NYT Attempts to Explain "What's the Matter with Wisconsin?"
Print Friendly and PDF

Since the Black Lives Matter riot in Milwaukee a week and a half ago, there have been numerous journalistic attempts to explain why blacks perform so badly in Wisconsin.

I offered my explanation in Taki’s Magazine last week:

In contrast, here are a couple of attempts since then by the New York Times:
When Police Don’t Live in the City They Serve


MILWAUKEE — The split-second law enforcement decision of when to pull the trigger often comes down to perception. Is that person acting suspiciously? Is he or she a threat?

And so much of the criticism of the police that has roiled the country over the past couple of years has centered on whether officers know the communities they patrol and understand the culture of the people who live in them.

It is a question that residents have been particularly passionate about here since the Wisconsin Supreme Court in June upheld a state law that eliminated a requirement that Milwaukee police officers live in the city.

Some African-American residents worry that eliminating the requirement will only worsen a long-strained relationship between black communities and the police. The fractured relationship has been on display over the past week after the fatal police shooting of an armed black man, Sylville K. Smith, led to explosive street demonstrations.

Keyon Jackson-Malone, a resident of the city’s predominantly black north side, said he feared that without a residency requirement, people would start coming from farther and farther away to serve as Milwaukee police officers. The metropolitan area’s suburbs and exurbs are among the whitest in the country, and some have a rural feel.

“There’s some white people that actually only know black people by what they’ve ever heard,” Mr. Jackson-Malone said. “There’s no experience. There’s no, ‘I went to school with 30 of them.’ ”

Rather, he added: “There’s a lot of: ‘I’m in fear of my life. They’re superhuman. They’re animals. They’re savage.’ A person that’s lived up north all their life has never had to come to the inner city, but he’s going to police this kid. He don’t understand about, Mama may be on drugs. He don’t have no empathy for the situation.” …

As it turns out, the officer involved in the shooting last week was black and lived in Milwaukee, so his residency or understanding of the community might not have been an issue.

Okay … so scratch that attempt.

So then they came back with:

Affluent and Black, and Still Trapped by Segregation

Why well-off black families end up living in poorer areas than white families with similar or even lower incomes.


MILWAUKEE — Their daughter was sick and they needed family around to help care for her, so JoAnne and Maanaan Sabir took an unexpected detour.

They had spent years blowing past mileposts: earning advanced degrees and six-figure incomes, buying a 2,500-square-foot Victorian with hardwood floors. Yet here they were, both 37, moving to a corner of town pocked by empty lots, cramming into an apartment above Ms. Sabir’s mother, in the very duplex that Ms. Sabir’s grandparents had bought six decades earlier.

Their new dwelling was in a part of the Lindsay Heights neighborhood where more than one in three families lives in poverty; gunshots were too often a part of the nighttime soundtrack. They planned to leave once their daughter, Ameera, was healthy.

But then, reminding them of why they feel at home in communities like this one, their new neighbors started frequently checking on Ameera: Is she doing O.K.? And on their son, Taj: When’s his next basketball game? Mr. Sabir’s car stalled in the middle of the street one night, and it was the young men too often stereotyped as suspicious who helped him push it home. So many welcoming black faces like their own, they thought.

“It felt like that’s where we should be,” Ms. Sabir said.

Now, two years later, Ameera, 14, is healthy. And the Sabirs have not left. They have, in fact, only strengthened their resolve to stay after a fatal police shooting last weekend led to fiery unrest that was also fueled by frustrations over race and segregation. Rooted where they are, the Sabirs point to a broad yet little explored fact of American segregation: Affluent black families, freed from the restrictions of low income, often end up living in poor and segregated communities anyway.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

We’re always being told that white flight occurred because whites succumb to irrational Stereotypes about blacks being crime prone, so, logically, these black families are saving a bundle by living by in safe yet low rent neighborhoods. You could, for example, save your money on housing and send your kids to private school.

I guess, however, because the NYT describes black neighborhoods as “segregated” it mean it’s a bad thing. “Segregated” is the mirror image of “diverse,” which is a good thing. NFL starting cornerbacks are “diverse,” while East St. Louis is “segregated.”

Well, whatever it is, it’s white people’s fault:

It is a national phenomenon challenging the popular assumption that segregation is more about class than about race, that when black families earn more money, some ideal of post-racial integration will inevitably be reached.

In fact, a New York Times analysis of 2014 census figures shows that income alone cannot explain, nor would it likely end, the segregation that has defined American cities and suburbs for generations.

The choices that black families make today are inevitably constrained by a legacy of racism that prevented their ancestors from buying quality housing and then passing down wealth that might have allowed today’s generation to move into more stable communities.

For example, there’s no quality housing in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago. It’s been falling apart ever since blacks started moving in 49 years ago.

Sure, the original housing stock in Austin wasn’t all that different from across the Austin Avenue in Oak Park, but that’s not what we mean by “quality.” What we mean by “quality” is that the people living in the housing have enough wealth and determination to be able to get away from poor people. The working definition of a poor person in modern America is somebody who can’t afford to get away from other poor people.

In Oak Park, they stayed away from poor people, so that’s “quality.” In Austin they didn’t so that’s “not quality.”

And even when black households try to cross color boundaries, they are not always met with open arms: Studies have shown that white people prefer to live in communities where there are fewer black people, regardless of their income.

The result: Nationally, black and white families of similar incomes still live in separate worlds.

In many of America’s largest metropolitan areas, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, black families making $100,000 or more are more likely to live in poorer neighborhoods than even white households making less than $25,000. This is particularly true in areas with a long history of residential segregation, like metropolitan Milwaukee.

In one neighborhood on Milwaukee’s predominantly black north side, that means the appearance of a new 4,000-square-foot home owned by a black energy executive and her husband, who host political fund-raisers with valet parking. Nearby, a financial adviser and his wife are stuck in the starter home they bought about 10 years ago, because it lost value and they couldn’t sell it. Up the street, there’s an engineer, living with her family, who said she stayed in the city for its amenities and to send the message, “We didn’t want to run away.”

The Sabirs share that mix of civic-minded motivation, and limitations. They are successful small-business owners with college degrees, yet even their choices have been circumscribed. The Victorian home they bought a decade ago, which they are now renting out, is in a majority black neighborhood where poverty has increased, damaging their investment.

In other words, blacks tend to be bad for property values, just like all those horrible racists told my in-laws in the Austin neighborhood in 1967. They didn’t believe them, but when they finally moved out in 1970 after three felonies against their family, losing half their net worth, they admitted that maybe the bigots had had a point.
Their current neighborhood, where the duplex is, has a median household income of just $34,000 a year, or around $20,000 less than what’s typical for the region.

It’s one of many ways that living around people whom they best relate to means wrestling day and night with the cumulative effects of racism.

The burning cars and buildings, the people throwing rocks and bottles at police officers in riot gear — it was all happening last Saturday as Maanaan and JoAnne Sabir were settling in for the night just a few miles down the road.

The 23-year-old man who had been shot by a black officer had ignored orders to drop a gun as he fled on foot after being pulled over in his car, the police said.

As his wife flicked through accounts of the raucous uprising on social media, Mr. Sabir could not help but think that the public response was years in the making. It was Milwaukee’s — America’s — history and maintenance of racist policies, through housing discrimination, divestment of black communities, and policing, all coming to a head.

“You’re asking us to do the impossible, which is to tolerate a systemic demoralization of our own livelihood,” Mr. Sabir said.

Black families in Milwaukee have been confronting hostility for decades. Zeddie Quitman Hyler directly challenged housing segregation in 1955 when he began laying the foundation for a house on an open patch of land in the white western suburb of Wauwatosa.

For the usual reasons, the 48 years since the Fair Housing Act of 1968 aren’t relevant to 2016. The New Deal era is what really counts. America is like a Superman movie. Not much has really changed since FDR’s funeral.
… While Mr. Hyler was branching out, Ms. Sabir’s grandparents found themselves falling into the familiar cycle of segregation. Migrants from the South, they spent about 10 years trying to buy a house at a time when black families were overtly steered to particular blocks. Eventually, a family member who was a real estate agent worked her connections, and they landed the duplex on the corner of North 17th Street and North Avenue in the mid-1950s. The neighborhood was evolving from one that had been flush with synagogues and restaurants selling matzo ball soup.

They were caught in the middle of white flight.

The census tract where Ms. Sabir’s grandparents settled was entirely white in 1950 except for the two people that the census listed as black and the six listed as “other.” By 1960, however, 2,344 black people called the area home, accounting for 65 percent of its population.

White Flight is the main form of ethnic cleansing in which we all agree to blame the victims.

Since the matzo ball soup fans who white flighted were motivated by irrational concerns, clearly they wound up punished by the market while the people who moved into the increasingly diverse yet safe and educationally strong neighborhood were rewarded by a big increase in home values.

Oh, wait …

Within a few years, Milwaukee’s economy would start tanking. Tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the city were eliminated. Property values fell, while housing policies made it nearly impossible for black families to obtain loans and move to the suburbs, where many jobs were being relocated.

That same pattern of redlining, in which banks choke off lending to minorities and minority communities, has shaped New York, Chicago and other cities, but the impact in Milwaukee proved especially severe, in part because black migrants began arriving in droves just as the economic structure that was supposed to buoy them was disappearing. The shifts ensured that no enclave for affluent black people was ever developed here.

That’s actually an interesting data point. In contrast, in 1979 I visited a really nice black neighborhood in Houston and in 1981 a really nice black neighborhood in Los Angeles. (I believe both are featured in the Ray Charles biopic Ray as places he’d lived in the 1950s and 1960s.) My guess is that places like that with upscale black neighborhoods tended to have been pioneered by Talented Tenth emigrants from the South fairly early in the 20th Century, while Milwaukee didn’t get many blacks until blue collar workers moved in after WWII, and then it was inundated by welfare mothers in the 1970s.
Black residents and leaders tried to fight back. In 1962, Vel Phillips, the city’s first black alderwoman, proposed a fair housing ordinance. Her colleagues voted unanimously against it four times in the 1960s.

Activists took to the streets in the summer of 1967 for 200 consecutive days of fair housing protests, and were sometimes greeted with racial slurs, eggs and rocks as they crossed the Menomonee River, via the 16th Street Viaduct, into the white South Side.

The Common Council eventually ratified a fair housing law in 1968, weeks after the federal government passed its landmark measure.

Okay, but 1968 was 48 years ago.
The racial dividing lines were already drawn, however, and barriers to black upward mobility remained. Even the neighborhood where the baseball slugger Hank Aaron moved in the late 1950s could not avoid a downward spiral. While the black population in the Rufus King area grew from 0.4 percent in 1960 to 89 percent in 1980, its median home value dropped from 9 percent above the city’s median to 23 percent below it, according to “Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods,” a book by John Gurda.

Those historic dynamics of race and housing have not disappeared, either. As recently as 2006, a city government report found that affluent, nonwhite Milwaukeeans were 2.7 times likelier to be denied home loans than white people with similar incomes.

As we all know, the big problem with home loans in 2006 was too much discrimination against nonwhites. Angelo Mozilo was leaving thousand dollar bills on the sidewalk because he was so bigoted against nonwhites. The few financiers in 2006 who bet on nonwhites to pay back their mortgages got stinking rich, while the skeptics and cynics subsequently lost their shirts. See the movie The Big Short for details.
Milwaukee itself, which is nearly two-thirds nonwhite, has never elected a black mayor.
Whereas cities that elected a long stream of black mayors, like Detroit and New Orleans, have worked out well for blacks.
Taj and Ameera go to a Catholic private school in Milwaukee where most of the students are white, but return to a Muslim household in a neighborhood where most people look like them. Both environments present difficulties.
At school, the Sabir children have heard a teacher play down slavery, and classmates stereotype black neighborhoods as bad and drug infested. On their block, where the sidewalks are cracked and some empty lots have been turned into gardens, they occasionally see drugs and fights.
In other words, the stereotypes are truthful, which just makes them more hateful hate-filled.

Truth Is Hate.

Thus, as our Presidential frontrunner explains in her ongoing Conversation, it is the duty of all good Americans to hate the truth.

[Comment at Unz.com]

Print Friendly and PDF