET PERSIST GHETTO
-- W. Plotkin, COMM-ORG] ========================================================================= Date: Mon, 8 Jan 1996 09:43:37 CST Posted by Fritz Casey-Leininger <Charles.Casey-Leininger@UC.Edu>
I want to thank Stephen Barton for his comments on my paper. This was initially a paper presented at the Planning History Conference in Knoxville in October and as such is more brief than the subject requires. That said, apparently one of my central points was not stated clearly or perhaps carefully enough. What I intended to say was that the rise of community control as central to the planning process (broadly conceived) starting in the 1950s, was a phenomenon that supported equally black separatist control of black neighborhoods, thinly disguised white racist control of white neighborhoods (in an era when open calls for racial segregation were no longer acceptable), and the efforts of racially mixed neighborhoods to keep their neighborhoods racially mixed. The consequence was that it made it more difficult for progressive groups to argue effectively against the plans of more powerful white neighborhoods that would contribute to continued racial segregation, a situation that resulted in what had always been true - communities with the power maintained the control just as they had when racially restrictive covenants were legal and when city planning run by city hall experts contributed to the prosperity of some affluent white neighborhoods and the decline of low income and black neighborhoods.
It certainly is true that the notion of community control has allowed some poor communities to fight toxic dumps and the like, indeed my racially and economically mixed neighborhood has joined with a nearby black low-income neighborhood to reasonably effectively fight the expansion of a major Cincinnati land fill. What I left unsaid is that I think the events discussed in my paper suggest strongly that we need to move beyond simplistic notions of community control to look at how public policy initiatives from neighborhoods of whatever kind affect all of us as individuals and as a wider community.
Fritz Casey-Leininger, Ph.D. History Evening College, University of Cincinnati and Research Analyst Children's Defense Fund-Cincinnati ========================================================================= Date: Thu, 11 Jan 1996 10:09:46 CST Posted by Randy Stoecker <rstoeck@pop3.UTOLEDO.EDU>
I found Charles Casey-Leininger's paper on planning, community control and race, the subsequent comments, and his response, to provide a fascinating glimpse into the problem of "what is to be done?" Perhaps as the group's token sociologist (are there others out there?) or, even more marginally, the token marxist-feminist sociologist, I find a strong need to bring theory into this discussion. It is good and right to name racism where it exists, to show that community control is used for all kinds of perverted purposes, and that even progressive attempts at community control can go awry. But how do we understand demands for community control in racist contexts? For me the issue is not whether calls for African American self-determination open the door for white racism, but how mater ial interests are perverted and manipulated by class structures, state structures, and elites.
The two theoretical concepts neglected in most of the literature debating these issues are class and the state. On the issue of class, both Leininger and the commenters mention, but don't theorize, that community control movements originate from both wealthy white communities and poor/working class communities. Are wealthy white communities being purely racist, or are they also motivated by their fear of declining property values (which is of course grounded in their racism, since property values wouldn't decline if white folks didn't flee at the sign of the first Black family)? In other words, is wealthy white neighborhood racism rooted in the capitalist property system--where physical space is "commodified" and used to make a profit by realtors and property owners alike (see Saunders (1978) and Davis (1991) for a discussion of housing classes)? If you could not make profit off of space, would it be relevant to be racist?
White working class communities provide an even more complicated analysis. David Novak's (1987) excellent analysis of the Boston anti-busing movement showed clearly the elite manipulation to divide working class whites and Blacks in Boston. Wealthy white kids didn't have to be bused. Working class whites saw their already thin resources stretched to the breaking point by the busing requirement--their reaction became racist, but was the root cause only racism?
The role of the state in American capitalism is also important to underscore here. For example, as Stephen Barton mentions, restrictive covenants have been around for quite some time. But what is important is that they had the official backing of the state. The federal government promoted the idea of segregation in public housing through and provided training in writing restrictive covenants through the late 1940s (Tobin, 1987). White communities were not just acting on their own. And when you throw in state-supported (until recently) real estate practices of redlining, blockbusting, and steering -- all to line realtors' pockets--the actions of white neighborhoods become understandable -- not justifiable, but understandable. Much of the reaction to integration may also be a reaction to the state's historic turn around to no longer actively support segregation and even attempt (however feebly) to legislate integration in the 1960s. Government has always been suspect in the U.S., and much of the community control ferver that gets analyzed as racism is also a reaction to perceived state domination. The recent discussions of the historical role of populism in American culture (see works by Harry Boyte) makes clear how ingrained are the impulses for community control and how easily they become reactionary, for populism (like our social "science") is also atheoretical. This, incidentally, may also be one of the ways Saul Alinsky went wrong and why organizations like Back of the Yards could pursue racist goals (see Arlene Stein's article for one take on this issue). It becomes especially important to theorize very carefully when advocating for state structures like metropolitan government, as Roger Parks' response indicates for the case of Indianapolis. Are state structures really democratic structures, or extensions of capitalist economic structures? To the extent they are less than democratic, then the clumsy compromised interventions of the state can easily produce reactionary demands for community control. Yea, I know, a bunch of obtuse theory. Yet, without at least some of it, we develop solutions that are misinformed and ill-advised. Theory can't help us definitively answer the questions, but it can help us ask them.
All of this, for me at least, makes an accurate analysis of the politics of community control movements (NIMBYism-Not In My BackYard) difficult. Bob Fisher's emphasis on new social movements does help here. To the extent that there are such things as new social movements, what seems to distinguish them is their emphasis on perceived threats to health and well being that are attributed to government or coporate incursions. Thus the same white neighborhood can easily oppose both the toxic waste dump (progressive) and low-income housing (reactionary) as threats to quality of life.
Not only do we need to show where the progressive definition of community control fits in, as Stephen Barton noted, but we also have to produce the progressive version. We have to engage with calls for community control to help them become and remain progressive, and hopefully move from the backyard to the frontyard, the statehouse, and the broad social structure. The question then, for me is not just how do we define progressive, but what we need to do to impact community control movements so they focus on appropriate targets, rather than dividing and conquering victims.
There is a literature that can help. It is premised partly on the assumption that when communities are reduced to only reacting to the plans and incursions of elites, they are as likely to react in a reactionary as a progressive manner. But, given the opportunity to PLAN for what they want, progressive ideals can be built in ahead of time. Community-based planning has an important, if neglected, history. Settlement house workers at the turn of the century were well ahead of urbanists in recognizing the role of neighborhood-based, community controlled planning. Hull House, in fact, commissioned a detailed and extensive plan of its neighborhood before the "Chicago School" conducted their famous Chicago Area Study (the results of which can be found at the Hull House Museum in Chicago). Neighborhood-based planning picked up momentum into the early 20th century (Silver, 1985) but was then pressed underground by the early 20th century reformers who in some analyses were much more interested in reducing immigrant and working class political power than in "good government". Advocacy planning in the 1960s was another attempt (though problematic) to increase grass-roots control over urban process (Heskin, 1980). The impacts reverberated through city planning departments across the country (Rohe and Gates, 1985). But conservatives and budget cutting again targeted these progressive efforts and not just progressive community controlled planning but any planning at all was destroyed in many cities in the 1980s. Yet it returns again, this time in a very interesting form that overcomes the weaknesses of advocacy planning by emphasizing the importance of local grass-roots control. Ken Reardon's work in East St. Louis (Web page at http://imlab9.landarch.uiuc.edu:80/ ~eslarp), as well as the efforts of many people brought together through the rejuvinated Planner's Network (contact Planners Network/Pratt GCPE, 200 Willoughby Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11205 phone 718-6 36-3486 for information on membership) emphasizes community planning as a community organizing activity--that the planning process is indeed a community organizing process. This is why Ken Reardon calls the approach "empowerment planning" (also see Bernie Jones for a superb guide). When communities can move from being reactive to proactive they can also move from being reactionary to being progressive. People who feel powerless retreat to the familiar and the traditional. People who feel powerful are willing to try and grow and act democratically (Pateman, 1970). It is interesting to consider what might happen when we ask people what they DO want rather than always making them react to what they DON'T want.
Boyte, Harry--numerous books, all relevant.
Davis, John E. 1991. Contested Ground. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Heskin, Allan David. 1980. Crisis and Response: A Historical Perspective on Advocacy Planning." Journal of the American Planning Association pp. 50-63.
Jones, Bernie. 1990. Neighborhood Planning: A Guide for Citizens and Planners. Chicago: Planners Press, American Planning Association.
Novak, David, "Forced Busing in South Boston", Journal of Urban Affairs, 1987, pp. 277-292.
Pateman, Carol. 1970. Participation and Democratic Theory. London: Cambridge University Press.
Rohe, William M., and Lauren B. Gates. 1985. Planning With Neighborhoods. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Saunders, Peter. 1978. "Domestic Property and Social Class." International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 2:223-251.
Silver, Christopher. 1985. "Neighborhood Planning in Historical Perspective." Journal of the American Planning Association pp. 161-174.
Stein, Arlene. 1986. "Between Organization and Movement: ACORN and the Alinsky Model of Community Organizing". Berkeley Journal of Sociology, 31:93-115
Tobin, Gary A. 1987. Divided Neighborhoods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Randy Stoecker Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Social Work University of Toledo Toledo, OH 43606
419-530-4975 (office) 419-530-8406 (fax)
firstname.lastname@example.org (e-mail) ========================================================================= Date: Fri, 12 Jan 1996 13:32:48 CST From: Wendy Plotkin <U13972@UICVM.BITNET> Subject: COMM-ORG GOPHER/U.S. Supreme Court's Shelley v. Kraemer On-Line
Posted by Wendy Plotkin <email@example.com>
I am happy to announce the availability of the COMM-ORG gopher, while the COMM-ORG WWW is in the works. To obtain most of the the papers, comments, introductions, and other discussions to date on COMM-ORG, gopher to h-net.msu.edu and select:
H-Net E-Mail Discussion Groups H-Urban Seminars Seminar on History of Community Organizing
If you find that an introduction or other information in which you are interested is missing, feel free to contact me.
Among the new materials added are the upcoming papers by Carl Milofsky and Albert Hunter on Toynbee Hall, which I'll announce later today or tomorrow, and an important Supreme Court case on restrictive racial covenants. In Fritz Casey-Leininger's paper on "Planning, Community Control, and the Persistent Ghetto in Cincinnati, 1956-1980" and in Randy Stoecker's comments, reference is made to these covenants, which were used in U.S. cities in the first half of the century. These were clauses inserted into residential deeds prohibiting the sale of real estate to certain classes of individuals, such as African Americans or Asians.
In 1948, in the case Shelley v. Kraemer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for states or other public agencies to enforce these covenants. This decision offers interesting insights into the dynamics of race, community, and U.S. social policy in the 1940s. It describes the progression of cases that came before the Supreme Court on the issue, including Buchanan v. Warley (1917) which prohibited racial zoning (defining geographic areas in which a race was prohibited) and Hansberry v. Lee, the 1940 case of African-American author Lorraine Hansberry's father in Chicago (1). Hansberry later wrote the play "Raisin in the Sun" about the aspirations of a Chicago African-American family to acquire a home in a white area of Chicago, and the racism that pervaded the experience.
The decision also reveals the ambivalence about state action on racial discrimination, as the decision asserted that it is the desire for state enforcement of discriminatory actions by community organizations, and not the discriminatory actions themselves, that were deemed unconstitutional at this time (which would remain the case until the 1960s).
A variety of individuals and organizations acted as "amici curiae" on behalf of the Shelley family, including Thurgood Marshall, Alger Hiss (on behalf of the American Association for the United Nations) and liberal Chicago alderman Leon Despres.
To obtain a copy of the decision, gopher to the Seminar as described above and select:
Papers Planning, Community Control & the Persistent Ghetto Shelley v. Kraemer
In addition, an H-Urban posting that includes a portion of "Raisin in the Sun" about an encounter between a white commmunity organization member sent to dissuade the family from their move is available as "Raisin in the Sun" in the same section as "Shelley v. Kraemer."
Wendy Plotkin COMM-ORG
(1)In LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE (Twayne, 1994), Robert Fisher offers a good discussion of these issues, observing that
"In 1926 the U.S. Supreme Court lent its weight to the issue, upholding the validity and enforceability of restrictive covenants. Covenants proliferated throughout Northern cities. By 1930 more than 175 property owners' associations in Chicago had enforceable racial covenants and three fourths of all residential property in the city was bound by such restrictions. None of this property could be sold or rented to blacks." (84)t
Fisher cites Thomas Philpott, THE SLUM AND THE GHETTO: NEIGHBORHOOD DETERIORATION AND MIDDLE-CLASS REFORM IN CHICAGO, 1880-1930 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978) and St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton's BLACK METROPOLIS (New York: Harper, 1962) on this section.
Wendy Plotkin COMM-ORG ========================================================================= Date: Sat, 13 Jan 1996 09:22:16 CST Posted by Wendy Plotkin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
An important correction on the earlier note about Shelley v. Kraemer:
Thurgood Marshall, who achieved acclaim as the attorney in Brown v. Board of Education and later became a Supreme Court justice, was the attorney, not an "amicus curiae," in Shelley v. Kraemer.
As a 1993 article about him described:
Thurgood Marshall's major contributions and his most lasting legacy were forged during the years when he was a lawyer for the NAACP. In 1935, Marshall argued the case of Donald Gaines Murray, who sought to gain admission to the University of Maryland Law School; he won the case the following year. In 1938, Charles A. Houston recommended Marshall as his successor at the NAACP national office. In a cluster of cases in the mid-1940s, Marshall argued and won 3 landmark decisions from the Supreme Court: Smith v. Allwright (1944); Morgan v. Virginia (1946); and Shelley v. Kraemer (1948).
Source: Description in Illinois Bibliographic Information Service of August Meier & John H. Bracey, Jr., "Thurgood Marshall's Best Years," _American Visions_. v. 8, Oct./Nov. '93, p. 30-2+.
Smith v. Allwright overthrew the white primary and Morgan v. Virginia segregation in interstate bus transportation.
Wendy Plotkin COMM-ORG Sender: H-Net/H-Urban Seminar on History of Community Organizing & <COMM-ORG@UICVM.UIC.EDU> Subject: Re: PAPER: Planning, Community Control, & Cincinnati Ghetto, 1950s-70s ========================================================================= Date: Fri, 2 Feb 1996 09:01:59 CST Posted by Corey Dolgon <CDOLGON@Sunburn.liunet.edu>
I'm new to the list and have been out of town. I've just caught up on the last two weeks worth of postings on community organizing and politics initiated by Casey-Leininger's paper (an earlier draft of which I commented on at the SACRPH conference--I will include these thoughts at the end of this posting) and urged forward by Stoecker and Swain. The discussion is now appearing under the heading "African American Community Organizing..." I want to insert a call for theory AND action within such investigations of race and community organizing.
I thought that Randy's initial comments were important and, while still implicating a race vs class dichotomy, demonstrated the benefits that theory can bring to both scholarly research and political action. What seems most absent in these discussions, though, is serious attention to recent work on theories of racial formation. Many scholars are now trying to place racial formation in more of a historical and sociological setting that might help us through some of the quagmire created by "Is it Race or is it Class?" kinds of questions (afterall, some answer this question with "neither, it's gender," anyway).
I would especially point people towards works like Michael Omi and Howard Winant, _Racial Formation in the United States : From the 1960s to the 1990s_ (2nd ed.), Routledge, 1994; David Roediger's books on Whiteness (The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class, Verso, 1991 and _Towards the Abolition of Whiteness : Essays on Race, Politics, and Working Class History_, Verso, 1994); Mike Davis's work on L.A. (_City of Quartz : Excavating the Future in Los Angeles_, Verso, 1990) and his earlier book on Race and Labor (_Prisoners of the American Dream : Politics and Economy in the History of the US Working Class_, Verso, 1986); Theodore Allen's _Invention of the White Race_ (Verso, 1994) and Alexander Saxton's _The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America_ (Verso, 1990); Tomas Almaguer's _Racial Fault Lines : the Historical Origins of White Supremacy in California_, (University of California Press, c1994); and Stanley Aronowitz's Politics of Identity: Class, Culture, Social Movements (Routledge, 1992) and various selections from David Goldberg's anthology, _Multiculturalism : a Critical Reader_ (Blackwell Publishers, 1994) and Margaret Anderson and Pat Hill Collins _Race, Class, and Gender : an Anthology 2nd ed. (Wadsworth, c1995).
Also helpful would be some of the work in urban geography and sociology that help spatialize and historicize not only racial formation, but the INTERSECTION of race and class formation. In particular, Katznelson's Marxism and the City (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1992); Robin Kelley's _Race Rebels : Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class_ (Free Press ; Maxwell Macmillan Canada, Maxwell Macmillan International, 1994); various selections from Michael Keith's and Steve Pile's (eds) _Place and the Politics of Identity_, (Routledge, 1993); Nigel Thrift and Peter Williams, _Class and Space: The Making of Urban Society_ (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987); and Manning Marable's most recent work _Beyond Black and White: Transforming African-American Politics_ (Verson, 1995) which argues that racial formation is undergoing severe shifts during the current historical period and is closely integrated with major economic transformations.
[Ed: For a JOURNAL OF PLANNING EDUCATION AND RESEARCH review of _Marxism and the City_, send e-mail to email@example.com with the message: GET MARXISM REVIEW]
All this to say that these works might help us through moments where we too often emphasize which "variable" is more important instead of looking for the synergetic effects of the forces that create these variables to begin with.
Mostly, though, I think these theoretical pursuits are effective because they do point us towards various strategies for action. In particular, they remind us that race is socially constructed and how we act and the politics we fight for makes a difference in the meaning that race (and gender) have in social, political, and economic life. This was the direction I tried to take in responding to Casey-Leininger's fine paper. I am also responding to another paper in the following comments.
[Ed: The other paper was:
A. Scott Henderson, SUNY Buffalo The New York State Commission Against Discrimination and the Quest for Equality in Housing
in which Henderson discusses the work of housing reformer Charles Abrams. -- W. Plotkin]
"I want to begin by thanking both Mr. Henderson and Mr. Casey-Leininger for delivering such interesting papers. We are now in a historical and political moment that seems light years away from the times when Federal, state or even city governments strongly supported tough anti-discrimination policies or the self-determination efforts of low-income and minority communities.
Fortunately, today's papers, do not fall into the trap of mythologizing or romanticizing such past progressive efforts, either. Too often our memory of the civil rights era cleanses harsh struggles and exaggerates partial successes, thus producing what Herbert Gutman once called a "truncated historical consciousness." Instead of narrating the political and cultural (the human) complexities of policy making and social protest, celebrations of sixties reforms and social movements merely repackage the myths of American progress--myths that I remember Mr. Belfield, my 11th grade History teacher, hammering into us each day by proclaiming,"There is No Retrograde Step in a Democracy!"
Both Mr. Henderson and Mr. Casey-Leininger have restored a sense of some of the real struggles that took place while trying to ameliorate racial discrimination and political disenfranchisement: the fits and starts of policy making amidst Party politics and power brokers, and the successes, failures, and ideological ironies of local community groups seeking self-determination. In accomplishing this retexturing of certain moments from the past, both speakers have given us important lessons in the dynamics of political struggles over housing policy and local empowerment that help us to understand how the United States evolved during the civil rights era; how the nation has gotten to where we are now; and why we seem so far away from the more progressive climate of the late 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.
Yet, each paper stops short of presenting a larger historical or theoretical framework that might have helped us apply these lessons towards a more progressive political analysis and strategy for the future. Of course, conference papers must be relatively narrow and concise, and can't always be held to such comprehensive standards. Thus, after commenting briefly on each paper, I want to offer some ways in which their strengths might be expanded upon and extrapolated from in order to consider possible paradigms towards a new progressive urban politics.
Mr. Henderson's paper is a fascinating narrative that documents how a progressive and activist politician/bureaucrat, Charles Abrams, navigated a treacherous course in fighting against discrimination in New York State's public and private housing markets. While rich in detail, Henderson's story also provides a complex picture of policy battles that expose the myriad of conflicting interests involved in early civil rights legislative struggles. Property owners, real estate developers, local and state Party leaders, and government bureaucrats appear in all their glory as predominately self-interested elites and flunkies, always prepared to compromise anti-discrimination legislation for the sake of economic or political profit. And, as Henderson reminds us, "irrespective of politics, the structure of New York State government also prevented SCAD from achieving complete administrative autonomy as an executive branch agency." Progressive government activists committed to a civil rights agenda faced almost insurmountable opposition and institutional inertia. Regardless of contemporary liberals' romantic visions of the sixties or conservatives' demonization of civil rights reforms, neither were our nation's structures of power, nor most of the people who tended them, ever really interested in fundamental or radical political change.
Still, Abrams successes can and should be measured, and Henderson does this. Not only did Abrams increase the amount of discrimination complaints that SCAD received and addressed, but he succeeded in including publicly-assisted and insured housing and aged-based discrimination within the Commission's jurisdiction. In a recent book on race and economics in America, Martin Carnoy argues that the action and rhetoric of political leaders does have a significant impact of the nation's racial climate. He claims that recent Republican policies and campaign tactics have not only exploited a racial backlash against civil rights, but actually instigated a brutal activist sentiment against all social welfare participants whose images have become both gendered and racially coded.
[Ed: Martin Carnoy, _Faded Dreams: the Politics and Economics of Race in America. Cambridge (England); New York, NY, USA : Cambridge University Press, 1994.]
While Abrams benefited from a political climate that nurtured some progressive movements in anti-discriminatory policies, Henderson is surely correct in emphasizing that Abrams' civil rights agenda also furthered "the growing struggle for equality in housing," creating an even greater public sentiment in support of anti-discrimination laws.
Mr. Casey-Leininger inserts another level to the discussion of civil rights struggles by insightfully demonstrating that white backlash against anti-discrimination laws and efforts to politically empower minority communities not only occurred on the level of elite economic and political interests, but also from the growing "community-control" movement itself. While the desire for neighborhood autonomy framed African American struggles against "urban removal," market-driven redevelopment strategies, political marginalization, and gentrification and displacement projects, Casey-Leininger contends that both wealthy and working class white neighborhoods "camouflaged race and class concerns by invoking the notion of community control when they opposed subsidized housing for their neighborhoods." The idea of local empowerment could be used to further political empowerment or intensify specific publics' disenfranchisement depending on which neighborhoods' interests were being promoted.
Although this paper only touches on the multi-layered interests that comprised the complex dynamic of Cincinnati's urban housing policy debates, the author does argue that local efforts to implement an integrative housing policy faced both race and class based discrimination from neighborhood groups. Here, we might have benefited from more information on the community-based organizations themselves. My own research shows that class distinctions within minority communities often shape political struggles over local control. In Ann Arbor, Michigan a younger, more militant, working class coalition of predominately black residents and college students gained control of the city's Model Cities program in the early 1970s and created planning strategies that protected low-income residents and renters from ensuing gentrification and the encroachment of the downtown's commercial district. The neighborhood's older, Black bourgeoisie, however, resisted Model Cities authority, hoping to capitalize on the area's increasing property values and economic potential. These intra-community conflicts allowed white city leaders to neutralize radical Model Cities leadership and restore most of Ann Arbor's African American neighborhoods to the white, elite controlled market place. The end result has been that most of the historically black neighborhoods of Ann Arbor have been gentrified by a white professional middle class, and most African Americans have been forced into public housing and low-income townhouses on the city's outskirts--areas specifically demarcated by major highways, railroad tracks, and landfills. Like Cincinnati's city leaders, Ann Arbor politicians have avoided taking risky positions to "ensure racial and economic integration," thus, exacerbating "continued racial discrimination in mortgage lending and by property owners, and racial "steering" by real estate agents." While Ann Arbor's segregated, poor neighborhoods were respatialized, however, Casey Leininger informs us that Cincinnati's "ghetto" has persisted in a rather static geographical area, remaining "one of the most racially segregated metropolitan areas in the nation."
This issue of overly cautious, cowardly, or blatantly racist and economically self-interested city leaders raises one area where these papers might lead us towards developing a strategy for intervening in the current debates over disappearing social welfare programs and anti-civil rights legislation. In _Faded Dreams_, Martin Carnoy demonstrates that 1960s reforms did have significant affects on reducing discrimination, segregation and poverty, and increasing educational and economic opportunities among minority populations. As Mr. Henderson argues, activist bureaucrats and politicians can create progressive policies that have significant effects on the ideological climate and social and economic practices of American people. Far from the failure that Conservative politicians and revisionist historians have claimed for most civil rights reforms, Carnoy's persuasive evidence implies that we just didn't go far enough in maintaining and strengthening social welfare programs directed towards low-income and minority populations. Instead, these projects were quickly privatized and diluted by corporate interests and the politics of white community backlashes.
As historians, we are responsible for setting the record straight. Contemporary reactionary politics are constantly framed by efforts to revise our historical consciousness and we must enter the public debate loudly and clearly to accurately account for both the partial successes that civil rights and social welfare legislation had, as well as the elite and privileged forces behind many of these programs' subsequent failures. Similarly, we must also expose what George Lipsitz has called the continuing "possessive investment in whiteness" that has infused itself into so-called "race-neutral" policy making and campaign rhetoric. Lipsitz explains that "systemic, collective, and coordinated behavior disappears...exercises of group power relentlessly channeling rewards, resources, and opportunities from one group to another [don't] appear to be 'racist' because they rarely announce their intention to discriminate against individuals." As historians, we may be able to compensate for this truncated 'present' consciousness by restoring the complexities of racial construction and class struggles into policy debates and political campaigns.
And as professional leaders in our communities, we are responsible to take on the kinds of challenges that Charles Abrams posed by example. If we are committed to anti-discrimination and progressive social programs, if we believe in democracy, then we must speak up for policies that address the persistence of racial and economic segregation and oppression in our cities. It's hard to comprehend that many people really believe the reprivatization of public space, cuts in social spending and government deregulation will actually improve life for poor, minority communities. Yet, it seems that few national or local leaders (or perhaps even more importantly, collective professional agencies) have been willing to openly challenge the current "political correctness" of welfare cuts, deregulation, the dismantling of affirmative action, etc. It is our capability and responsibility to offer a counter discourse that might germinate a different consensus-building narratives around new notions of "the public good" and community welfare. These concepts do not have to appear as simply 'old ideas' that didn't work.
And this brings me to a final point . Casey-Leininger also reminds us that the very nature of anti-discriminatory battles shifted over time as an emphasis on citizen participation eventually became focused on movements for neighborhood and community control. Sherry Arnstein, Katherine Coit, Piven and Cloward, the Fainsteins and other urban historians and social scientists have described this phenomenon as characterized by a conservative "ideology of participationism." According to Casey-Leininger, early democratic planning efforts in Cincinnati "presupposed citizen participation only in the fine tuning and implementation of a detailed plan crafted by experts," but later Model Cities efforts "establish[ed] a process by which those communities could define the problems and goals of the Model Cities area." This shift actually occurred in major urban centers across the nation, generally reflecting the growing militancy of civil rights movements in demanding political empowerment through the self-determination of local neighborhoods. For years, citizen participation had simply reified white, elite control over planning strategies. As Katherine Coit explains, "experience has shown that in the United States the most vocal elements of a community, those most organized, those most prepared to dominate a local movement are very often middle-class members, or more rarely, the upwardly mobile members of the working class." The illusion of expert-driven democracy through participatory planning efforts generally ignored the conflicting agendas of racially and class divided communities. The best these attempts could do was produce inherently contradictory plans diluted by compromise and eventually either abandoned by political leaders or manipulated by elite economic interests to stimulate profitable redevelopment projects.
Still, community control--as an alternative to simple 'participation'--offered no panacea for progressive policy making. Conservative, generally white, and generally middle or upper class neighborhoods remained the best organized and most vocal in calling for self-empowerment which often resulted in dismantling anti-discrimination or social welfare projects. In fact, as Mike Davis points out in City of Quartz, when white, middle class Los Angelas communities were threatened by economic disinvestment, realtor driven reductions in property values, and racist paranoia, and could not acquire localized political empowerment, they opted for social secession by petitioning for self-determination, renaming their communities and establishing new self-governing municipalities. Yet, there are also numerous examples of strong local organizing efforts that have created powerful community redevelopment plans where low-income and minority neighborhoods gained political and economic control over their futures. Holly Sklar, Chris Tilly, Susan Ruddick, Michael Peter Smith and others have recently written about grass roots coalitions that have turned their communities around. The persistence of progressive social action in many urban neighborhoods is still having a powerful impact on local politics and policy making.
Thus, we cannot act only as public intellectuals, local experts or political leaders. We must participate with local grass roots movements whose strength derives from neighborhood commitments to enhance the economic stability and political enfranchisement of its most vulnerable members. Just as Abrams acknowledged that cultural/economic changes such as migration patterns, industrial concentration, and the effects of slum clearance mandated activist governmental response, we must acknowledge that global economic shifts have affected both wage structures and the need for collective consumption policies to strengthen social welfare programs, not slash them. If our intellectual and policy interventions are to have any impact, we must also participate in the kinds of social action that create the political space for progressive reform. While neither paper tells us much about what strategies and tactics might succeed, they do remind us that if we truly believe in democracy, then we must reinvigorate our efforts to establish both economic and political justice by remaking the rhetoric and practice of an activist civil rights agenda. They also remind us that these are difficult and complex struggles that demand more than simple rhetoric about community control or public welfare. Only through a dialogue among progressively committed intellectuals, politicians, community activists, and low-income people can we restore a civil rights agenda to urban policy-making."
I believe that a class and race focused civil rights agenda may be an arena for such work.
corey dolgon assistant professor--american studies friends world program--long island university southampton, ny 11968 firstname.lastname@example.org
[For a copy of Fritz Casey-Leininger's paper, either send e-mail to email@example.com with the message: GET PERSISTENT GHETTO or gopher to H-Net.msu.edu and select:
H-Net E-Mail Discussion Groups H-Urban Seminars Seminar on History of Community Organizing Papers Presented... Planning, Community Control...
Earlier comments on the paper are located there, along with the discussion on African-American organizing that spun off from these comments.
-- W. Plotkin, COMM-ORG] .