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“You have to get out of that neighborhood if you want decent children”

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I have news for everyone. There are other things happening in the world than the presidential campaign. Perhaps we should pay attention to them. For instance, there is the long-term issue of racism and housing that continues to impoverish African-Americans today. This is an outstanding lengthy discussion of the connections between race, housing, and inequality in Memphis. It explores the growth of the early 20th century black middle class when Memphis was one of the nation’s leading cities and how that was utterly destroyed by the city’s racist political machine when alliances with black politicians were no longer needed. This set off a long history of violence, white flight, and urban blight led by racist politicians and residents that has left Memphis in the dust of other southern cities economically, has created a huge geographical city with a stagnant population, and condemned African-Americans in Memphis today to long-term structural inequality. An excerpt:

White flight intensified the geography of disparity. Beginning in the 1950s, working-class whites moved just beyond the city’s boundaries, first north to Frayser and south to Whitehaven, and then “out East” to Germantown, Collierville, and Cordova, where they built roads, schools, shopping centers, and hospitals — all the features of a city, spread over small rural communities. The completion of the I-240 freeway loop, in 1984, directed commerce away from the urban core of Memphis and toward the suburbs. Today, the highest concentrations of wealth, educational attainment, and jobs are on the eastern edge.

n an ongoing effort to recapture its lost revenue base, Memphis has annexed this ever-expanding crabgrass frontier so that it can collect property taxes from white flighters. Over time, the city has grown to a sprawling 324 square miles, larger than New York City, Atlanta, or St. Louis, without increasing its population of 650,000. Now the city government is responsible for providing services to that vast area, and yet the county roll shows that a third of the land — 95 square miles — is essentially vacant, and much more is sparsely populated. In several cases the city gambled badly, annexing planned developments that never materialized, and now its diminished resources are spread thin across an ever larger territory, much of which generates no revenue.

In modern Memphis there is no figurehead, no Henry Loeb or Boss Crump, to articulate and symbolize the tenets of white supremacy. In fact, one result of white flight and black population growth has been the ascent of African-American political leadership. In 1974, Harold Ford, Sr., won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the state’s first black congressman. In 1991, former school superintendent Dr. Willie Herenton became the city’s first African-American mayor, an office he held for five terms. But the election of black leaders has done nothing to end racial division in Memphis — today, white opposition is expressed in continual growth beyond the city. In suburban malls and parks, you hear the loud echo of those nice white ladies in the mayor’s office in 1953: “You have to get out of that neighborhood if you want decent children.”

The racial prejudice of many suburbanites is revealed by their hostility to integrated public schools. Over the years, proposals to merge the government of surrounding Shelby County with the city government never gained much traction — but when county and city schools were finally merged, in 2011, that sparked a new segregationist revolt. Within two years, six suburban municipalities withdrew from the consolidated system and established their own schools (with a huge assist from the state legislature, which changed a law that had prohibited new school districts), and now those suburban districts no longer need to share their resources with the city. Urban residents nonetheless pay both city and county property taxes, benefiting the communities that have withdrawn their resources from Memphis.

This is well worth your time.

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  • Lee Rudolph

    Whitehaven

    Jesus. Talk about subtext becoming text.

    • njorl

      I suspected that the name might have been created intentionally, but it seems to have come about through the normal processes by which small towns get names.

    • Bas-O-Matic

      The community takes its name from a Colonel Francis White, who was an early settler and major property owner. White was influential in getting a rail line to run through what was first called White’s Station, later Whitehaven. This Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad was chartered in 1853, and the first trains ran in 1856. The first “White Haven” post office was opened in 1871. The roads and train tracks connected the cotton farms of the Mississippi Delta to Memphis markets, establishing strong commercial links.

      The great irony is that it's been 30 or 40 years since white people would actually live in Whitehaven (though it is the part of the city where Graceland is located).

      • One of the more memorable forehead slappers from Sundown Towns was that cities with the word “white” in the name were almost never coincidental. White Falls, Whitesville, Whitestown, you name it, they were almost always 100% white or close to it. As I recall, it wasn’t so much about how the town got named as what it became as black people moved north after the Civil War. Calling a city “Whitehaven” in 1871 is going to attract just the right sort of white folks.

    • Steve in the ATL

      Fun bit of trivia for photography fans: Whitehaven is where William Eggleston took his iconic photo of the tricycle

    • Jhoosier

      Down the road from the all-white suburb I grew up in was a tiny town called Whitestown. Weird place. Our town has expanded, it’s all strip mall shopping out there.

  • My job takes me to Memphis frequently.

    So many of our pilots live in Collierville that we refer to it as “base housing”.

    • Halloween Jack

      I think that one of the reasons why Fred Smith located FedEx there is that there’s plenty of flat ground to put what basically amounts to a major airport (in addition to the Memphis airport) there, as well as lots of cheap, unskilled labor.

      • cpinva

        that’s my understanding. that, and Memphis is almost geographically the center of the country.

        the one and only time I visited Memphis was in 1994, I’m sure it’s changed somewhat since then. a couple of things struck me about it:

        1. the almost complete nothingness along I-40, coming in from Nashville to the east. miles and miles of nothingness, then a city.

        2. there were boarded up shops/homes, still bearing the burn marks from the riots that occurred after Dr. King’s assassination. that was nearly 30 years before!

        3. businesses in downtown Memphis uniformly had high, chain-link fences, topped with concertina wire, around all parking lots. the huge shopping mall was also surrounded by this same kind of fence. it reminded me of Atlanta.

        the sad part is that, with some imaginative city leaders, the city could, once again, be a place to live/work/visit.

        • Bas-O-Matic

          1. The drive between Jackson and Memphis along I40 is the absolute worst.

          2. I’m sure you saw plenty of boarded up shops and homes (we have lots of them!) The “burn marks from the MLK riots” sounds like local folklore. Not saying it’s not true.

          3. 1985ish is about when they started to renovate Beale Street which kicked off downtown gentrification in Memphis. So that’s when it’s downtown was probably at its absolute Nadir. You weren’t there that long afterwards. If you’ve ever seen Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train (great film!) you were there about 6 years after that was shot. A lot of the locations in that movie have been torn down to build condos.

      • Bas-O-Matic

        He grew up in Memphis. He attended MUS which I mentioned elsewhere. The Hub operations have always been part of Memphis International which expanded to its current size in the 70s when FedEx had like 14 leer jets.

  • LifeOntheFallLine

    Come on now, Erik…the good people who used to live in Memphis or who move to the metro area only want what’s best for their children. Why they should be expected to send their children to dangerous schools so that others may benefit? And why should they risk exposing their children to a dangerous element? And besides, if they move back into the city proper then what about gentrification???

    Certainly many of the people who comment on this blog are proponents or sympathetic to those arguments and should extend the benefit of the doubt to Memphis suburbanites. There is literally no sunlight between the assertion “You have to get out of the neighborhood if you want decent children” and “How do you expect parents to chose to send their children to dangerous schools?”

    • Nobdy

      Dangerous schools are not naturally occurring phenomena.

      Dangerous schools are made through political decisions that impoverish neighborhoods and starve institutions of resources.

      It’s fine to move out of a dangerous school district to protect your children IF you also spend resources trying to improve that school district for those left behind, and are willing to move back once it is less dangerous.

      Most people just say “See ya, suckas!” and move away, then vote to defund the institutions they left.

      That is described above (resources being diverted disproportionately to sparsely populated areas) and is reprehensible.

      “I got mine, let me help you get yours too” is okay.

      IGMFY is not.

      • DrDick

        Spot on.

      • cpinva

        ok, I have to interject here. you make it sound as though the act of moving is simply one of packing up a few things, stuffing them in the trunk of the car, and driving down the road to the new place. it isn’t. it’s a major league pain in the ass. I know this personally, because I’m doing it as we speak. granted, we’re moving/sorting/storing/trashing 30 year’s worth of collected stuff (plus stuff from my Mom’s house and my wife’s Mom’s house), it is no easy or simple task. so, to seriously suggest people should just willy nilly move about, when the coast is clear, is an idiotic suggestion, at best.

    • Murc

      There is literally no sunlight between the assertion “You have to get out of the neighborhood if you want decent children” and “How do you expect parents to chose to send their children to dangerous schools?

      Only if the former statement is actually accurate. There are, in fact, neighborhoods where raising a child properly is extraordinarily difficult.

      There are also people who believe a neighborhood filled with black people are de facto unfit places to raise kids. Those people are, of course, to be ignored or defeated.

      • Nobdy

        But Murc, what if the child is exposed to saggy pants and the hip hop music.

        Surely you would not suggest that it is possible to raise a well-adjusted child in a neighborhood where there is no respect for belts or suspenders and people are listening to something other than Pat Boone, Bing Crosby, and the Andrews Sisters!

        Maybe the adults can quietly enjoy some Kenny Loggins when the children are asleep and not at risk of being overly stimulated.

        • Anna in PDX

          You guys are seriously misreading the quote. It was made by a white person who was moving out of a white neighborhood because her fellow white people had turned into a violent mob and she wanted her kid to not be racist.

          The article’s really long and really good, it delves into a lot of issues surrounding local development and urban renewal and how it hurts poor people even when it is funded by HUD and supposed to benefit poor people.

          • Nobdy

            I had not read the article, but here is the quote in context:

            Two months after the bombing, a group of white Olive Avenue residents called on the mayor. They planned to sell their houses, and they wanted the city’s protection from the mob. “Mr. Mayor, these Negroes who have moved in there seem to be a fine class of Negroes,” remarked one. “They keep up their homes and they look better than when the white people owned them.” The group assured the mayor that they didn’t object to the presence of blacks: “We object to the whites.” But in any case, they were getting out. One owner reported, “My husband says he’ll move and let that house sit there empty before he’ll stay there. We do not want our children in that situation.” Another neatly summarized the theme of the next five decades of Memphis history, telling the mayor, “You have to get out of that neighborhood if you want decent children.”

            It is true that the people making the statement say they are not talking about black people, but they are choosing to leave their black neighbors to the tender mercy of the mob because they can escape the difficult situation.

            It’s maybe not an openly racist statement but at the very least it shows indifference of even the ‘good’ whites to racism. Rather than fight the injustice they use white privilege to move where they don’t have to see it, and thus clearly enable it.

            It’s also not at all clear to me from context that the speaker is concerned about their child turning out to be racist.

            • Anna in PDX

              Regarding your last para, I just interpret it differently. I thought that it was clear from the word “decent” that they were worried about their kids being racist, as they were so clearly concerned with the lack of “decency” of their white neighbors and specifically said they had no problem with their black neighbors. I agree with you on everything else you said though – white flight is white flight and it is also definitely a privilege.

              • Anna in PDX

                Aaaand rereading that section one more time, I finally notice it was a different white person who said that “decent” comment from the one who was criticizing white behavior. Boy, I should never comment unless I have had at least three cups of coffee. I do think you could charitably interpret it the way I have – but I don’t know why I try so hard to be charitable to these guys.

        • DrDick

          what if the child is exposed to saggy pants and the hip hop music.

          Hell, they are exposed to that right here in my overwhelmingly lily white Montana city. Much less of the baggy pants now, as they have been replaced by skinny jeans, but I still have white Montana farm boys rattle my car windows with hip hop turned up to blastforce 20.

      • DrDick

        It is also the case that even those “dangerous” neighborhoods are largely created by public policies which starve poor neighborhoods of necessary resources.

    • DrDick

      You can dress that pig in a frilly gown, adorn it with pearls and gems, and paint it with dazzling colors, but it is still flat out racist.

    • Origami Isopod

      And why should they risk exposing their children to a dangerous element?

      Nope, no dogwhistle there at all.

      • So, both of you read that paragraph as completely straight without a hint of irony.

        Even after reading the second paragraph.

        Amazing.

  • LeeEsq

    This is one of those very complicated problems with no easy political solution. You really can’t stop people from moving if they want to. Any solution is going to have to get past a vote by elected politicians or the citizens themselves one way or another. Even if the solution originates in a Court, it has to get carried out by elected politicians.

    The annexation of suburbs by forming consolidated city-county governments was supposed to be one solution but it still has the fatal issue that people can always move. I actually think that consolidated city-county governments are generally a good idea from an administrative standpoint. The fewer units of government, the better. Federal-state-one tier bellow is enough but it doesn’t solve the above issues.

    • Bas-O-Matic

      You really can’t stop people from moving if they want to.

      You can stop subsidizing it.

      • LeeEsq

        That’s going to have to get past a vote to.

  • PohranicniStraze

    “Urban residents nonetheless pay both city and county property taxes”

    Ugh, I remember that. I lived for 8 years in the Midtown area of Memphis, and I resented every dime of county taxes I paid. The city taxes I was ok with, but it bothered me to pay to support an essentially redundant layer of government. A consolidated city-county government would have been superior.

    I’m not sure what it would take to fix Memphis. My family ultimately moved because of crime and schools. We loved our old turn-of-the-century foursquare house in the entertainment district, we loved being able to walk to a dozen good restaurants or to visit the cats at the House of Mews, we got along well with all but one of the neighbors. But the petty crime – things stolen from the front porch – elevating over time to more serious crime – multiple home break-ins on the street, the neighbor’s car stolen from in front of his home, a rash of drive-by gunpoint robberies – was not something I was willing to live with. And the neighborhood schools were so bad (both academically and in terms of physical safety) that we would have had to either move out of the county or go to private schools when my children hit school age.

    • Anna in PDX

      That is terrible, one of the few points where I stopped reading and felt shocked. I remember reading something similar about a town in Missouri in the book Warmth of Other Suns, and being similarly shocked. I wonder why I still get shocked by this stuff. Poor people subsidizing rich people and rich people not having to subsidize poor people at all.

    • Bas-O-Matic

      Funny. I moved from Cooper-Young to East Memphis proper (around White Station high school) 6 years ago essentially because we couldn’t afford to live in midtown in a space big enough we’d be comfortable having a child without taking on what would be a massive rehab job that between a kid and jobs we’d just never be able to do. And I pine everyday to move back. I wish we’d toughed it out in the old house and used a home equity loan to expand it.

      The petty crime in midtown is just part of having that relative wealth disparity in close proximity, and Cooper-Young is right on the edge of that. And it does seem like there was a rough period a few years back with muggings around the restaurants and bars. That said, I’ve never had my home broken into until I moved to East Memphis. And I’ve never heard about so many people getting stuff taken from their garages and carports. The worst I ever had in Midtown was my change being taken from my car when I left it unlocked parked on the street.

      At any rate although Cooper Young isn’t in its district, Idlewild in midtown is considered to be one of the better elementary schools in the city. I’ve got friends who send their kid there and they love it. Peabody’s test scores are bad, but that’s because a) they take so many of their students from the poorer areas just to the south of Young and the West side of McLean b)and the younger adults that buy the cottages in the neighborhood as their first home tend to move when they have kids/their kids get school aged.

      And that’s just in midtown. There are plenty of good schools inside the city limits, in the type of neighborhoods you would be able to afford if you lived in Cooper-Young. Much less in the whole county.

      • PohranicniStraze

        I lived in Cooper-Young on Blythe Street, right across from the big church. We loved the C-Y Festival, even though it meant we couldn’t drive anywhere that weekend. I actually heard good things about Peabody, but the middle school nearby was rough. The best friend of one of my neighbor’s kids turned down an invitation to join one of the middle school gangs, and was almost murdered for it – he was being dragged down the street with a chain around his neck choking him before an older gentleman ran off his attackers.

        I think that we moved during the really rough patch that you mention. My wife worked at the Thai restaurant nearby, and I didn’t even feel safe with her walking home after work by herself.

        One vivid memory I have comes from after we moved. My wife was watching one of the crime shows, they were investigating a murder and walking the area where the crime had occurred. I walked past, and thought, that spot looks really familiar. As it turns out, the crime scene was near the McDonald’s on Parkway that I sometimes walked to for breakfast.

        • Bas-O-Matic

          Yeah I lived at New York and Young for a few years and then on S Cox around the corner from where you lived for about a decade after that.

          This happened across the street from MUS, the most expensive private school in the city (also the McDonalds I’d go to after school when I was a hungry teenager in the late 80s). I don’t feel any less safe going to the Five Guys over there when I’ve got the urge for it.

      • Halloween Jack

        Another data point: I lived in Midtown (very near where the main library used to be, at Peabody and McLean) from the mid-nineties to the early aughts, and had my car broken into twice–“broken into” as in a window broken, once for a gym bag whose contents were worth far less than the cost of replacing the window, and once for apparently nothing–and once either I forgot to lock it or they used a slim jim to open it, again taking either nothing or loose change. We never had our house broken into, possibly because of bars on the windows and front door and a prominent alarm sign, but we had friends who were mugged on their front porch. There was a home invasion and rape a couple blocks east. And that’s just off the top of my head.

  • Crusty

    “I have news for everyone. There are other things happening in the world than the presidential campaign. Perhaps we should pay attention to them.”

    Erik, we’d be lost without you.

  • Nobdy

    There are other things happening in the world than the presidential campaign.

    This is true, though what you describe is actually tightly tied to the presidential campaign.

    Federal housing policy and, especially, civil rights protections are part of what’s at stake (especially considering the supreme court) and this blog has discussed many times how redlining and the like have caused the kinds of problems we see in Memphis (though many of Memphis’ specific issues seem to relate to local policies as well.)

    The states, and especially localities, aren’t going to fix these problems. We need federal intervention and federal funding to address them. This kind of inequality is core to Bernie Sanders’ message, and even a Clinton presidency would certainly inflict much less suffering in communities like this than a Drumpf or Cruz presidency.

    We need more civil rights legislation as part of any reasonable push to ameliorate inequality, and we certainly can’t have more destruction of the little we have like in the reprehensible Shelby County decision if we want to make progress.

    Does anybody believe that the racist whites of the Memphis area won’t take full advantage of the voter suppression opportunities Shelby County presents?

    • Yeah, that’s all true, but we really should try to limit how much we focus on the horse race and instead talk about broader issues. The vagaries of the Rubio or Cruz campaigns don’t really matter much when they are both going to be horrible in power.

    • This kind of inequality is core to Bernie Sanders’ message, and even a Clinton presidency would certainly inflict much less suffering in communities like this than a Drumpf or Cruz presidency.

      If a Hillary Clinton presidency is anything like her husband’s, she’d do quite a bit better than merely “inflicting less suffering” on poor urban neighborhoods through federal housing and community development policy. That was one of the very brightest spots of the Clinton presidency.

      The dig at HOPE VI (It doesn’t cure poverty) in the article is pretty unfair. No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t fill potholes or fix up schools, either. That’s because it’s a housing program, which takes anti-human urban renewal hellscapes and replaces them with human-scale places that don’t, by their mere presence and design, ruin the lives of residents and the economic and social well-being of their surrounding neighborhoods. They don’t cure poverty, but they make it possible for some other effort to address poverty in the area to not be stillborn.

  • I think it’s important to point out that things haven’t always been the worst possible, but that certain things were once better and are now worse because of people’s choices, like the abandonment of local black leaders–it’s too easy to think that black people and the poor, etc., need to be raised up in some paternalistic way, without confronting the active efforts to keep them down. The converse of that, as anyone who’s lived in an actually pleasant neighborhood in an urban area knows, is that “your kids won’t be decent” might have more frequently meant something worse, in that it had no real basis except racism, then as opposed to now.

    I do think the narrative that suburbanization and the search for better schools is at the heart of structural racism can be used in a simplistic way. If you go back fifty or sixty years, liberals raised then who “stayed in the city” actually attended schools that were in fact mostly segregated, but which could be seen as meritocratic or even as equal. I often suspect this is what they have in mind when they recommend “staying in the city.” At the same time, minority parents often see the schools as bad, too, and send them to religious or otherwise conservative schools that aren’t an option for many liberals and non-Christians. I don’t know what the solution is.

    • I see Anna’s correction above, and it makes sense. People tended, I’d guess, to move to the suburbs, at the time, when they began to feel that culturally the place where they’d grown up was a bad fit for who they now were. If they felt it wasn’t, they might stay. So you might have college professors sending their kids to public schools because they were committed to the idea of public education, and feeling the city should provide an education equal to an exclusive private school, and justifying it from the left as making opportunities available to minorities and the poor, when in fact they tend to monopolize those positions. I’m thinking, frankly, of Chomsky, who “attended public school,” but a public school that was then compared in all seriousness “to a prep school.”

      In England, say, I think the idea that an upper middle class family would expect the state to pay for their kids’ schooling would be considered absurd.

      • JL

        In England, say, I think the idea that an upper middle class family would expect the state to pay for their kids’ schooling would be considered absurd.

        If that’s true, then perhaps the US has the right idea on this one and England has the wrong one (much as the expectation in England that the state will pay for an upper-middle-class person’s healthcare is, IMO, the right idea, and the US’ approach is the wrong one). I don’t see why education shouldn’t be free to all children, or why publicly funded schools ought to be lesser (either in perception or reality) than others. Of course that means the schools need to be funded properly.

        • I don’t know. The whole idea seems to me to be based on a kind of liberalism (and Jeffersonian ideals) that appeal to me, but aren’t working out at the moment, and really do seem essentially compromised. If the well-off, the movers and shakers, all sent their kids to private schools, there would be more places for scholarship kids. If the medium well-off tended to send their kids to private schools, we might have more schools like the local Friends’ schools you find around Philadelphia, nonsectarian and not overly elite (and smaller sectarian schools like the Reform-tending, disability-friendly Jewish day school that some parents near here opened several years ago). If the well-off could choose between “I want my kid to go to D.C. cocktail parties” and “I want my kid to be ambassador to the Vatican,” say, instead of all having to go to the same “Establishment” schools, we might all be better off. I don’t see how schools that are struggling with kids who are poor, with severe disabilities and special needs, that are as focused on equality as our schools tend to be, can be expected to put energy toward college preparation for everybody. I feel right now like either you have to accept that the public schools can’t produce kids who can cope with what we now consider a college education, or you have to demand that the public schools do produce kids who can compete with private school kids. And to get that, as things are now, parents have to insist on that, which means taking resources from the other kids in the school, if there are other such kids–or else moving to where there are fewer–or else the kind of exam school that’s also becoming less available to the same kids whose parents couldn’t afford to move out of the city. Outside enrichment at parents’ expense isn’t a great option, either, because it brings the schools’ scores up without helping anybody else.

          The best argument in favor of it is that bringing different kinds of kids up in a community will help the least advantaged by osmosis or mimesis while integrating the most advantaged, emotionally and socially, into the whole. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be able to work that way. In most cases it’s actually reinforcing inequality both within and between schools, and creating schools where no one will be able to go to college as my grandparents’ public-school attending generation understood it.

      • In England, say, I think the idea that an upper middle class family would expect the state to pay for their kids’ schooling would be considered absurd.

        As I don’t have children, I’m not always clear on how the pre-univeristy system works in the UK (in spite of living there — my friends explain it over and over), but I don’t *think* that’s true. University used to be free for everyone.

        Let’s see:

        State-funded schools in England are schools in England which provide education to pupils between the ages of 3 and 18 without charge. Approximately 93% of English schoolchildren attend such schools.[1]

        Are we defining upper middle class as the within the top 7%? I would have thought that upper middle class people would be happy to have their children attend competitive grammar schools.

        In 2012, 88% of US schoolchildren were in public school (if I read the table and did calculations right).

        All this is compatible with you being correct about English attitudes, but it is suggestive otherwise. Could you explain a bit more?

        • I’m sure you know more about the schools in England than I do, so feel free to correct me.

          Those schools are not primarily state-run, though, isn’t that correct? If a parent wants to send a child to a school run by a particular church, and the school meets certain criteria, the state pays for it?

          But if a parent wants to be sure a child can get into Oxbridge or LSE, they don’t expect the state to provide a free school that can coach them for this?

          Part of the issue in the US seems to me to be that a certain generation got to quite good schools from attending public schools that could not produce the same results in later generations, and that this fact isn’t fully accepted yet.

          This affects poor and working-class kids, too, because they’re told to expect that they can attend any university through their own efforts, by working hard enough, and that of course the city has provided resources to let them do that.

          ETA: And at the other end, is something like Beverly Hills High School conceivable in the UK?

          • I’m sure you know more about the schools in England than I do, so feel free to correct me.

            It’s so confusing, I have to look it up every freaking time.

            Those schools are not primarily state-run, though, isn’t that correct?

            There are maybe…10?…kinds of school. And the private ones are called public schools. Because…English people!

            There are charter like schools and state run schools. I *think* most state funded grammar schools are also state run.

            Grammar school are criticised because better off families can tutor up their children to get in, essentially closing them off to poorer students. (See this BBC page.)

            But if a parent wants to be sure a child can get into Oxbridge or LSE, they don’t expect the state to provide a free school that can coach them for this?

            I think the grammar schools could do that fine. Maybe some others. Those would be free. But they have to tutor up their kids to get into them. Hence the rise of the “Academies” which target poorer areas.

            So, I *think* (because it’s freaking confusing) that middle class parents can still hope that some free (except for tutoring to get in) schools will enable their child to go to Oxbridge.

            Of course, if you have the dosh, Eaton will get you into Oxford.

            • sibusisodan

              There are maybe…10?…kinds of school. And the private ones are called public schools. Because…English people!

              It’s all perfectly reasonable: anybody with sense educates their children at home by hiring a tutor.

              Lower class people who can’t afford it* have to arrange for the education of their children at a school to which other members of the public could also attend.**

              Hence, public schools. Fast forward three hundred years and we now have this crazy idea that the state should provide education for everyone!

              *please excuse the tautology.

              **if they were wealthy enough, but that goes without saying. Although some of them may have been in…[shudder]…trade.

            • sibusisodan

              On the issue of

              But if a parent wants to be sure a child can get into Oxbridge or LSE, they don’t expect the state to provide a free school that can coach them for this?

              it depends on the parent and the quality of the local school.

              Pre-18 state-run education is free for everyone. The quality of that education…varies. State schools in richer areas give a better quality of education. Some local areas still run schools which have an academic focus, which of course is good prep for a top university.

              So parents who want their child to attend a top university don’t have to pay anything extra for education. But most do/will, since it will increase their chances: private tuition, moving to a richer area, paying for non-state education.

              I went to a comprehensive (state, non-academically focussed) school, and got into Cambridge. If we were lucky, my school got one person a year into Oxbridge. I was that horrendously fortunate person.

              The stats for Cambridge when I was there for undergrad was that ~50% of undergrads were state educated (which in practice meant mostly from the academically focussed state grammar schools). Compare to the % of children state educated in general…

    • Anna in PDX

      If you go back fifty or sixty years, liberals raised then who “stayed in the city” actually attended schools that were in fact mostly segregated, but which could be seen as meritocratic or even as equal. I often suspect this is what they have in mind when they recommend “staying in the city.”

      This is definitely a key point when we discuss class behavior of liberal whites. It’s interesting how much work a white liberal family will do here in Portland to make sure their kid goes to some magnet school or far away public school rather than a neighborhood school that’s majority African American. They have a million justifications for this and it never has anything to do with race, oh no.

      • I think many of them sincerely believe that it’s possible for poor kids and minority kids to work hard and compete for the same magnet schools. It never occurs to them that their kids got into the magnet school because they were raised by people with more education and higher incomes than the other people in the district. And when they hear “the problem is poverty,” they expect a five-year program to make it possible for more poor and minority kids to get into that magnet school.

        But if they stayed in the local school, because they don’t want to be racist, the one AP course the school can afford to have will still be filled with their kids. And if the school is considered bad, middle class minority parents will send their kids to parochial school.

        • Anna in PDX

          You’re so right about the one AP course point. I don’t know how to keep schools from tracking students in a way that reinforces social class and the racial divides that are connected to class. And it is hard to see how one family could change the paradigm, it’s really structural at this point. (I went to a neighborhood school that was about 40% black. I’m white. I was put in the “honors” courses, and I think I was only in one or two classes where there were any students of color in the room with me – My family made no conscious choices at all about this tracking mechanism and as far as I can remember was not involved in my schooling much at all – I was just tracked by the school, based on test scores and grades.)

      • njorl

        That’s odd. When I was a kid growing up in Philadelphia, the magnet schools were the most integrated. The neighborhood schools were mostly segregated because the neighborhoods were segregated. There was some busing, but it produced much less integration than the magnet schools did.

        • Anna in PDX

          Actually some of our magnet schools are pretty integrated, and some of them really aren’t. Portland is weird.

          Also the situation is even more complicated in that I think they’ve turned at least one majority-minority public school INTO a “magnet school” to try to fix its reputation and some of its ongoing issues. I do not know how that has worked, because I only hear anecdotal things. I do have a friend who is very informed on these issues who works in the PPS system, and will discuss this with him because I would like to know more about this issue.

        • Magnet schools were just becoming a thing when I was in high school there, and most of them were still small programs hanging off the end of other schools (usually those that were otherwise poorly integrated), but yeah, they were integrated by policy, 50-50, IIRC, not according to representation in the population (which was more like 80-20).

          I don’t know Portland, but In a smaller district, the demographics and reputation of a middle school might be different from its feeder schools, I guess. We have a newer charter middle school that serves probably a similar purpose to those magnets. (Probably fwiw 10% black, AA or mixed race, 20-30% Hispanic, <10% Asian, townwide.)

      • It’s interesting how much work a white liberal family will do here in Portland to make sure their kid goes to some magnet school or far away public school rather than a neighborhood school that’s majority African American. They have a million justifications for this and it never has anything to do with race, oh no.

        Do African-American families not do this when they can, too? That would make Portland pretty unique if so.

  • Rob in CT

    Memphis has annexed this ever-expanding crabgrass frontier so that it can collect property taxes from white flighters.

    And this… didn’t work out very well? That’s kinda depressing. What’s a city to do?

    • Bas-O-Matic

      I don’t think a city on its own can do a whole lot. It would take, at the very least, coordinated policy between the state of Tennessee and city to quit subsidizing the seemingly endless cycle of county development, annexation, white flight to the latest county development, with property values/tax revenues around the former development plummeting. The people that moved to Fraser and Whitehaven in the 50’s and 60’s moved moved to Raleigh and Hickory Hill (now Hickory Hood in local argot) in the 70’s and 80’s, and moved to Cordova and the unincorporated areas around Collierville in the 90’s and 00’s.

      Part of the problem there is that Memphis is a very black and Democratic city and the state as a whole is very white and Republican. Memphis is not looked at very fondly by the rest of the state. There’s an attitude of “see what happens when those people run things” about the whole situation. And mostly state policy tends to be to continue to facilitate white-flight. Because who in their right mind would want to live in a shithole like “Memfrica.”

      • Halloween Jack

        Wow–this guy sounds like a real piece of work.

        • Bas-O-Matic

          The Memphis is a shithole people are my least favorite part of living here.

    • sparks

      Metastazise

    • pseudonymous in nc

      One aspect relevant to Memphis and a lot of American cities is that it’s right up against a state line, so white flight can be to a completely different jurisdiction for tax and spending. (Compare Louisville KY / Clark County IN, or Augusta GA / North Augusta SC, etc.)

      Cities get built on rivers; rivers are also good boundaries. Where there aren’t natural boundaries, you have white commuter burbs that rush to incorporate, and legislatures that pass anti-annexation statutes to satisfy the unincorporated county-dwellers who want to pay lower property taxes.

      • Halloween Jack

        Yep. Tennessee had a pretty regressive sales tax (to make up for no income tax) the last time I checked, and folks would just skip over the Mississippi to Arkansas or the state line to Mississippi the state to shop–IIRC, the Whitehaven Wal-Mart is or was one of the busiest Wal-Marts in the country.

  • Ronan

    Genuine non troll question, connecting this to the voting thread. What are the ethical responsibilities here, to stay in poorer neighbourhoods you could move from? Or to send your kids to local public schools rather than private/better public schools?
    Does the ethical weighting change because you have other responsibilities (ie your family/kids)? whereas with voting there are no real costs to voting?

    • DrDick

      The primary ethical responsibility is to insure that all neighborhoods have the necessary resources to survive and thrive. Being poor does not automatically doom people to being violent criminals. Being poor and systematically deprived of quality education, decent housing, adequate food and medical treatment, public services, and access to jobs and stores does make it more likely.

      • Ronan

        That’s not the question I’m asking though. I’m wondering what’s your ethical obligation to do something that while not harmful individually , is so in the aggregate

  • Halloween Jack

    Moved away over thirteen years ago; it seems like nothing (at least nothing important) has changed. A prominent public official is being investigated for various abuses and corruption, including sexual assault? Oh the heck you say.

  • “The scale of the problems here is enormous,” he said, “but if you’re trying to make a big difference, you have to link things up in a way that builds momentum. I don’t see the civic leaders connecting the dots.” Connecting the dots, he said, means linking housing developments to centers of job growth. It means avoiding public-private projects that lack a direct connection to neighborhood concerns.

    This is exactly right. CDBG projects and housing projects need to accomplish more than the projects themselves. They need to be about the significance of the project site and what goes on there to the surrounding neighborhood and city. Same with the economic development resources put into projects like the Pyramids.

  • I love me some Franklin Roosevelt. He is among the very greatest leaders this country has ever had.

    But he was viciously anti-urban, and set in motion some of the most terrible things we did to our cities in the mid-20th century.

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