Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

They're Perfectly Reasonable People

Shorter James Joyner: I can't understand why tea-partiers are afraid to visit certain parts of DC. It can't be racism because I'm afraid of those areas too, and they have no reason to go to these places anyway.

Shorter Megan McArdle: The tea-party warnings about DC are overwrought but not racist because they're right about the crime.

Underneath the bullshit is fear. Fear is understandable because we have been manipulated into racial disputes by the ruling elite for centuries, but if you don't know or won't admit what it is, you will try to find stupid and harmful (to other people) ways of dealing with it. Admit that you're afraid of Black people or shut up about how reasonable your fear of Black people is.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm cleaning my bookshelves, beginning the process of getting rid of stuff I'll never look at again (Peasant Economies of Sub saharan Africa, for example) and I came across Carol Stack's brilliant "All Our Kin"
http://www.amazon.com/All-Our-Kin-Strategies-Community/dp/0061319821

If I'm not mistaken, though it might have been in a related short article somewhere, one of the points she makes is that what makes a street "scary" or "empty" to one set of people makes it homey and safe seeming to others. Walk past a random stranger and he/she looks, well, strange. Walk past a distant cousin whose mother's wedding you've been to, or whose shop you've been in, and its a totally different thing.

This is sort of related, ultimately, to Jane Jacob's "eyes on the street." Beck's followers are not only largely white, they are (or think of themselves) as largely suburban/exurban. They are scared of *everything* having to do with the city. (A friend of mine whose mother is from California noticed that common urban courtesy was completely missing from her mother's street habits. She came from a land of drive, park, and use the electric doors. She *never* stopped and held doors for anyone, or knew how to walk on a crowded sidewalk.)

This is not to say that the Tea Party's "map" isn't racist, it is. But its a natural outgrowth of a really long history of anti-urban/anti hipster/anti stranger assumptions projected onto the map. You absolutley get the same kinds of maps if you are a foreigner who can't be trusted to figure out the social/class/racial cues around you. In fact, the whole thing reminds me of Brother From Another Planet when one character tells the alien he can "make all the white people disappear" on the subway, which he does when the doors open at Columbia before 125th street.

aimai

aimai

Susan of Texas said...

That was a very good movie.

I see that too--suburban relatives are afraid of the city; there are too many unknowns. They moved to the suburbs to be surrounded by the familiar--other middle class, white people, Starbucks, Olive Garden, the whole driving culture. The city has too much noise, to many different types of people, too much traffic (despite the fact that spend a lot of their time commuting).

I understand the fear, but these are people who wouldn't go into a used book store or taqueria because they are afraid of dust, old buildings, foreign languages, and immigrants.

I've been watching True Blood and one of the more interesting things about the show is the growing war between the fearful (and especially religious) and the vampires. They just had the equivalent of their 9/11 (a very bad vampire attack), and you can tell that it's just going to get worse. The only thing missing is Pam Geller.

Kia said...

When my relatives started migrating to the US from Jamaica in the early 1970s, my uncle and aunt thought living in California suburbia was the high point of human existence. They lived for 20 years on a street in an expensive subdivision where they never spoke with their neighbors. I can think of all the years when I would travel along that street without seeing another human being out in front of these anal little gardens. On the occasions when my aunt would drive into San Francsico she had a whole drill for just driving through the city, based on the conviction that someone was going to run up to the car, jump into it, steal her handbag abduct and rape her and then cut her up in pieces. There was this fear of violence in so much of their thinking, so much fear of these imaginary bad people, taken as just a routine way of looking at the world. I was never able to look at the world that way, and when, some years ago, I settled in the Bay Area I settled about halfway between downtown Oakland and East Oakland. They all assured me I would be mugged--but I never was, felt no fear, and loved walking the streets because people said hi. The odd thing in all of it is that I remember explaining to my aunt that in a real neighborhood people watched out for each other. "But I don't want to talk to my neighbors," my aunt said. I remember a few years ago, too, talking to a neighbor here in the DC area, he was from India, a software engineer on an H1B visa, and he told me solemnly that he would never set foot in Southeast DC. I don't know what he thought was going on over there, but it was as if he thought he might catch something nasty. I might have been scandalized had I never heard similar sentiments from my own family. My aunt and uncle (both dead now, sadly) were actually very kind and sane people, but this fear seemed to just ride along with them as something that never seemed to need remarking on, and it shaped the way the world looked to them.

dlgood said...

I wouldn't blame a tour guide for telling visitors to stick to "tourist friendly" parts of the city. But the actual description was rife with ignorance since there are all kind of touristy things on the Yellow/Green.

What it really tells me, is whomever put this together doesn't have a lot of regard for his audience. Usually, you just say "here are some good places to go, don't go to Anacostia" and leave it at that, because grownups can plan their own trips. And DC, in particular, is not hard.

Susan of Texas said...

Heh.

[Dupont Circle metro, Red Line]


Pasha Bistro

1523 17th Street NW

Washington DC

tasty hamburgers and middle eastern food; free wifi; indoor & outdoor seating


Somehow I doubt many people will take the blogger up on that suggestion.

(Dupont Circle, gay area)

[Dupont Circle metro, Red line]


Because you wouldn't want to stumble upon gay people unaware.

brad said...

Honestly, this is the kind of racism that's almost beneficial. The non-lily white neighborhoods of DC don't want the tea party visiting them any more than the average tea party bigot wants to be there. Remember that story Dan Riehl told about being almost scared by teens who had the temerity to be near him and black on the DC metro after a Glenn Beck event?
Yes, segregation is horrible, but if bigots want to isolate themselves in some ways it's good for the rest of us. I like that living across the street from infamous projects means I don't have to deal with tourists, and I've talked to locals who feel the same.
The tragically funny part is they'd probably be perfectly safe, albeit maybe fucked with a bit for being obviously scared suburban whiteys. At least in my experience, the folk in the projects know the deal. If they kill, rob, or rape each other, it's a statistic. If they so much as touch a white person, it's front page news. That's obviously FUBAR, but it's true.
Granted, DC is probably a tougher urban environment than Brooklyn these days, but still.

Susan of Texas said...

Compare the white people chasing out a black man at the mosque protest in NY, and their attitude towards a heavily black area. It's an interesting contradiction. They say that black people have a bad "culture" and that's why they're so dangerous, yet what kind of culture spawns that much hatred and barely controlled menace?

Susan of Texas said...

Matt Yglesias:Five years ago I would have said definitively that the most terrifying thing about the Green/Yellow lines is the black people, but more recently this may be a caution against interacting with hipsters.

We're a nation of bed-wetters.

KWillow said...

I lived in Oakland Ca -corner of Fruitdale & E 14th st- for a couple of years. I had no car and took the bus everywhere, and I loved to walk around. I cannot recall a single scary or unpleasant incident there.

On the other hand, when I lived in a white blue-collar suburb, I was attacked & severely beaten with a tire iron by a white guy.

I'd say the white neighborhood was more noisy and violent than the city one, and without the excuse of drug-gangs.

Anonymous said...

Kia's story reminds me of another story about my friend's mother. When my friend moved into Baltimore, into one of those little houses (she was at John's Hopkins) her mother shook her head and said that she would regret it later because she well remembered her own life in smalltown America, before she'd moved to Irvine California. "Everyone will be in your business and know what you are doing, and who visits you and there will be trouble" she said, or words to that effect. LIke Kia's Aunt and Uncle her experience of small town intimacy had had its down side.

My great aunt and uncle lived in the village in NYC and it really was a village to them. If I visited they simply "left the keys" with the dry cleaner and I picked them up there. Our neighborhood is quite a bit like that here, though less dense than NYC, and I feel like we are "known" by a lot of people in a kind of cool way. I was sitting in our local bakery a while ago and the counter guy, who I didn't know, came up and told me my mother was on the phone and could I pick something up for her.

aimai

Kia said...

I think what bothers about those comments is that they don't really offer any actual data about the risk of crime in DC. One of the things I appreciate here is being able to walk alone in the city at night, a pleasure I enjoy keenly. I live right on the edge of the District, in Takoma Park. The part I live in is close to big old apartment complex almost entirely occupied by Hispanic immigrants. No hay problema. My neighborhood is small, it is sort of the buffer zone between the Barrio and the more well-to-do city of Takoma, which is quite swanky. There's lots of crime but not near me, all the break-ins and muggings happen over in the expensive part of town (except for June when I made a burglar a gift of two laptops by leaving my door unlocked and taking the Maneating Dog with me on an errand), near the Metro station. Nevertheless I come home late at night alone sometimes, and walk to my car or wait for a cab, and I'm vigilant but not afraid. The existence of some danger doesn't mean that someone is going to jump me as soon as I put my foot in a questionable area. I still haven't seen some bits of DC but I have yet to see a part where merely being there posed imminent danger of violence. But then, my Dad would sometimes pick me up from school when I was13 or 14 and leave me in the car in Tivoli Gardens or Trench Town, just sitting in there at the side of the road reading while he popped into a power substation to adjust some controls. I know that I grew up with this kind of fear--in Jamaica it was unavoidable and life there is seriously dangerous--but I also clearly remember a point where I realized that the constant anticipation of some sort of Kiapocalypse didn't reflect actual conditions in front of me, and that it would only get in the way of my being able to get along with people. I was about 17 when I realized that and started looking and listening. But there's a sort of mentality--again I find it even among the saner members of my own family--that seeing for yourself and hearing for yourself don't count. The question is not about safety so much as it is about propriety, about wanting to be told which places you wouldn't want to be seen dead in. And yeah, they usually seem to have black people in them, though I know people here who think that 20 miles out of DC is Deliverance country and they wouldn't want to be caught dead there either.

Kia said...

What bothers about those comments is that they don't really offer any actual data about the risk of crime in DC. One of the things I appreciate here is being able to walk alone downtown at night, a pleasure I enjoy keenly. I live right on the edge of the District, in Takoma Park. There's crime but not near me: all the break-ins and muggings happen over in the expensive part of town (except for June when I made a burglar a gift of two laptops by leaving my door unlocked and taking the Maneating Dog with me on an errand), near the Metro station. Nevertheless I come home late at night alone sometimes, and walk to my car or wait for a cab, and I'm vigilant but not afraid. The existence of some danger doesn't mean that someone is going to jump me as soon as I put my foot in a questionable area. I still haven't seen some bits of DC but I have yet to see a part where merely being there posed imminent danger of violence. But then, my Dad would sometimes pick me up from school when I was13 or 14 and leave me in the car in Tivoli Gardens or Trench Town, just sitting in there at the side of the road reading while he popped into a power substation to adjust some controls. I know that I grew up with fear--in Jamaica it was unavoidable and life there is seriously dangerous--but I also clearly remember a point where I realized that the constant anticipation of some sort of Kiapocalypse didn't reflect actual conditions in front of me, and that it would only get in the way of my being able to get along with people. I was about 17 when I realized that and started looking and listening. But there's a sort of mentality--again I find it even among the saner members of my own family--that seeing for yourself and hearing for yourself don't count. The question is not about safety so much as it is about propriety, about wanting to be told which places you wouldn't want to be seen dead in. And yeah, they usually seem to have black people in them, though I know people here who think that 20 miles out of DC is Deliverance country and they wouldn't want to be caught dead there either.