Opinion: ‘Change the People, Change the Place’ – American Renaissance

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This is part of [American Renaissance’s] our continuing series of accounts by readers of how they shed the illusions of liberalism and became race realists.

I grew up in a small farming town which had the good fortune of being the world headquarters of a multinational company. Although I didn’t know it at the time, our town had better schools (with more sports, more arts, and better facilities), better parks, better stores, nicer restaurants and, yes, better people than neighboring towns. All those white-collar jobs made a huge difference — people had money to donate and spend, schools and civic organizations had talented people to volunteer, my classmates were smart and ambitious, and our town’s norms were better: no crime, and everyone frowned upon things such as hard drinking, drug use, and unemployment. In my summer jobs I worked for thriving farmers and later, men with Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from prestigious universities.

Eventually, a larger conglomerate bought our hometown company. Those jobs gradually moved away, schools declined, businesses closed, population stagnated, and downscale businesses moved in. Although quantitatively the population stayed the same, in quality the population declined, as white-collar whites moved away and immigrants moved in to take the low-skill jobs that were left. Visiting now, it is a sad and undistinguished shell of its former self — by every measure poorer today, even with a slightly larger population. This brought home to me the clear lesson: People make a place. Change the people, change the place.

In high school, I played basketball. I played against precisely one black player — a 6’4” forward with tremendous leaping ability, far beyond anything ever seen amongst our small towns. Adopted by a loving white family, he would swat shots routinely and was built like Apollo Creed, while many of us white players were still growing out of adolescence. I’m told he was a nice guy and he played fairly, but even though I was a fairly mediocre player, I always had my best games against him. I would fake, fake, and then fake again until he finally took the bait and leaped.

After college and graduate school, I went to work in real estate development, where we make our money by calculating which places are on the way up and which places are on the way down, and determining the real value of a piece of land. I quickly noticed (it was as obvious as could be) that low-value neighborhoods had one thing in common, in every city and every state: larger non-white populations — and nearly always, specifically, large black populations.

Of course, I initially believed the accepted narrative on these places — they were old, they’d had highways run through them, they’d “suffered” from “white flight” because so many whites were racist. But the more numbers I crunched, the more I saw that all that wasn’t the cause of the problem. Again and again, when analyzing these ghettos, I saw they were often truly geographically blessed. I analyzed terrible neighborhoods for foreclosing banks and realized that, on paper, these neighborhoods sounded great. Here’s a typical example:

Walking distance to hundreds of thousands of downtown jobs, the neighborhood has excellent freeway access, is less than 20 minutes to the airport, and is within 2 miles of major cultural institutions – major museums, concert venues, live theaters. There are three major hospitals nearby – the County Hospital downtown (1.5 miles) the University just across downtown (within 3 miles), and in the immediately adjacent suburb (less than 1 mile away.) The neighborhood features two major parks and several smaller neighborhood parks within ten blocks. It is well-served by regular bus routes as well as express buses to downtown. It is served by two high schools within 2 miles, three middle schools and four elementary schools. Most housing stock is low-rise, and although it is predominantly a century old, stucco and brick exteriors are common, lot sizes are single-family typical, and streets are well-kept, having been repaved a decade ago with twenty years remaining lifespan. The streets are a walkable urban grid, with established shade trees. The neighborhood is served by four grocery stores within 3 miles: two just across the border in and adjacent suburb, one downtown, and one supermarket on the neighborhood commercial corridor.

The neighborhood I just described is the worst neighborhood in my major metropolitan area. Despite having every advantage, and despite a history of being built and occupied by prosperous middle-class Jews, Polish Catholics, Scandinavian Lutherans and other white immigrants for 100 of the last 150 years, it’s degraded into a cesspool of crime and dysfunction. Young people blow off the schools and won’t take the jobs — instead they join gangs focused on intimidation, beefs, and selling drugs. Young women get on the dole and stay there, wards of the state. One woman I got to know in such an area was a 19-year-old mother trying to support two kids and her 37-year-old mother, fresh out of jail. She had a job, but lost it because she spent so much time trying to navigate herself, her boyfriends and her mother through the various welfare offices and court dates that made up their lives. She was actually one of the smart ones. I found another tragically cognitively-challenged mother who, when she was told she could name her new baby whatever she wanted, named him “Whatiwant.”

The funny thing is, the exact same neighborhood description above would describe the richest neighborhoods, which are ironically within a few miles of the poor ones. Proximity to jobs, attractions, parks, schools and transportation makes neighborhoods desirable and high-value — but not always. The difference is entirely due to race. The dysfunctional neighborhoods are full of blacks. Blacks dominating a neighborhood is enough to overcome every geographic advantage — beautiful weather, great views, large corporate headquarters, cultural and entertainment attractions, beautiful housing stock, excellent parks, outstanding terrain, lakes, beaches, mountains, hiking trails, universities, transit, excellent schools — the list goes on and on. Whatever the geographic advantage, black domination ruins it.

When I researched neighborhood histories further, I found that this was nearly a mathematical relationship — as blacks reached these neighborhoods during the “Great Migration,” crime increased, racial conflict began, schools declined, and whites began to flee. You could track the rising crime rates and declining school test scores precisely to when the black population increased. Before then, these neighborhoods had been urban idylls — walkable, safe, friendly, quiet, great places to raise families. No other minority had anything like this effect. Not Jews, who faced immigration, poverty, and discrimination, nor Irishmen or Eastern Europeans, brought in for manual labor, holding the lowest jobs, often illiterate, and facing language barriers. Nor, later on, gays, who also faced a hostile culture and discrimination.

I continued to cling to the tiniest fig leaf of the dominant Narrative — that somehow, there must be race-neutral explanations for this phenomenon. Perhaps it was the advent of the automobile at just the wrong time, or factory automation ending all those jobs just as black migration peaked, or the rise of music, sports, and other distractions pulling black kids away from traditional norms of school and hard work, or the racism of white people and their institutions. Maybe blacks just suffered from a regressive honor culture, like the one holding back so many working-class whites in Appalachia. But as I researched more and more, I gradually had to admit these explanations weren’t true. The phenomena I was researching pre-dated America, pre-dated the Great Migration, and occurred everywhere. African countries “decolonized” and immediately plunged into poverty, disease and civil war; Africans tested lower on IQ tests everywhere; and created dysfunctional ghettos everywhere on the globe, as far as I could see. They didn’t create Chinatowns, Jewish quarters, or any other high-quality type of ethnic enclave.

The last straw for me was a documentary aired on local public broadcasting about the terrible disparities between black and white kids, and how, of course, white racism was to blame. The do-gooder documentarian searched high and low for examples, and came up with two real-world stories. First, a 25-year-old high school dropout who confessed that he’d gone into school every day and just slept through class — he admitted that at the time he hadn’t cared, but that now, at the wise old age of 25, he’d been stupid. But, unlike the documentarians, he didn’t blame white people. The second story was a young woman, failing in high school because when she got out of school each day, she had to babysit her teenage sister’s illegitimate babies until dinnertime, and after that she worked at a fast-food restaurant until midnight to help support her family because her mom didn’t make enough money to feed all those mouths, and dad was nowhere to be found. She was also smart enough not to blame whitey — she knew it was her own family ruining her future. I figured that if, after searching high and low to make their documentary as compelling as they could possibly make it, those were the very best examples these do-gooder documentarians could find, then there simply weren’t any good examples. The education disparities were real, but “systemic racism” as a cause of it was not.

I volunteered for several years with first graders at an inner-city elementary school. The teacher was an energetic, loving, but beleaguered white veteran who’d seen the neighborhood change from working-class white to black. Each year, literally every non-white student from the first day of class was gone by the end of the school year — gone to live with a different relative, to a foster home, to social services, an orphanage, or some just moved with uprooted, nomadic families (an uncle in Chicago, moved back to Atlanta, went to St. Louis, etc.). Since I was a volunteer reader, I always asked the students if they had a favorite book. The most popular answer was “I don’t have one” followed closely by “We don’t have no books.” Sometimes they would look at the book I was reading with them and say “This one.” The very few whites in class stayed and made great progress, even though they were too poor to be able to get out of the neighborhood.

My experiences made the facade of the mainstream media’s narrative crumble. I realized that whatever racism blacks may have faced, they’ve also had affirmative action and quotas for two generations, at least. They’ve had trillions of dollars in public subsidies thrown at them, also for several generations. They’ve had trillions more in private foundation and charity money, all good money after bad. They’ve had preferences in college admissions for decades and almost every corporation has been recruiting them for “diversity” since at least the 1980s. They’ve had huge public programs created not just to shovel money to them, but to employ them: public school bureaucracies, social worker bureaucracies, and now the “diversity” industry. Despite all that, blacks are, by many measures, doing worse than ever, and ruining more of America (and the world) for the rest of us.

The narrative can’t withstand the facts. I’m still hopeful that as many blacks as possible will assimilate and adopt the norms which will allow them some success. I’m hopeful that more blacks will follow “the talented tenth.”  But in the current atmosphere, where leftists deride all those norms as “white supremacy,” I am not optimistic. The thing that makes me hopeful now is that more and more people are waking up. When police activity goes down, crime goes up, and emboldened black criminals target your neighborhood. Eventually, enough people will realize the truth, see past the propaganda, and see that, no matter how much money, effort, cheerleading, and social distortion we devote to making black people perform as well as whites on the things that matter, we won’t get there. In a way, the current mania is the last gasp of race-denialism — after a few years of this with no change to disparities, people will realize the disparities aren’t due to money, effort, “systemic racism,” or lack of encouragement. We just have to get through this. In the meantime, as a wise real-estate mogul told me at the beginning of my career, “Basically, rule of thumb, just stay away from the blacks.”

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