Monday, June 09, 2008

The Lash

The violent, hostile, reaction of Whites to the Civil Rights is often referred to as a "backlash." I'm dropping the "back", because that implies that Whites were rather passive and quiescent until Negro rabble-rousers arrived and started making trouble, and that's just not what happened.

Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland, has a great post up detailing some of the letters received by Illinois Senator Paul Douglas (D), a great liberal champion and supporter of federal legislation to end housing discrimination. They are, to say the least, revealing -- both in how rawly they demonstrate the White hatred that flowed through Chicago at that time, and how the arguments his constituents made echo eerily of those put forward today.

It also helps expand my previous post's notation of Black mistrust of Whites -- how being too trusting could be lethal of you were Black. I used the classic archetype of the racist southern father, organizing a lynch mob against the Black man with the temerity to want to marry his daughter. But this example from Perlstein works just as well: "a teenager answering a job ad walked over the border from Chicago into the all-white city of Cicero, and for that sin and no other was beaten to death."

He trusted. And he died for that trust.


Mark said...

You realize your Cicero/trust thing works both ways. The naive white undergraduates at U of Chicago who (ignore the warnings) wander to far off-campus and are raped, mugged, or even killed are also too trusting ... and suffer (or die) for that trust.

It's not about race, it's about fear of the "Other".

David Schraub said...

I'm about to move to UC -- about a block from Woodlawn (where students are warned not to go). I don't plan on venturing there, but if I do, it won't be because of any change in my relative trust of Black people. If anything, it'd be "trust" that the neighborhood is turning around.

The mistrust we're talking about in this post, by contrast and to stress for the 90th billionth time, is different because it is racialized. It's not scary-looking Whites that oppressed Blacks, or poor Whites, or particular "bad neighborhoods" of Whites. It was Whites qua Whites that did it and do it. Race is what creates this specific risk. It does not create that risk in Woodlawn.

Mark said...

I lived in Hyde Park for a decade (thougout the 80s). Woodlawn is in the center of the "safe" zone not on the edge by any means. Typically "safe" was regarded as between 47th and 61st and between Cottage Grove and the Lake.

Cicero is regarded as heavily mob influenced/controlled and not a particularly "good" white neighbourhood. Your claim that particular incident is Whites qua whites "doing it" doesn't hold water given Chicago demographics.

And if you think there is no differential racial risk in the "bad" areas ... you're completely out of touch with reality. That isn't to say in bad areas there is no risk for Blacks, just that the risk is far greater for Whites.

David Schraub said...

The border of Woodlawn is 62nd street going south. The law school is on 61st street, as are the law school dorms, so if "safe" is 47th-61st, I am indeed on the border.

PG said...

I tend to consider areas that you have to leave to find a cab to be the not-so-safe ones. When I interviewed at the law school, I had to walk several blocks before I saw any cabs on the street. This was not a problem when I interviewed at Northwestern. If UChicago Law actually is in a safe area, someone ought to notify the cabbies.

Mark said...

Oh, Yes the law school is close to the border, I'm not sure exactly where it gets "bad" on the south side, as the schools on the South of the Midway are Law and Business and I had no dealings with that. I'm pretty sure 63rd street used to have the "bombed out" look, but I have had little time spent over there.

When you said, "move to" I thought you meant where you, i.e., where you got lodging not your classes. Campus security is very diligent and numerous, so you will likely have no problems on campus grounds ... therefore the "border" aspect to the Law school itself should not be any issue.

The reason I noted your Woodlawn/one-block remark is that I lived for some years, for example, off Kimbark which is the block east (further from campus), but on 53rd, which was safe.

The reason you might not have been able to pick up a cab probably had more to do with traffic patterns and probabilities (for the cabbie) of getting a fare than dangers inherent in the neighbourhood right outside the Law building. For the cabbie trolling for fares, the hospital campus is a more likely spot find a fare, which is I'm guessing where you walked (Ellis and 58-59th for example?).