Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ethnic cleansing: It can't happen here, right?

In writing about the current the NYT's blasé coverage of Israel's ongoing ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem's Palestinian dwellers, some cat named Jeremy Sapienza states:
I can’t imagine the vitriol that would be packaged as journalism if some southern US state were to, say, subsidize the construction of white neighborhoods and yet refuse permits for private building in overcrowded black neighborhoods. In 2007. It would be the only news for weeks. But it’s Israel, so the New York Times shrugs.
Not so fast cochis! Black Agenda Report's Glen Ford offers a counterpoint that simply cannot be ignored (except, perhaps by the NYT and its ilk):
An urban policy does exist, hatched in corporate boardrooms and proceeding at various stages of implementation in cities across the nation. Urban America is not being "abandoned" - rather, the corporate plan calls for existing populations to be removed and replaced, incrementally, a process that is well underway. And the land is being "reclaimed" - by Big Capital, with the enthusiastic support of urban politicians of all races from coast to coast.

The problem is not the lack of an urban policy, but the failure to formulate progressive Black urban policies and plans. Corporate America and finance capital have both general and detailed visions of what the cities should look like and which populations and enterprises will be nurtured and served by these new and improved municipalities - "renaissance" cities of the (near and, in some places, very near) future.

Corporate planners and developers believed they had been blessed by nature when Katrina drowned New Orleans, washing away in days the problem-people and neighborhoods that would ordinarily require years to remove in order to clear the way for "renaissance." Greed led to unseemly speed, revealing in a flash the outlines of the urban vision that would be imposed on the wreckage of New Orleans. As in a film on fast-forward, the "plot" (in both meanings of the word) unfolded in a rush before our eyes: Once the Black and poor were removed, an urban environment would be created implacably hostile to their return. The public sector - except that which serves business, directly or indirectly - would under no circumstances be resurrected, so as to leave little "space" for the re-implantation of unwanted populations (schools, utility infrastructure, public and affordable private housing, public safety, health care).


Most importantly, the "new" New Orleans would no longer accommodate a Black majority (previously 67 percent), thus ensuring that the "renaissance" could proceed politically unencumbered in what corporate folks call a "stable" and "positive" business environment.


Let there be no doubt, however, that the general "back to the cities" corporate imperative - resulting in gentrification - will soon begin tilting other heavily Black municipalities in the same direction. Newark, New Jersey, once considered among the quintessential "chocolate cities," went from 58.5 percent Black in 1990 to 53.5 percent in 2000. Since then, the center city "renaissance" project has gone into high gear, attracting thousands of prized white professionals. By 2010, Newark is likely to no longer have a Black majority. Atlanta will be significantly less Black.


Others will maintain that the decline in Black proportions in central cities is a sign of progress, because African Americans are rapidly suburbanizing. However, as anyone who knows the environs of Washington, DC, understands, a great chunk of the Black exodus across jurisdictional lines is "push-out" - the direct result of gentrification of the inner city. In many cases, the ghetto has simply moved across the city line. Upscale Blacks - and the term is quite relative, especially when considering wealth, or net worth - are also priced out of the most attractive city neighborhoods, and encamp on the periphery to occupy homes formerly owned by whites who have fled the poorer Blacks who were forced out of the city.

James Howard Cunstler has been writing about the bleak future of suburbia (and other major structural changes) in the eventual post-oil economy. As travel to and from the suburbs and exurbs becomes more impractical, we're going to see these 'burbs become the new ghettos. Think of it this way - poorly constructed housing, lack of an infrastructure for those without access to automobiles, out of the way, the 'burbs are the ideal place to warehouse the next generation of üntermenschen as the predominantly white elites make their way back to the inner cities. And yes, the trend has already started (and of course there's been barely a peep from the mainstream media).

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