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Old 04-13-2013, 12:30 AM
 
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How significant a part did discrimination play in the decline of cities in the USA?

Your thoughts?
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Old 04-13-2013, 01:41 AM
 
Location: Canada
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I'm not going to pretend to really understand American race dynamics. I'm not one of you, and I could be wrong here, but as someone whose really spent a long time examining what happened in cities, I have some theories and I'm going to lay them out as best I can. Feel free to tell me I'm totally off base if you disagree.

Part of the American psyche is you think about all sorts of things through the lens of race and in terms of race. You're very aware of it, and will emphasize a racial spin when talking about common social phenomena like gentrification, class, culture - all sorts of stuff. It's just a part of your history and culture with alot of emotion attached to it, and I respect what it's all about, but sometimes I think it leads to the importance of race being overemphasized with other facets of a situation being ignored or neglected in the conversation. In this case, I think race at best exacerbated a phenomenon that was going to happen anyways. In cities that primarily grew up as industrial centres, the cities became very hard places that had been built up by capitalists to maximize profits and there were many things wrong with the philosophy, lifestyles, and often decrepit built form that had sprung up in contrast to pre-industrial urbanism and the older section of cities. Cultures regularly go through reformational or revolutionary phases, and I think that the anti-urban sentiment was the spirit of the times and logical from the historical and ideological place people were at at the time. It was about rejecting dehumanizing industrialism and getting back some of what was lost in their romanticised rural past. That's why we see lily white cities like Toronto and Montreal with more toned down versions of the same things, even London eventually to some degree, although in Europe the greater pre-industrial architecture in the city centres toned down the effects. Hell, look what happened to cities that were small pre-industrialization, like Manchester. Race probably made it worse in the United States, as did the great geographical/cultural need for freeways, but I think it was much more then that. Much of the wanting to get away was wanting to separate ones self from the lower classes when technology made this feasible, but with the lower classes being racially identifiable in the US it brought a new spin with it that probably increased the pressure. So race had something to do with it, but it was just one part of a complicated historical moment.

Last edited by BIMBAM; 04-13-2013 at 02:01 AM..
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Old 04-13-2013, 05:42 AM
 
Location: North Baltimore ----> Seattle
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^ good post. That cultural moment continues, btw.
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Old 04-13-2013, 06:02 AM
 
Location: Canada
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HandsUpThumbsDown View Post
^ good post. That cultural moment continues, btw.
I disagree, there's always elements of continuity, as well as change, but enough time has passed that I don't think you can honestly say that the themes and ideas shaping the zeitgeist of the day are at all the same today as they were in the late 40's, say.
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Old 04-13-2013, 06:17 AM
 
Location: North Baltimore ----> Seattle
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIMBAM View Post
I disagree, there's always elements of continuity, as well as change, but enough time has passed that I don't think you can honestly say that the themes and ideas shaping the zeitgeist of the day are at all the same today as they were in the late 40's, say.
The effects of legislated and de facto discrimination of that era remain and can be seen daily here, at least. Redlining especially.
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Old 04-13-2013, 07:16 AM
 
Location: Canada
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HandsUpThumbsDown View Post
The effects of legislated and de facto discrimination of that era remain and can be seen daily here, at least. Redlining especially.
Oh is that what you meant. Okay, I was talking more about the mood of the times, things like pop culture themes of industrialization, expressionist thought, and the post-war desire to bury the past. Certainly, like I said, the past always leaves its legacy and elements of continuity, that being a notable example.
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Old 04-13-2013, 07:48 AM
 
Location: North Baltimore ----> Seattle
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Gotcha. Sorry for the misunderstanding.
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Old 04-14-2013, 08:10 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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There were largely two periods of urban decline, and racism played a role in both.

The first, slow period of urban decline ran from roughly 1945 until the early 1960s. This was basically characterized by two elements. One, the government was officially pushing sub-urbanization, through policies like the interstate highway system, distribution of the defense industry outside of urban areas, and allowing access to credit for a mortgage to a wide swathe of the working class. At the same time, there were many racist practices, in both the North and the South (including restrictive covenants and redlining) which ensured that blacks would not move to the suburbs. On the whole though, whites were not leaving the cities for racial reasons - they were leaving because the suburbs seemed like a positive move for any number of reasons (more room, newer housing, etc).

The second phase began with the urban race riots, which began in 1963, reached their peak in 1967, and kept at a fairly high level through most of the 1970s. At that point, many white people were terrified to remain in urban areas, and generally speaking, every major city in the country saw a much more rapid drop in its white population. Racist policies again played a role here - for example, the real estate practice of blockbusting, where agents would incite racial paranoia in whites (by hiring black men to get in fistfights on their front lawns, for example), ensure panic sales, and actually sell to black families at a higher price.

By 1980, the damage was largely done, although the crack epidemic certainly turned a lot of the remaining stable black neighborhoods into ghettos. Still, since 1980 it has been relatively easy for blacks to move to the suburbs, and the first cities (like San Francisco) began returning to growth. We've been trying to put the pieces together of our urban structure ever since.
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Old 04-15-2013, 06:10 AM
 
Location: "Daytonnati"
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Very signifigant (if we are talking racial discrimination and its consequences, and the inability of blacks and whites to integrate residentially in any signifigant way).
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Old 04-15-2013, 01:57 PM
 
Location: North by Northwest
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Significant (definitely among the most important factors), but far and away from being the only important factor.
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