Yggdrasil's WN Library


Lesson Seven

Yggdrasil says:

Imagine yourself an impartial visitor from an isolated civilization studying the United States.

The popular press and politicians recite that majority European-Americans exploit and oppress people of color. Yet people of color, by the boatloads and by the hundreds of thousands, are clamoring to get into the U.S. If the word "oppression" has any meaning, you would expect that people of color would be moving in the opposite direction.

The popular press claims that European-Americans exploit and oppress people of color. Yet tax dollars, on balance, flow disproportionately in the other direction - from European-Americans to people of color.

U.S. history texts and Supreme Court opinions state that majorities always oppress and exploit minorities. And yet, if the proverbial visitor from an isolated civilization were to pick a group to exploit based on economic motives, the visitor would choose the group that is the most productive and the most numerous. After all, that is where the money is.

The popular press constantly excoriates rich "WASPs" (or European- American Protestants) as the prime movers in this exploitation of people of color. Yet when you measure actual income and education levels, you find out that Jews are the most prosperous ethnic group, followed by Japanese and Chinese Americans. European-American Protestants rank below European-Americans of Italian, Polish and Irish descent, and are only marginally above African-Americans.

Many civilizations have their myths. Ancient Greeks and Romans were taught, and perhaps believed, that their secular rulers were descended from gods.

But the myths which America recites every day are contrary to easily observable fact. Any myth that is contrary to clearly observable fact must be very important to the elites it serves. For such a myth takes a great deal of energy to sustain, and can serve as grounds for dangerous rebellion when overthrown.

In this lesson we will "deconstruct" the housing industry in the United States. Many readings could support this lesson. But the attached article, "Marquette Park" has such unique power that it deserves to stand alone, with no distractions.

Housing and automobiles, with their ancillary industries such as furniture, appliances, carpets, oil and auto repair, account for about half of our GDP.

Much of that GDP growth following WW-2 has been driven by the creation of suburbs, led by pioneering builders such as Kaufman & Broad.

Initially, this boom in residential construction was fed by demand from returning veterans following the War. Although this boom has continued more or less unabated through the present, its character changed significantly in the early 1960s.

The building industry in California faced boom times not only in the 50's, but continuing on into the 60's and 70's from a wave of migration from other states.

But as the 60's arrived, the building industries in the Midwestern and Eastern cities were faced with a mirror opposite of the California image, - static or very slow growing populations with little real demand for new suburban housing.

Once pent up demand was satisfied in the 1950's, new sources of demand had to be created. Many Americans were perfectly happy living in charming, older ethnic neighborhoods in these Midwestern and Eastern cities. The builders needed a way to make these people unhappy with those neighborhoods.

To generate continued demand for more and more suburban housing developments, the developers needed "white flight".

As if by happy coincidence, the 60's obliged, with race riots and busing. The popular press (the same press who's coffers were filled by revenue from ads for new housing developments) presented European Americans with a new image of the angry and violent African-American. European-Americans fled their old neighborhoods in droves.

The first to move into suburbs did very well. Prices tended to rise in the first 5 years of a development's life. However, those who lacked the means to flee to the suburbs, did very badly, and that is what this week's reading is about.

In the 60's, HUD began its program of "urban renewal". HUD tore down housing in center-city ghettos and replaced that housing with freeways and offices, as well as a few scattered housing projects. The Nobel Prize winning economist, Milton Friedman, referred to the program as "Negro removal".

These displaced African-Americans took the federal money they received for their old homes and went shopping for homes in the surrounding ethnic neighborhoods and older suburbs. Each wave displaced by "urban renewal" prompted a whole new wave of "white flight".

With the welfare system producing increased rates of illegitimacy and escalating crime rates, the stage was set to keep the whites moving and the economy growing for quite some time. Billions were made in profits.

Meanwhile, in California, as real estate prices escalated in the late 70's and the migratory rush from other states slowed down, the housing industry discovered a new and more powerful catalyst for white flight, illegal immigration.

In Southern California, the creation of suburbs reached its logical extreme. Developers created new cities of tract housing and sold it to middle class European-Americans. The developments were so dense that once urban decay gained a toe-hold, the entire city turned very quickly. Within the space of 15 years, new suburban cities in Orange County and the San Fernando Valley have come full circle, with stories of declining schools, crime and gang wars cropping up in their local papers.

White flight has created a lifestyle in which commuters spend three hours per day on the freeways, while every last penny of their income is tied up in mortgage payments for small, flimsy houses that would be a laughing stock in other parts of the country. These suburbanites have no disposable income and no time to read or organize to change the system. They have no time to create or maintain their own culture. The only thing they have is their TV sets, telling them to be happy and keep on spending. They are indeed modern serfs.

Above the vast herds commuting to work on the freeways, one can spot on the bluffs of Beverly Hills and Newport Beach, developers in their Mercedes with their cellular phones putting together the next deal in between month-long vacations. It is the Wild West writ large, but with European American suburbanites as the cattle. The developers build, while the politicians, the press and the illegal immigrants just "keep em movin'."

The profits are personalized, the costs, socialized.

The process drives the better half of our GDP, and produces much of our government's tax revenue. Dependent on permits and zoning variances, the housing industry almost singlehandedly funds the campaigns of local county and city politicians. These local politicos learn early that restrictive general plans, requiring low density development, are for public appearances.

Voters may believe these plans are real. But variances and amendments allowing higher densities are the strokes that keep the mother's milk of campaign contributions flowing, and set the tripwires for rapid neighborhood change. It is a splendid training ground from which to graduate to Congress, where border guards and immigration laws are also for public appearances.

Without drugs, violence, and urban decay, white flight might slow. That would sour the economics of housing construction, and the press, advertising and political industries it supports. Our welfare system subsidizes pathologies which our housing industry needs. Unchecked illegal immigration fuels the fire.

Academics write countless books about the destructiveness of welfare. What they fail to recognize is who wins and who loses. The collateral consequence (white flight) of a senseless policy (aid to dependent children) is much more significant than the direct consequence (urban decay) and is the real reason that the seemingly senseless policy persists. Follow the money flows and you will arrive at the truth!

White flight channels energy and productive effort in directions that it might not otherwise flow. It renders urban mass transit impractical, stimulating vast demand for automobiles and the oil to run them. It stimulates enormous amounts of debt creation, and economic stimulus. It channels virtually all middle class wealth and savings into suburban housing and automobiles. Policies of moderate inflation turn this excessive consumption by the European-American middle class into what feels to them like investment.

This excessive consumption renders the European-American middle class utterly dependent on their jobs for survival, and utterly unwilling to think or speak thoughts that might be unpopular with the boss, or a potential customer.

Small wonder that the social policies driving white flight become moral imperatives.

The article below is about the fate of those European-Americans who are the last to leave their decaying neighborhoods. It is a classic of the journalistic art.

Yggdrasil recommends that you read the following:

Mar. 2, 1977 Wall Street Journal p. 16
Racial Change in Marquette Park


CHICAGO--The Marquette Park neighborhood on this city's southwest side has long been a prototypical white ethnic enclave. Named for the pleasant park in its midst, the neighborhood has been a haven for waves of European immigrants--Germans, Irish, Poles and most recently Lithuanians--each of which has left its stamp on the area's architecture and stores.

It's a place where old world values are unashamedly embraced. Families are close-knit and suspicious of outsiders. Their modest brick bungalows and woodframe houses are painted every two years whether they need it or not. The weekly visit to deposit money at the savings and loan association takes on the trappings of a sacrament.

The future of the community is bleak, however. Chicago's relentlessly expanding black ghetto has engulfed the eastern fringe of the neighborhood. Petty crime and building abandonments are already a problem in the transition zone. Property values are falling. A & P and other major stores there have moved out. Jobs are fleeing to the suburbs.

Here as in many working class white communities in other cities the overriding issue is race. For increasingly in recent years whites are being pushed out of communities where they have long lived because of racial change and the rise in crime and blight which often accompany it. Those whites who can afford to typically flee to the suburbs and the protection that higher property values and restrictive zoning laws afford. Others either grimly hang on, often living under virtual house arrest, or move farther from the ghetto, only, in some cases, to have to move again.

Moreover it's urban whites who often bear the brunt of school desegregation orders, racial hiring quotas, minority housing plans and other melioristic social programs that grew out of the civil rights era. For they often find themselves in the same school systems or competing for the same jobs and housing as blacks and other minorities.

The whites in Marquette Park are particularly embittered over the Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance program which they claim is causing neighborhood deterioration by subsidizing home purchases by blacks too poor to maintain them. Long conservatively run and an engine of the post-World War II suburban housing boom, the FHA program was liberalized shortly after the 1968 urban riots to encourage lower-income black home ownership ("if they own it they won't burn it" was the maxim of the time). Downpayment requirements for FHA mortgages were all but eliminated and lending standards were relaxed.

A Complicated Situation

Many observers are quick to dismiss Marquette Park's whites as bigots and therefore unworthy of concern. In truth, racism runs deeply in the community. Last summer a mob of jeering, rock throwing whites injured several dozen blacks and policemen during a civil rights march in the neighborhood. Black families living in the area periodically have had the windows of their homes shattered. Several black homes have been firebombed.

But the situation is more complicated than that. For every generalization there is a host of exceptions. It's a drama largely without heroes or villains--just people, white and black- urban dynamics. Here are some stories and impressions gleaned from a number of interviews with Marquette Park's residents.

Joann Hanahan says that she was on edge from the moment a year ago that blacks began moving on her block in the eastern section of Marquette Park. "Like a lot of people around there, my husband and I had seen the neighborhood we grew up in wrecked after blacks moved in, so naturally we were worried," recalls the 40 year-old warehouse worker's wife. At first there were no problems, according to Mrs. Hanahan. "Most of the blacks who moved in were nice people like the cement finisher who bought the house directly across the street from us. They were running from the ghetto too," she says.

But things changed last summer. In June, a black youth robbed an acquaintance of Mrs. Hanahan of $100 while she was on her way to the beauty parlor.

A daughter of one of Mrs. Hanahan's neighbors was jostled and robbed of her school lunch money a few weeks later by a gang of black girls. Finally in August, Mrs Hanahan's 13-year-old daughter and a friend had their bicycles stolen by two black teenagers who knocked one of the girls off her bike in the process. The Hanahans put their house on the market three days later.

The sale proved traumatic. A black family bought the home for $14,000, which was about the price the Hanahans had paid for the six-room frame house 11 years before. "We were sick about the price because we'd spent a lot of money siding the garage, panelling bedrooms and putting on a new back porch. Now we have to live in an apartment because we didn't make enough money on the sale to buy a house in a white area," Mrs. Hanahan observes bitterly.

As often as not, whites living in the transition area of Marquette Park can cite few personal difficulties with blacks. But racial change breeds hysteria. Stories of racial incidents become vastly overblown. In such an atmosphere, often all it takes is some trivial incident to trlgger a decision to move. This was the case with Pat Salmon, an officer of a neighborhood savings and loan who moved his family to a white area of Marquette Park several months ago. He says he decided to move one day last fall after noticing that the name of a black youth gang had been spray-painted on the stadium wall of the local Catholic high school.

Says Mr. Salmon: "I know that it is really a small thing but the Graffiti really burned me up. I mean the white people who have lived in the neighborhood for years have more respect for property. I was suddenly struck with the hopelessness of the whole situation and the fact that my wife and I had been talking about nothing else but the blacks for the last six months. Mentally, I just couldn't handle it any longer."

The black families moving into Marquette Park also are beset by various fears. Tommie Johnson, an unemployed mechanic in his late 30s, tells of white neighbors kicking several of his family's wardrobe boxes and muttering about "the niggers moving in" when they moved into their apartment three months ago. Since then, garbage has been dumped in their backyard several times. Says Alfred Williams, a muscular black 25-year-old body and fender repairman, "I really hope that the white families will stay on the block because if it goes all black the neighborhood will go bad. In black areas, there are just too many kids hanging around breaking in houses and messing things up." Mr. Williams purchased a home in the area last November for no money down under a government mortgage program.

It's difficult to determine whether the influx of blacks into the eastern fringe of Marquette Park has resulted in a rise in crime there, as many white residents claim. A watch commander at the local district police station says that comparative crime statistics aren't collected on a block-by-block basis so that he doesn't know. However, a white police sergeant later tells a visitor privately that beat car coverage in the mixed area has been increased because of a rise in the number of calls. "It's mostly small stuff--car thefts, broken windows and other petty vandalism. But if the area follows the pattern of many of the all-black neighborhoods nearby, major index crime will start to rise soon."

A focus of racial tension in Marquette Park has been Gage Park High School, one of two public high schools serving the neighborhood. Rioting there first erupted four years ago when blacks moving into the area bordering Marquette Park began enrolling in the school in large numbers. Before it was over, hundreds of policemen had to be called in to quell the violence and the school closed for several days.

Cultural Life Imperiled

Many of the white residents of Marquette Park fear racial change because they feel that it imperils their community and cultural life. A case in point is the neighborhood's 15,000 residents of Lithuanian descent.

At present, the area boasts its own Lithuanian ballet and opera companies, folk dancing troupes and even a cultural museum. In the summer, Lithuanian soccer leagues abound in the park just like in the old country. And perhaps most impressive in an area where the median family income is less than $13,000 a year, the Lithuanian community has managed to build a major hospital complex and several schools. A large Lithuanian cathedral where masses are still offered in Lithuanian, presides over all.

"Of course we'll lose most of this if the blacks take over because the Lithuanians will scatter to the suburbs and other neighborhoods and lose interest in the community." Dr. Juozas Meskauskas, a 70-year old physician who lives and works in Marquette Park, observes sadly. Many of us who lived through the Russian and Nazi invasions of Lithuania feel we are being invaded again."

To Marquette Park's whites, government is frequently an alien force with its array of social legislation favoring minorities, racial quotas and antidiscrimination policies. The principal target of their ire, the FHA mortgage insurance program, permits persons unable to qualify for conventional financing to purchase homes through mortgages provided by private lenders but insured against default by the federal government.

"All you need to qualify for an FHA mortgage on most of our homes is a down payment of $200 to $300 and marginal income," says James Capraro, executive director of the Greater Southwest Development Corp., a company formed by a group of Marquette Park financial institutions to rehabilitate buildings there. Consequently FHA ends up pumping a lot of blacks into the neighborhood who can't afford to maintain their homes and frequently have to abandon them. It's like somebody owning a used car he doesn't have much money invested in. If something serious happens like a major repair, a job layoff, or a divorce, people are inclined to just walk away from their homes."

And, indeed, there are signs of decay in the racially-changing section of Marquette Park, where more than 80% of the sales in the past year have been financed through government insured mortgages. On almost every block at least one home sits vacant and boarded-up, the telltale sign of an FHA foreclosure. Many of the vacant homes have been vandalized. A heavy blanket of snow only partly hides the litter in the streets of the once carefully-maintained neighborhood.

What does the future hold for Marquette Park? "We hope that the area can survive as a pleasant, middle class community for whites and black alike, but only time will tell," ventures Mr. Capraro. "After all, neighborhoods should be more than disposable products."

Mr. Laing is a member of the Journal's Chicago bureau.

[Because of its antiquity, the article above is not available on Dow Jones News retrieval and has been reproduced in its entirety for your convenience.]


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