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Black and White

Is Nashville Planning Racist?

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This is just the most incredible load of BS I've read in a long time. This "essay" was copied from another Nashville urban design forum. I'm not allowed to post there any longer because I am too (conservatively) "political".

I am preparing a response but it is going to take some time. Please chime in. Do you agree that suburban and back-to-the-city planning is the result of racism?

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Nashville has kept its racism under control for many years. The problems we have in Memphis, Birmingham, and Little Rock have not been as overt here, but the signs of racism are very evident during this time of urban renewal and the flocking to the high rises of our urban core.

During the civil rights movement of the 1960's a large number of African Americans lived in the inner city because the whites of the city fled when the affluent manufacturing jobs of the day fled. In his book "Urban Sociology and New Town Development" Dr. Clapp discusses the time in America when African Americans were still working menial jobs on the farms and in rural county areas. Companies like Werthan Mills and Marathon Motorworks built not necessarily new towns, but villages for workers to shop and live on the factory premises. It was a concept not new to America, but is was a community conscious that made life consist of living, working, and recreating with the company. The company became ingrained in the persons life.

Doctors and lawyers had the large row houses we saw on West End, Fifth Avenue, Hayes Street and the like. They represented their clients with zealouseness, those working and making a good wage in the factories, and the good union jobs that were slowly migrating south. When recently freed slaves (in the 1860's) and now other low paid African Americans migrated from the rural areas to the city for these jobs and "villages" , some jobs already started moving to smaller rural and farm towns because land was cheaper, there was plenty of land for building houses and not row villages, and of course whites assumed crime would be low in these rural areas because disanfranchised African Americans were now moving to the cities looking for higher paid jobs. These same doctors and lawyers moved to where their clients now were and African Americans now lived in the city.

By the 1970's very few whites lived in the city. Whites were making large economic strides in the post war era blacks were left with very few jobs in the city. Basically because of Jim Crow laws, they were not accepted back in rural America so the dividing line was now very clear.

The suburban sprawl had become reality. Lily white conservative America stayed in the suburbs, while blacks were regulated to prison...the projects known as federal subsidized housing. The projects were the white mans answer to prison. Liberals like myself celebrated that the federal government was willing to provide free housing to disanfranchised blacks because after all we enslaved them for 200 years and now we took the jobs back with us to the country where we had recently paid them low wages on farms we now shut down for shopping malls and movie theaters. The projects were not designed to help blacks and some hispanics get on their feet, but to keep them down. Liberals in the federal government knew their psychology. Keeping poor people together keeps them poor. It also makes the so called enlightened whites safe in their suburbs.

Eventually blacks and now hispanics were making some economic strides and the few that reached management, mostly in church and state jobs, not corporate America were now buying houses in the suburbs and again the church going lily white conservative who did not mind having a black janitor at the church now had to come to the realization that blacks and hispanics were not only going to church with them, but actually buy houses next to them! The late 1970's and early 1980's gave America an economic shift in jobs and buying power. We were truely in the computer and automation age.

In the 1990's blacks started excelling economically and the suburbs were becoming more racially mixed, although African Americans still only maked up 12% of the population.

In the 2000's, here is where we are in Nashville, and I dare say the country. Affluent whites are now moving back to the city. Is it because suburban neighborhoods are increasingly black and hispanic? Is it because the majority of whites still make more money? The sad thing is this. Some blacks who never left the city to begin with own a lot of houses in Nashville redevelopment areas like Germantown, East Nashville, 12 south, and North Nashville. Land values are skyrocketing because affluent whites want to live in the nuveau' areas where they have access to the finer establishments and ammenities downtown. Alternative lifestyle people and non traditional families do not want to live in the bible belt suburbs so they migrate to the now hip urban areas. Blacks who now have achieved some economic strength as have hispanics are now staying in the suburbs because they cannot afford to move back to town where they once were. Is that by design? How are the older blacks who never left the city going to pay property tax on houses and lots that affluent white Americans are paying $300, $400, $500 per foot for?

American and Nashville have always played the race card when it came to urban development, new urbanism, and urban revitalization. It has always gone to the highest bidder. Poor whites have at some extent experienced the same thing in parts of West Nashville. As Jesus and Robert K. Merton have said, the poor will always be with us. America has spent 100's of years moving the poor around to satisfy it's own need for economic strength and greed.

Now with Nashvilles budding diversity what is next? Which group and demographic is going to be moved around when we decide which areas of the city are to be crime free, affluent, and dare I say white?

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I happen to know the author of this and may agree on some points and most certainly not all. I think the real reason for flight back into the urban core is due to the following more than anything. Price of gas, empty nesters down sizing, real estate speculators, and the cultural core of the city being DT are some of the reasons. Also, many young professionals like being DT due to the nightlife and venues DT. I do think there is a mix of people in DT and the neighborhoods surrounding DT. There is much more diversity in the area around DT than in the suburbs. As to the writers reasons for flight in the first place, well, I think there is probably a lot of validity in what he is saying. But as far as being the reason for the reverse flight, probably not the main reason for the huge majority of people moving back into the urban core.

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It's an interesting view point and certainly there are elements of it that are true especially in the 1960s. However what the article misses is there were also many programs such as Affirmative Action, the EEOC, and many others that attempted to correct this starting in the late 60s and 70s. I know this well because my mom used to work at an EEOC in the mid 70s. I also grew up in what could be considered a small town in the south and my 1750 person high school was 50% White and Black. So my experience of the 70s does not reflect that article.

It also ignores the fact that tens of millions of Blacks have made it to the middle class and were just as quick to abandon the center cities for the suburbs. I do agree there is a big division in this country that is based on economic position. i.e. the haves vs the have nots. It's not based on race but since there are large numbers of Blacks are poor it appears that way.

Honestly if that author is interested in addressing the issue in a real manner he would not be using terms such as "lily white". Somehow I don't thing that was the motivation.

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What is notable about the original essay is the underlying implication that most everything related with real estate development is actually a conspiracy to keep blacks down. It is unfortunate that much of the far political left has succumbed to seeing the world in terms of conspiracies perpetuated by evil people (in this case,

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This is just the most incredible load of BS I've read in a long time. This "essay" was copied from another Nashville urban design forum. I'm not allowed to post there any longer because I am too (conservatively) "political".

I am preparing a response but it is going to take some time. Please chime in. Do you agree that suburban and back-to-the-city planning is the result of racism?

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Hopefully the author will one day figure out that solving problems is more difficult than just finding someone to blame.

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I did not read this as planning being racist tool. At best, it was someones expressing their concerns about the will and power of wealth in America. As we all know, government is often the tool of the people...and the money.

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Here is what a local writer for a local newspaper thinks about the subject. Copied from another forum.

There is a theory I've heard some put forth as it relates to suburban architecture and the mindset of mainstream white America. And that, very simply, is that the "straightforward sensibilities" of those suburban whites almost demand that the suburban buildings home to all the chain retail and restaurant operations look the same in suburban Omaha as they do in suburban Raleigh. Such bland sameness, folks who offer this theory contend, fosters a sense of safe familiarity for suburban whites, many of whom are posssessed of somewhat "sensitive constitutions" and, as such, do not relate to expressiveness or edginess in food, fashion, film, the naming of children, music, personality/communication style and -- of course -- architecture. You can read between the lines as to how some of this also relates to how the mainstream white culture is often intimidated by what is sees as an alternative black urban culture. Not sure I put full stock into this argument given that I've known some very cool white people who have lived in the lily white suburbs. But in a general sense, there seems to be some legitimacy in the theory. Translation for those in suburbia: We like are surroundings non-threatening. So no building or population density. No hipster bars, cool retail and tattoo parlors. No industrial grittiness. And no blacks. All vanilla and white bread. Again, a generalization. But the argument is out there.

WW

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Oops, I accdidently responded to the wrong post. I agree with you 100%. The whole essay is an exercise and an example of typical leftist race baiting and fear mongering.

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... safe familiarity for suburban whites, many of whom are posssessed of somewhat "sensitive constitutions" and, as such, do not relate to expressiveness or edginess in food, fashion, film, the naming of children, music, personality/communication style.....

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Note: This could be an interesting topic on the subject of suburbs in general. However if it devolves into name calling I will close it. Please take heed of this if you really want to have this discussion. Furthermore don't bring drama here from other forums.

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I echo Metros comments. This can be a great thread but keep your emotions in check and think about what you write before hand.

I know there is still white flight out there but much of it is going farther from the city centers into the far reaches of suburbia almost into sticks Ville. The main reason for that IMO is fear. Not just fear of someone because of skin color, but also, culture, religion, crime, gangs, etc. I think the vast majority of people are open minded and enjoy a mix of friends and neighbors. Many people these days don

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This indeed is an interesting topic. Whites moved to the suburbs for jobs, safety, schools, etc. But I think it's far more complicated than it was presented in the essay. Toward the end, the writer got at the crux of the real issue -- class. Renewal of urban neighborhoods has brought whites back into the city and is pushing out people who can't afford to live in their own homes anymore -- black, white, old, working poor, etc.

The cycle of redeveloping neighborhoods is very interesting. It seems that gays tend to be the first ones into a downtrodden neighborhood. I don't know why the tends to be the case. I've never asked. Young couples follow, choosing the the urban lifestyle because it's what they can afford. Typically, they redo their own homes to build value. Soon enough, the early rentry people can't afford to live there either, they sell and move on as values increase. Or they see the opportunity to make a bunch of money on their homes and sell and roll the equity into a more affluent neighborhood. Much of it is about finding value in the old homes. Developers help feed this cycle in terms of constructing new product that is pricey because of land prices but also because that's what the market will bear. This is a very broad brush. Obviously, there are many people who stay or even move elsewhere in the same neighborhood.

The first neighborhood I lived in in DC is an interesting example of genetrification at work and coming full cycle. 5th St. Northwest in the Shaw area along what is now the green line. It was an affluent neighborhood of brownstones in the late 1890s. You could tell by the carriage houses in back and the marble fireplaces on each floor, as well as fine details throughout the homes. In the 1960s, the houses had been converted to tenements and mostly blacks lived in them. By the late 1980s, young lawyers and government workers were buyng these places for a song and renovating them and pretty soon values were skyrocketing. This was beginning to happen all over DC, particularly as values in the suburbs were rising and you had to move farther and farther out to find an affordable place to live. Some of the former poor residents in these neighborhoods have been pushed to inner ring type suburbs in Maryland, so that there is a gap between affluent, genetrified portions of DC and the affluent outer suburbs.

Whether it involves institutional planning racism or not, I don't think its entirely a conscious thing on government's part. Planning really is the product of the will of the people. So, it's these new residents in the old neighborhoods who are pushing for changes and I think primarily to renew services and create some level of homogeneity with the aim of protecting the existing architecture, thus, the conservation and historic overlays. I'm sure there is some element that thinks that by institute certain planning that the "bad element" gets eliminated. The bad element of course could be mean blacks but not necessarily. The by-product, nonetheless, is that people get pushed out. Over the past how many ever years, folks have become more attuned to the growing lack of diversity. Thus, the affordable housing initiatives were launched. Whether those initiatives truly work is debatable.

Almost five years ago, I read an interesting story in Atlantic Monthly that I thought could explain the cycle of how people move around in clusters. It's a fascinating story.

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200204/rauch

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Richard, you say "Frankly, I've never seen the keeping poor 'hoods poor. If so, that is really screwy."

I'm sure that you haven't seen anyone say literally that they want to keep a poor neighborhood poor. If, however, you boil the anti-gentrification arguments down to their essentials, a poor neighborhood becoming wealthier is seen as a bad thing. (It is screwy.)

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I couldn't agree more. Until the lower class stops playing the race card at every turn, there will continue to be projects, and welfafe, and unstoppable crime. The lower class, including some whites, are taught at a very young age to mistrust and hate police officers and authority figures. They are taught that white people are always trying to keep them "down". Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton types peerpetuate their endless cycle of poverty and victim mentality. It's sad, but true.

They shouldn't. Just as they shouldn't try to dictate the racial make up of schools.

It looks like we would have learned from the forced educational class desegregation movements of the 60's and quit trying to apply the same failures to housing the 00's.

The idea of "diversity" (as if that was a good thing in and of itself) in housing is similar to that of desegregating schools but only in the reverse.

Desegregating schools was supposed to lift up the lower classes by having them mix with the upper and middle classes. However, at the time the desgregation occured, the dominate counter-culture-culture was busy degrading the middle and upper classes and experimenting with social revolution. The lower classes learned to hate the upper and middle classes (as much as the upper and middle classes hated themselves) that they had been told they were to emulate. The bad social habits that resulted in lower class status were elevated to a position of admiration that only resulted in the lower classes sinking deeper into despair. Because the upper classes were so vilified the middle classes naturally enumlated the lower classes and emulated the bad social habits.

In effect, rather than the lower classes emulating the upper classes as originally intented, the upper classes emulated the lower classes. The emulation continues to this day. Add to this topsy turvey social experiment the fact that the upper class parents had the ability to remove their children from the socially renforced bad behavior of the lower classes and you have the public schools of today.

Why would any upper class neighboorhood want to mix with the lower classes? The experience of our educational experimentation only portents diaster that no one wants to replicate in their neighboorhood. I would also venture to guess that the lower classes have learned not to trust those who profess to have their best intertest at heart and are well advised not to.

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I couldn't agree more. Until the lower class stops playing the race card at every turn, there will continue to be projects, and welfafe, and unstoppable crime. The lower class, including some whites, are taught at a very young age to mistrust and hate police officers and authority figures. They are taught that white people are always trying to keep them "down". Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton types peerpetuate their endless cycle of poverty and victim mentality. It's sad, but true.

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Richard, you say "Frankly, I've never seen the keeping poor 'hoods poor. If so, that is really screwy."

I'm sure that you haven't seen anyone say literally that they want to keep a poor neighborhood poor. If, however, you boil the anti-gentrification arguments down to their essentials, a poor neighborhood becoming wealthier is seen as a bad thing. (It is screwy.)

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I've seen neighborhood people try and limit value increases themselves. WE don't want values to go up because taxes will go up. Nutso argument and doesn't refelct reality. The whole point of buying real estate is for your equity to improve beyond what you pay off on the loan.

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There are some who will argue that rising values cause them to lose their home due to higher taxes. I've seen this happen before especially to seniors on fixed incomes. The whole point of buying real estate is to have a place to live unless you are talking about investors.

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