Help Me Reach 12 on the Manly Scale of Absolute Gender

If you like the patriotic work we're doing, please consider donating a few dollars. We could use it. (if asked for my email, use "")

Sunday, December 14, 2008

From the White House to a Whites-Only House? George W. Bush Goes Home

From the White House to a Whites-Only House? George W. Bush Goes Home
Image © Austin Cline
Click for full-sized Image
"Festung" is German for Fortress

Everyone should have recognized that George W. Bush's "ranch" in Crawford, Texas, was just a prop — window dressing to make him seem more folksy, down-to-earth, and of course manly. Unfortunately, many took this faux ranch at face value — just as Bush assumed ignorant Republicans would — and assumed that Bush wasn't really the spoiled, privileged rich kid. Now that he's leaving elected office without any hope of ever having power again, he's already leaving the ranch. Didn't take him long, did it? How long will it be before he sells it? He only bought it when he started running for president in 1999, so it's not like there is any reason to waste time abandoning the former pig farm.

The only thing more tragic than his having successfully used that fake ranch to fool so many people is where he's moving to now. It's unlikely that many people have heard of Preston Hollows, an upscale suburb of Dallas, and that's just the way residents want it. They like their privacy. And they like their exclusivity — something that for decades meant restricting the neighborhood to whites only. The original neighborhood association's covenant from 1956 stipulated that "property shall be used and occupied by white persons except those shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of different race or nationality in the employ of a tenant."

This provision wasn't revoked until decades after the era of Civil Rights — it was in full force right up to the year 2000, the year Bush first took office. Do you think he would have moved in even if the original whites-only rules were still in effect? I don't know, but he should feel right at home in Preston Hollows because he used to live in Highland Park, another high-class suburb of Dallas which also used to be whites-only. It was still whites-only when George W. Bush lived there (though not by any formal rules, as far as I know) and the first black family wasn't able to move in until 2003.

Did Bush ever object to the whites-only character of Highland Park while he lived there? Did he object to the history of harassment of black people who were just traveling through the area? Did he do anything to help make Highland Park more racially integrated? Well, I think we just have to look at the color spectrum on display at GOP events like the Republican National Convention to get an idea of the leadership George W. Bush is able to provide on racial issues. Would there ever have even been desegregation had people like Bush been leading the country during the 1950s and 1960s?

To be fair to Bush — and given how bad his situation is, he needs all the help he can get — there are a lot more former "whites only" suburbs around the nation than most people realize. You may even live in one without knowing it. Some were officially whites only, with laws kicking out all non-whites once the sun set (thus the name "sundown towns"), while others simply applied unofficial harassment and inconvenience to keep out "undesirable" elements. These undesirables included non-whites first and foremost, but could also included whites who were too poor to fit in, Jews, potential communists, and anyone else who might disturb the peaceful tranquility of middle-class, white, Protestant life.

The effects of this sort of systematic racism all over the country are difficult to underestimate — and they still influence American society even today. For one thing, it was a good way to ensure that only the "right sort" of people who wanted to flee the cities could actually do so. Blacks, Asians, Jews, and others who may have had the financial means to move to the suburbs were denied the opportunity. Dave Neiwert quotes James Loewen's book Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism:

Once they get into the NIMBY mind-set, they try to keep out any problem or "problem group," pawning off their own social problems of central cities and multiracial, multiclass inner suburbs. Consider those members of society who are dramatically downward mobile — some alcoholics and drug addicts; some Downs syndrome children; many schizophrenics; elderly people whose illness and incapacity have exhausted their resources and their relatives; employees fired when an industry downsizes and no one wants their skills. Every social class — even the most affluent — generates some of these people.

Elite sundown suburbs offer no facilities to house, treat, or comfort such people — no halfway houses for the mentally ill or ex-criminals, no residential drug treatment facilities, no public housing, often not even assisted-living complexes for the elderly or persons with disabilities. This is no accident. Elite white suburbanites don't want such facilities in their neighborhoods and have the prestige, money, and knowledge to make their objections count. "Without such homes, people with mental illnesses often wind up homeless, especially in wealthy areas," according to an AP article telling how an elite white neighborhood in Greenwich, Connecticut, blocked a halfway house for years.

When sundown suburbanites do become homeless, they simply have to leave. Most sundown suburbs do not allow homeless people to spend the night on their streets, and of course they provide no shelters for them. "In suburban jurisdictions," said Nan Roman, of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in 2000, "there is no sense that these are our people." Community leaders worry that if their suburb provides services, that will only bring more homeless people to their town because no other suburb does. The result, nationally, is that cities provide 49% of all homeless assistance programs, suburbs 19%, and rural areas 32%. Yet suburbs have more people than cities and rural areas combined. Less affluent inner suburbs and central cities must cope with the downwardly mobile people that more affluent sundown suburbs produce, as well as with their own. These social problems burden cities twice. ...

[Thomas and Mary Edsall, in Chain Reaction] point out that the principle of self-interest explains what otherwise might seem to be an ideological contradiction: sundown suburbanites usually try to minimize expenditures by the state and federal governments, but locally they favor "increased suburban and county expenditures, guaranteeing the highest possible return to themselves on their tax dollars." The Edsalls cite Gwinnett County, Georgia, as an example. Gwinnett, east of Atlanta, is "one of the fastest growing suburban jurisdictions in the nation, heavily Republican (75.5% for Bush [senior]), affluent, and white (96.6%)." Its residents "have been willing to tax and spend on their own behalf as liberally as any Democrats." Such within-county expenditures increase the inequality between white suburbs and interracial cities. They do nothing to redress or pay for the ways that Gwinnett residents use and rely upon Atlanta and its public services.

This is the world George W. Bush came from. This is the world that made him who he is today. It's the sort of world Bush sought to create for all of America because it was the only world he knew and he thought it was good. It's also the sort of world he is returning to, a favored son who did right by his wealthy white neighbors and who therefore probably expects to be welcomed back into the fortified enclave with open arms. Maybe he will be — and they can keep him as far as I'm concerned. We should just chain the doors after they shut behind him so no more of their "favored sons" are let loose on an ignorant public again.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.