YPP/City Paper Team Up: The Race, Race, and Philadelphia's Future

Race and segregation in Philadelphia is not traditionally something that many people like to talk about. It makes people uncomfortable. It brings back not-so-distant memories of Frank Rizzo raiding the offices of the Black Panthers, stripping the men down to their underwear, and parading them in front of photographers from the local press. It brings back memories of an all-white Democratic party running the City and of mostly African-American neighborhoods being bulldozed for ‘urban renewal.’ In my lifetime, it has meant racially charged mayor’s races, white flight, and a city that feels perpetually split apart. (With periodic exceptions for playoff runs or an election against George Bush.)

And, lest, anyone think we are in some sort of post-racial utopia in Philadelphia, a quick check of the popular site Phillyblog shows a couple people talking about public housing residents as “vermin” and “rats,” and basically insinuate that Chaka Fattah’s mother is in a cult. Meanwhile, Mike Nutter has been deemed “too white” to attract African-American votes and was called "watermelon man" by civic booster Milton Street. And Inquirer reporters following Bob Brady noted that out of his earshot, racial epithets were casually being tossed around a bar in the Northeast where he was campaigning.

Philadelphia is in fact still a very segregated City. Using the dissimilarity index, the most common measure of segregation, Philadelphia is the 6th most segregated big city in the Country. Over a third of school children go to schools where the population is over 90 percent of their own race. White kids, who as of 2004 made up only 15 percent of the school district’s population, are heavily concentrated in a small number of schools. Poverty, and the murder rate that has come with it, is overwhelmingly confined to communities of color. And although we love to highlight them, integrated, stable neighborhoods are still the exception, rather than the rule. No, we are not a city full of racists. But, it’s not always sunny in Philadelphia.

However, with the Mayoral race providing us with an eight-year benchmark on our progress, Philadelphians have looked around, and realized that this year, there is seemingly no need to duck and cover. Why? Primarily, I think much of the credit has to go to the candidates themselves, who have run largely positive campaigns. I think a lot of this groundwork- for a citywide campaign based on issues- was started two years ago by then-District Attorney candidate Seth Williams, who asked us to get past the same old racial divisions and to focus on concrete policies that will make our City better for everyone.

In this year’s race, many of the latest polls show racial voting patterns in Philadelphia being turned upside down. Mike Nutter has gone to the top of the polls with largely white support, and was endorsed by the Northeast Times. My personal bete noire, Tom Knox, is capturing a significant amount of votes from African-Americans. Race in Philadelphia is simply not the same issue that it was in past races.

So, where are we then? Is it that we have advanced as a city, or is it that we just don’t talk about it anymore? Are we acknowledging the challenges we face and solving problems or are we papering over them and hoping they go away? And given the incredibly different opportunities in life that the average white child in Philadelphia will see, as opposed to his African-American counterpart, is it possible to have a discussion like this without coming back to class, as well? And lastly, what can the next Mayor do- and what can we do- to change course as a City?

Like some old, white wig wearing guy named John Adams said, "Divided we stand..."

I think the items you have

I think the items you have mentioned underline what many of us have been saying and noticing. Philadelphia is at a tipping point. We could almost view it as Philadelphia is on the cusp of a Renaissance emerging from the dark ages. With the right leadership, the City can explode forward, but we are just one plague or famine from reeling back.

Mentally the City seems to be showing signs of bridging those racial and segregation gaps but geographically and economically those divides still significantly exist, so the ability to easily fall back into that pattern will be overwhelmingly easy.

We're climbing a mountain and that carbine holding our last place is a bit loose ... if we can just reach that next ledge and secure ourselves, we can keep moving ahead, but if we slip, that carbine gives and we tumble back down.

This is probably one of the most important elections (mayoral through council) for Philadelphia in a very long time and will be to come.

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Staff member of Longacre for 5th Council District.
Longacre Website

Bob Brady Wants To Improve The Lives Of All Philadelphians

"And Inquirer reporters following Bob Brady noted that racial epithets were casually being tossed around a bar in the Northeast where he was campaigning"

I strongly object to and resent the implication that Bob Brady is racist, because some of his supporters might be. Bob Brady was the only white Congressman from a predominantely black district, in the whole United States. The voters in his district know that Bob Brady looks out for his entire constituancy. This is why I am supporting him for Mayor. The man is color blind.

Bob Brady has a 100% rating from the ADA. Bob Brady has the leadership qualities to lead Philadelphia through the political maze that our Mayor has to get through to bring our city back to greatness. Bob Brady understands that that good jobs, housing and a quality education are just as necessay to combating crime as quality law enforcement.

I'm voting for Bob Brady!

Relax. Bob Brady is by no

Relax. Bob Brady is by no means a racist, and I never suggested he is. We all know he is far from it. I edited the sentence a little to make it clear that this was out of earshot for him.

Care to respond to the post?

Thanks For The Clarification

I know that you weren't try to call Bob Brady a racist. I was just looking for the clarification you so graciously provided.

Thank you

I think it's a good thing

I like the comments I've seen about this being the first 'post-racial' election. I like the fact that a key group backing Mike Nutter are young, white liberals. I like the fact that Tom Knox' campaign focus on his rise from poverty has clearly rung a bell within the African-American community. I like the fact that Bob Brady is running as a person whose career has been based on being color-blind.

A rep from one of the other campaigns sneered to me that whites were supporting Nutter b/c he was the least-black black person in the race. That's just silly- people like Nutter b/c of his ideas + his smarts. It's like the PW article put it a while back: "Nerds for Nutter."

Let's not over-analyze this. This could, indeed, be a very important turning point for Philly, almost independent of who wins.

Good news, yo,
-Z

what a bunch of racists!

just kidding, sort of.

However, for a blog that generate opinions about everything, the low response rate to this post is interesting.

Is it the bunch of mainly white people who regularly comment here is afraid to comment on this one?

Do our readers of color, who watch our regular white commenters spar all the time, not feel willing to engage?

Is racism in Philadelphia over and done with? Maybe lack of response to this post is proof of that--that no one has anything to say?

What gives?

I think the mayoral

I think the mayoral candidates have - to a man - done a great job of building truly inclusive coalitions. I'm not so sure that, in the long run, it really means anything in terms of building a better social network; certainly it doesn't do anything to alleviate urban segregation or misunderstanding across racial lines.

I DO think a mayor of a certain caliber, who wanted to use his position to start a dialogue about race and class inequality in Philadelphia, could do some interesting things. I wonder if there's any real incentive to do that, though?

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Volunteering for Michael Nutter

The Growing Divide

Dan is right to talk about race and class together. You can't have a candid discussion without talking about both. Not only do we need to address traditional racism, and how it's impacted by class and gender, but also the growing divide between the African American middle/upper class and the African American underclass. We're at a point in American history where we have the largest African American middle class ever - however, the underclass is growing as well and the economic divide is getting larger. What this means pragmatically is that the way each of these classes interacts with and experiences racism is quite different. To have a meaningful dialogue citizens have to be willing to be honest about their views and prejudices and what drives them and it's often difficult to create a climate where people feel that they can be honest about these sensitive issues without being attacked or deemed a "racist". Any mayor that tries to seriously develop this kind of dialogue must be prepared to defend himself - (or maybe one day - herself) from attacks of pandering or catering to one community. In short - we can't have a meaningful dialogue unless citizens really believe that racism is not just a detriment to some, but actually degrades us all.

La-Toya Hackney
Chairwoman, Fattah for Mayor

Validity of La-Toya Hackney's Views Far Beyond Black Community

La-Toya Hackney's views are valid far beyond the black community. Social class matters in a lot of ways for a lot of people.

The challenge of governments, political and social movements, non-profits, churches, schools, etc. is to cross social class lines and encourage problem-solving across these lines. That is a very difficult task, but it has sometimes been accomplished in the past and can be accomplished much more in the future.

la-toya

i hardly ever comment on here, but i wanted to say that you made great points, and eloquently. thanks.

Class and the casinos

The elephant in the room on the casino issue is class and employment. Ronnie Polanaczky's article in the Daily News discussed this issue. leaving aside the issue of whether casinos should be built or where they should be built, casinos will provide jobs. There used to be a saying that there were always two unemployment rates, 0 and 100%. If you had a job it was zero, if not it was 100%. The anti casino forces must show us where alternative semi to low skilled jobs will come from.

The fact is that many people in the Sugarhouse area want these casinos built because they want the jobs. This seems to be overlooked by many of the anti casino forces. The article pointed to the class differences and the perceived, or real, between the two sides.

Now extrapolate these same class issues to the election and you see that this election may be more about class than race, even though the two are intertwined.

btw I am not against casinos, I am against anything that creates low pay jobs (casinos) at the expense of high paying jobs (ports).

Casinos and Jobs

Our city has lost tens of thousands of jobs in the past decade. The International Longshoreman's Association have advanced, very publicly (in Harrisburg as well as in Philadelphia) including at meetings in Fishtown, South Philly and other neighborhoods their plans for expanding the port. These plans are very reasonable and would provide tens of thousands of jobs, many more than the casinos which create less than 2,500 permanent jobs. But the ILa is opposed to the riverfront casinos in part because of the impact of the proposed casinos on port expansion as well as the impact on the social and political life of our city. I am not speaking for the ILA but I do support efforts to create more jobs. Such expansion can happen without destroying residential neighborhoods. The casino industry makes many claims that have yet to be studied. There has not been one study bout the economic costs of the proposed casinos (including how many jobs will be lost).

As a Fishtown resident and Casino Free leader I have never dismissed the need for high paying jobs (ports) and am glad that you raised the issue. The problem with Ronnie's article is that she did not reach out to the many working class and in-need of job Fishtowners that I have met who are strongly opposed to Sugar House, many of whom are also against casinos altogether.

Demographics of Segregation

Like almost everything related to population changes, segregation statistics come down to one thing: children. It doesn't matter how many young, often single, most often childless progressives, or even families with one or two children live and send their children to school in postracial utopias. If families with large numbers of children don't integrate, segregation numbers won't really move.

I don't have hard data to back it up, but my thesis is this: most racial integrators don't have children, or at least don't have very many. So integrated neighborhoods have a relatively small impact on the total integration of a city, while less integrated neighborhoods have more. (To a certain extent, it's hard to quibble with this -- after all, the populations are larger.)

The logic of gentrification suggests the same thing: first-wave gentrifiers are typically students, artists, gay singles and couples, followed by young professionals and couples. The white families with kids only move in when they're building rowhouses with garages, the majority of minority families are at least a census tract away, and the minority households that are left tend to be either older people who own their houses or younger, childless couples who can continue to afford the rent.

The flip side is that even when racial integrators do have children, they usually pack up and move to less integrated communities -- for schools, for suburban amenities like pools and larger cars, for "safety": and often the racism here is unintentional, unconscious, "color blind."

On the one hand, you can say that this is just a statistical anomaly, that the numbers lower the actual amount of integration in neighborhoods, since the integrators tend to be single and scattered. On the other hand, you can say that this actually reflects a kind of onion-layered effect of racism: the majority of people work with people of races, will vote for someone of an opposite race, and socialize with them. Fewer live in largely integrated neighborhoods. Fewer still live there with their children, or will send them to fully integrated schools. So that is now where we are.

P.S.: The children/childless problem also, I think, distorts how much class still plays a part in segregation. The census numbers suggest that class segregation isn't nearly as big of a problem as racial segregation, because the numbers are much lower. However, the only metric for class they use is income.

Consider my household -- one white male, one African-American female, total household income ~$40,000/year. We live in Cedar Park, one of the more integrated neighborhoods in the city. Now replace our family with an all black family of five making the same income. At that income, with those numbers, they probably couldn't afford to live here, unless they lived a few blocks west or south, probably out of the census tract. This family would have a very different class experience than my wife and I do. The racial demographic of our household, as measured by the index, just changed a lot. But the "class" demographic didn't change at all.

Supporting Michael Nutter for Mayor.

The logic of gentrification

The logic of gentrification suggests the same thing: first-wave gentrifiers are typically students, artists, gay singles and couples, followed by young professionals and couples. The white families with kids only move in when they're building rowhouses with garages, the majority of minority families are at least a census tract away, and the minority households that are left tend to be either older people who own their houses or younger, childless couples who can continue to afford the rent.

Actually, that is not the case. A study by a Columbia professor has shown that transient rates are lower in gentrifying neighborhoods than if the neighborhood remained in a poor condition. The premise is that rents across the board do not significantly increase in existing rentals and for a neighborhood on the upswing, people are willing to pay a moderate increase in housing costs to remain as opposed to relocate to another bad neighborhood that is cheaper.

I do agree that the initial wave are not family with children though. Families primarily purchase based on cost and schools.

what are "racial integrators?"

Short, what do you mean by the term "racial integrators?"

racial integrators don't have children, or at least don't have very many. So integrated neighborhoods have a relatively small impact on the total integration of a city, while less integrated neighborhoods have more. (To a certain extent, it's hard to quibble with this -- after all, the populations are larger.)

Do you mean white people?

What/who are racial integrators?

In the broadest sense, I mean people who live in racially integrated communities. My best guess is that people who live in racially integrated communities, whether black, white, hispanic, or Asian, tend to have fewer children than people who don't live in racially integrated census tracts.

In a more specific sense, racial integrators can also be used to refer to people who move in to largely segregated neighborhoods where they are the minority -- people who integrate a neighborhood. If you're talking about gentrification, this usually means white people. But it can also apply to other racial groups -- black, hispanic, or Asian.

If you look at my paragraph on gentrification (i.e., in Philadelphia, white people moving into largely black neighborhoods) I make the point that when the neighborhood is most integrated it tends to be largely younger childless whites and largely older childless blacks. So, I think that the "racial integrators don't have children" thesis holds across multiple races.

Likewise, when blacks or hispanics move into a largely white neighborhood, my guess is that white people with children are more likely to move than white people without children. Especially if the black or hispanic families have a lot of children. (Different scholars have talked about the racial "tipping point" for neighborhoods.)

If the thesis doesn't hold for specific groups -- perhaps Asians who live in majority white or black neighborhoods are more likely to have children, which explains their relatively low segregation indices -- that's worth discussing.

One mistake: The flip side

One mistake:

The flip side is that even when racial integrators do have children, they usually pack up and move to less integrated communities -- for schools, for suburban amenities like pools and larger cars, for "safety": and often the racism here is unintentional, unconscious, "color blind."

Here, I really mean white racial integrators. The context I think makes that clear but I should have qualified the term.

I do think, though, that black or hispanic families with children are less likely to live in all-white neighborhoods than black or hispanic singles or couples, partly for economic reasons (since black or hispanic families tend to have lower income than whites) and partly out of worries that they'll encounter racism. So you do get a clustering of middle-class black and integrated neighborhoods.

Impact of immigrants and ethnic minorities

Impact of immigrants and ethnic minorities

Maybe we could broaden your thesis to include immigrants or other types of minorities as “first-wave integrators.” (We have already included gays, but there are also ethnic and religious minorities.) I also live near Cedar Park and have noticed the number of immigrants in the neighborhood. My last neighborhood (before I moved to Philly) was comprised almost exclusively of Middle Eastern Muslims, Koreans and Ethiopians. I am speaking purely anecdotally, but in my experience, ethnic minorities and immigrants don’t always abide by the usual Black/White/Asian paradigm. They are often also well educated (or at least focus more on education), are less prone to crime, and are more likely to own their own businesses.

I can’t speak to the average number of children in immigrant and ethnic minority households, but again, speaking anecdotally, I think it would be higher than third-plus-generation American households of the same economic status (assuming after three generations people are assimilated enough to take on native bias). But perhaps you could answer two questions related to immigrant families as first-wave integrators: first, since they already have children, what would be their impetus to move? Second, would they move into a more segregated community based on race given that, (a) they have already lived in a diverse atmosphere and thus would (ideally) have less racist tendencies, and (b) they are ethnic minorities and thus still somewhat alienated from whatever race they belong to? Just batting around ideas at this point....

It's a school thing

My parents moved into an integrated neighborhood when I was a kid. I guess you'd call them racial integrators.

Would they have done the same today? I doubt it. I went to a good quality and racially integrated public school. The debate about why there may be fewer such schools now than there were before forced integration efforts got underway is a land mine - but regardless, I think that even though there is certainly a lot of "intentional" racism kicking around out there - the quality of schools is the fundamental variable that contributes to geographic racial segregation in Philly.

As an aside - I lived in the Boston area for many years. I don't have any idea how Boston ranks on Dan's segregation scale - but one of the most striking things for me was that whenever I'd come back to Philly, I'd invariably be amazed at how when I went to a concert or to a restaurant or a store, there would be comfortable racial mix. I don't know how Boston compares with Philly in terms of how well integrated it is in terms of residences (although it sure seems more segregated because blacks in Boston mostly live in only two neighborhoods), but I have no doubt that it is less integrated on a more holistic scale. And I really have to wonder about the integration scale Dan mentions above, because my sense is that of all the cities I've been to, Philly is certainly among the most integrated in a day-to-day living sense - even if it might be less integrated in terms of school or residential demographics.

still unclear

Can racial integrators be of any race?

In reality, are they of any race, or are we mainly talking white people when we talk racial integrators?

Tying the thread back toegther

A lot of interesting things so far, but still relatively few respondents. I also want to remind everyone the focus of this thread and what Dan will be looking for as he writes this up into a City Paper column:

So, where are we then? Is it that we have advanced as a city, or is it that we just don’t talk about it anymore? Are we acknowledging the challenges we face and solving problems or are we papering over them and hoping they go away? And given the incredibly different opportunities in life that the average white child in Philadelphia will see, as opposed to his African-American counterpart, is it possible to have a discussion like this without coming back to class, as well? And lastly, what can the next Mayor do- and what can we do- to change course as a City?

Certainly, no measure of

Certainly, no measure of segregation is perfect. However, the dissimilarity index is the most common way to measure segregation. It is based on where you live- so, take it for what you will. The number I am basing it on is the black-white dissimilarity numbers.

Cities more segregated than us include Atlanta, Chicago and New York.

According to some study I

According to some study I cannot cite, Detroit is the most segregated city in America. (I think Elijah Anderson at Penn participated in/discussed study, but I am shooting from the hip.

But Philly is very segregated. Here's a couple of good examples.

Generally speaking (like there are recent exceptions), for years:

1. Whites do not live north of Girard Avenue. Blacks do not live south of Popular in Fairmount/Brewerytown.
2. Whites live in Girard Estates, Blacks live north.
3. Blacks in S. Philly live W. of Broad. Whites live East of Broad.
4. Whites live in Overbrook Farms. Blacks live there, but few whites live in Overbrook anymore.
5. Blacks live in E. Mt. Airy, except for a small pocket towards the N.W. Corner, which is integrated.
6. Few Blacks live in Chestnut Hill, even though Mt. Airy is one of the most integrated neighborhoods in the Country.
7. Blacks live in Frankfort, (and now further out), whites do not.
8. Blacks/Latinos live in Kensington, Whites live in Fishtown.
9. Most whites in Philadelphia live, except for Chestnut Hill and Roxborough in S. Philly east of Broad and the Northeast.
10. Puerto Ricans used to/still do live in Spring Garden, and not in Fairmount.
11. South of Washington Avenue on the West Side of Broad is Black, East is White, and North on the West side is integrating.

Philadelphia's neighborhoods each have a history of lines that you could not cross depending on where you were from and skin color. A lot of that legacy is here today. Although I don't know if demographics would exactly bear out my distinctions above, there is a lot of perception that forms that reality.

Good example, I was talking with a co-worker about an area I lived in, and told her that neighborhood lore had it that you did not go east of "the bridge". She said, I grew up east of that bridge and folks from my neighborhood would never go west of it.

That's the milieu in which "integration" in Philadelphia exists.

__________________________________________________________________________
I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

Again,

while undoubtedly there is a lot of racial segregation in terms of residential communites, I would argue that Philly is less segregated that most other cities in other respects. If I compare Center City to Back Bay, or the Upper West Side, or Pacific Heights (frequently called Specific Whites), I think Philly is more integrated when you consider the amount of contact people have across racial lines. Of course, those cities have a smaller percentage of black residents; but other cities with high percentages of black residents like Atlanta or Detriot are not more integrated than Philly. My sense is purely anecdotal, and yes, I've mostly lived in Germantown and Mt. Airy when I've lived in Philly (I might feel differently if I lived in the greater Northeast, for example), but I think that when talking about race in Philly this is an important aspect.

Is integration worth talking about?

I live in Cedar Park (3rd person today) which is the area west of 45th Street to 52nd mostly south of Baltimore Ave. I grew up there.

My neighborhood was and is "integrated" to the extent that within those bounds lived an equalish number of blacks and whites, but block by block the integrations was much less.

Further, most homeowners in the neighborhood are white, renters black. Penn has provided incentives through its mortgage program to deconvert houses with apartments into single family homes. Rents have also gone up a lot as home values have dramatically risen.

So at the end of the day, my neighborhood is less integrated than it ever used to be, because there are less apartments to rent that cost more.

All of which is to say that "integration," to me, is an outmoded term because it refers, even if obliquely to a 1960's strategy that pretty much outlived its usefulness. MLK recognized that and began to talk about economic justice too, which "integration" did not always, and I for one think that's why he got killed.

Philly is not the worst city

Philly is not the worst city on earth for segregation -- for some reason Detroit wins that crown. But while many folks who live in Center City do see other folks, that's it, they just see them. Center City has a range of price points (renters/homeowners/condos) that allow for a pretty economically diverse area. But Ray's point about Cedar Park is spot on, in my opinion, as renters decrease, homeowners will tend to be white, b/c African Americans are not moving to "in-town" neighborhoods. If they stay in the City, they move to Mt. Airy.

To me integration is kind of an old debate, b/c now middle class folks of color are choosing to live around other middle class folks of color.

The friction that I am seeing is when you have neighborhoods that are typically in-town, w/ new development and the renters/owners are young and white and the current neighborhood is old and [black/white/latino, but old], how does government adjust to the very city services intensive older population with the new ones who are paying more taxes (or will when the abatements end.)

__________________________________________________________________________
I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

Mt. Airy

This is what is special about Mt. Airy or at least parts of Mt. Airy. There is integration within blocks and, with perhaps the highest concentrations of interracial couples in the city, many of the houses are integrated.

The bad news of course is that many younger folks can no longer afford to buy in Mt. Airy. Many of us older folks could not afford to buy our houses at today’s prices.

When my semester at CCP and the election are over, I will put together my thoughts about race in this city over past 40 years or so. Have been on the front lines.

Supporting Michael Nutter for Mayor

I'm not quite getting your point, Ray

Yes, integration is relevant, because the theme of the thread relates to racism and segregation. I think it's pretty clear that without increased integration there won't be much progress in addressing racism. Of course, King was right in his shifting focus towards class rather than race towards the end of his life (and interestingly, Malcolm X was on a similar path towards the end of his, and could very well be why he was killed also). But while racial integration doesn't stand alone from economic integration - it's still an important factor.

Trying to get back to the focus of the thread -- I think that the next mayor needs to focus very specifically on creating schools that can sustain racially and economically mixed communities. The fact that in your neighborhood there is a economic divide that falls along the same fault lines as racial divisions goes without saying. If there wasn't economic diversity in your neighborhood, there wouldn't be racial diversity either. Mt. Airy's racial diversity is sustained by the black middle class that lives there, but the numbers of middle class blacks is limited.

But what's more troubling to me about neighborhoods like yours or Mt. Airy is that even in "integrated" neighborhoods, the schools aren't integrated. And until that changes, the rich will get richer and the poor will stay poor. So, again, while it's obvious and the devil is in the details, I think that place for the next mayor to start is a specific focus on creating integrated public schools in the integrated neighborhoods that do exist.

like i said below

i went to public, integrated schools in Philadelphia. They are a great thing.

But teaching kids of different races to get along has nothing to do with redistributing wealth equally. It's not something that schools alone can do.

And this is my problem with talking about integration as THE concept when talking about race. If the problem was as simple of lack of cultural exposure amongst various groups, the problem of racism would be solved.

It's not.

The problem is that even if you expose white kids to black kids and they get along, the white kids still have the upper hand on access to jobs, housing, taxis, you name it. That's because at every level of government and in our institutions, people of color are kept out. White working-class and poor people are kept out too, but its' much easier for them to sneak in if they can raise some cash (see: Tom Knox).

I guess I'm not being clear

I'm not saying that schools need to be integrated so kids can get along - although I do think that is an important issue.

I'm saying that schools need to be integrated so that black kids will have the same opportunities as white kids - and by extension, poor people will have the same opportunities as people with money.

You can't just put everyone on an equal basis econmically (although I'm not saying it wouldn't work or isn't a good idea, but obviously income resdistribution on a scale like that ain't going to happen here or anywhere else), and unless the segregated nature of our schools is addressed, there is no way to address the inequeities that exist. At some point it does become irrelevant whether we're talking about racial or economic integration - but one of the precursors for creating economicially diverse school populations is to specifically focus on creating racially diverse schools. You can't have one without he other, and unless you focus on the racial divisions, you won't have economic diversity.

the fastest way to have that impact is

..to do a regional school district.

Because the reality is that something like 75% of the School District of Philadelphia's students currently are people of color. I understand better now the solution you purpose, but except for the Northeast, most schools, except a handful of magnets, are majority people of color.

I lost my reply

it's waaaaay too nice out to be in here any longer, and the Nutter/anti-Nutter folks are taking over...

But just a quick response - I think that starting with schools in integrated neighborhoods and in those segregated neighborhoods that are in close enough proximity to other segregated neighborhoods to formulate integrated regions, you could create schools that would sustain racially and economically mixed student populations. Then, similar schools and communities could radiate outward from those points.

I think it's absolutely criminal that in an econcomically and racially integrated neighborhood like Mt. Airy, there are segregated (racially, and I would suppose also econmically), schools. Focusing on that kind of area won't do anything short-term for folks in the heart of Southwest Philly, but there is no reason why there couldn't be different initiatives undertaken simultaneously. But long-term, on a big scale, I don't think that our schools will improve unless they are situated in racially, and thus economically, mixed areas. And unless our schools improve, then racial segregation will continue, and poverty will not be reduced. So, I say create good working models and then work on reproducing those success stories.

Philadelphia Must Improve Its School System For All

While Philadelphia has some world class magnet schools, e.g., Masterman, Central H.S. and Girls H.S., the rest of the system stinks. The system has to be dramatically improved. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do the math: Nearby suburban school districts spend $22,000 per pupil while Philadelphia only spends $11,000. Further the infrastucture is crumbling, due to years of neglect. There are also serious security concerns. Nothing makes a family leave a city faster than when their kid comes home bleeding.

Philadelphia does have many segregated neighborhoods. Some of them along racial lines, but let's not forget the Jordan River (Roosevelt Blvd). However there have been Philadelphians trying to solve that problem. Over fifty years ago, Morris Milgram built integrated housing developments. I moved down here from Boston and one of the reasons was Philadelphia had a black middle class. I had the honor of being friends with Rotan Lee. At one time he was the Superintendent of the Schools. Unfortunately, there are many entrenched interests that will need to be dealt with. We didn't get into this mess overnight, so it's going take time and a lot of hard work to get back to greatness.

I support Bob Brady for Mayor and I think he has a plan and the leadership capabilities to get us out of this mess. I understand he will be working with a U of Penn professor to quantify what areas of development are in the greatest need, which approaches will provide the most bang for the buck. Armed with that, he'll be able to go to Congress (and I mean personally) and get grants to further develop and elsewise fund these programs. Bob Brady wants to add 1,000 new police officers, parole officers, and most importantly for this discussions, truant officers. Right now, a kid has to absent for 42 days to be truant. Both Teachers and kids have to be safe in order for the kids to learn.

Bob Brady intends to roll up his sleeves to work on improving the quality of education for our kids. Without an educated work force, it will not be possible to improve the business climate. Bob Brady knows that the only way for Philadelphia get back to greatness is to attract new companies to the city, as a source of new jobs. These jobs should be ones that provide a livable wage. In addition, Bob Brady will work to get rid of the business priviledge tax and cut the city wage tax. I've heard Bob Brady lament that there ore office buildings just across the street from Philadelphia, while there aren't any on the Philly side.

I'm voting for Bob Brady!

NO.

it's not true that "until that (segregated schools) changes the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer"

what's true is that until urban education is of a high enough quality to break the cycle of poverty, the poor will get poorer (i don't know if the rich will get richer, and i don't really care) . what's needed to create high quality urban schools isn't white students, it's lots of money, highly qualified teachers, and a recognition of the fact that that poor blacks kids generally come to school with more severe needs than their white/more wealthy peers, and need MORE in order to catch up.

i don't think that schools need to be integrated. they just need to be better.

improving schools without them being integrated

I suppose, is theoretically possible - although I think there's something to be said for the notion that education within a segregated invironment is inherently inferior to an education in an integrated environment (and the Supreme Court agrees).

And while I get your point it's just that I think that what you're suggesting is impractical. I don't think public schools will get better unless they are woven into the fabric of racially and economically mixed neighborhoods. I don't think in the real world you will get one without the other, with the exception of what are essentially all-white schools in uniformly high-income neighborhoods.

How many successful networks of schools exist in segregated urban environments anywhere in the country? And in particular, in predominantly black environments? As much as I wish that it weren't true, I simply think that there will never be sufficient political will or economic resources to create good schools within a black ghetto.

That's not to say that there are no good schools created in any ghetto anywhere, but I'm speaking of a more systematic reform.

Most schools in the City

Most schools in the City will continue to be terrible as long as you take the best students and send them to Masterman, E&S, Central, Girls High, FLC, GAMP, and leave the neighborhood schools without their best students.

Magnet schools cream the best students and leave the rest of the schools without any good ones. (The others go to Catholic School.)

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I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

The are a lot of bad elementary schools

that aren't having the "good students' siphoned off.

And as an educator, I compeltely disagree about the concept of schools being good or bad on the basis of whether the "best" students go to magnet schools.

I think much more relevant is that parents with money don't send their kids to public schools in this city -- a viscious circle that is very hard to break down and that invariably creates segregated schools even in integrated neighborhoods. But unless something breaks that circle down, unless parents with money see a reason to send kids to local public schools, there won't be the political will to make things better.

Quality of education v. integration

I’m a little confused about your argument. Sassefras seems to be arguing for education for its own sake. But you would prefer integration? I understand the debate that diversity raises the level of dialog, but is this a practical concern where the grade level is literally much more elementary? Also, integrating a school costs money and our schools are already strapped. Let's say you have $5 million dollars to invest in schools. Would you put it into buying new books/materials or into bussing (or the integration tool of your choice)? Perhaps it's a false dichotomy, but it's a legitimate question nevertheless.

I’m very pro integrated neighborhoods, but here I am leaning towards Sassefras’ argument: improve the quality of education and you break the cycle of poverty because people will be more able to compete in the workforce. And it may also result in more whites sending their kids to those schools. You know, the old, ‘…if you build it, they will come’ argument.

Integration for integration's sake

is not what I'm arguing for per se, although I think that integration needs to be an explicit goal, long-term, if we're to make much progress on the racial issues that are very real in Philly (and, for that matter, economic issues as well).

What I'm saying is that as far as practical concerns go, without focusing on creating economically and racially diverse schools (since those two attributes necessarily go hand-in-hand in Philly), we will not see progress on a large scale. A very significant factor in why our schools have degenerated to the level that they have is because they are so predominantly black, and as such, they're isn't the political will or economic revenue to create a better system.

Someone on this thread said that parents with money don't send their kids to public schools in any city in the country. I tend to doubt that. I'll bet that there are urban areas of mixed income (although unlikely mixed race) where where there are decent public schools. In Philly, mixed income necessarily means racially diverse.

The problem with urban

The problem with urban education affects every city in the Country. As a general trend, people who are not poor (read: educated, double income yuppies), who live intown, do not send their kids to public schools. That's not to say that none do, very few do. (That's why so many people live intown and then move to the burbs once they have kids.)

The reason is that people are looking for better than decent public schools, if you have the money to send your kids somewhere else. An example of this is all of my friends who live in Mt. Airy and send their kids to GFS and are not Quaker -- many are Jewish. (I have a lot of conversations about the irony of that.) Compare the statistics of any decent public school in Philly to the surrounding burbs. The test scores are much, much better for even the worst schools.

There are decent public schools in Mt. Airy, but that's not the standard most educated folks are willing to use with their kids. That unfortunately amounts to an additional tax on living in the City -- the cost of private school education, for those willing to bear it.

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I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

There are no magnet

There are no magnet elementary schools. The phenomenon I described relates to 5th grade and above. (i.e., try to get into Masterman, then go to best magnet high school.)

Parents with money don't send their kids to public schools in any city. The public schools are horrible (save a few exceptions) and most parents are not willing to gamble with their kids. Aside from that, Philly has an extensive number of private schools.

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I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

Not True, Truthtold

There are many excellent public schools in the City serving many different socio-econonomic strata. For instance, Hill Freedman Middle School in Mt. Airy was selected as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2006; this designation signifies that they are in the top 10% of schools in the nation. Dobson in Manayunk, Shawmont in Andorra. All great schools. These are just a few examples of public school academic excellence in Philadelphia. Like most large urban governments, Philadelphia's School District does a terrible job of trumpeting their successes, but there are in fact many.

There are some good public

There are some good public schools, but you are not suggesting that most of the public elementary schools in Philly are not very bad as compared to their suburban counterparts.

Check the test scores.

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I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

I Know about Test Scores

And I'm not calling you out, but perpetuating negative stereotypes about Philadelphia schools is one of the things that make marketing them difficult. It's certainly not all on your shoulders - as I mentioned, the District does a terrible job of trumpeting their successful schools, professionals, and students.

I agree that there are some

I agree that there are some good public elementary schools. Masterman, Central, Girls High are also very good schools.

Masterman has had the National Chess Champion and Model UN Champions in the same year. Central was listed by Redbook several years ago as one of the best public schools in the United States. Vaux's chess team has been nationally ranked. So there are some successes.

But I used to do some student teaching at North Philadelphia high school, and have been inside many others and I can assure you not nearly enough is done to insure the safety of most Philadelphia schools, in my opinion.

The norm, for many schools, is kids who come in and put their heads down, do not take home books or bring them to school, do not do homework, etc. After passing period is over, kids coming in and slamming the doors, kids attending any class available, etc. That's not every school, but it is a lot of schools.

That's the fault of parents in my opinion. Of course, I also agree that broad stereotypes about the schools are way overbroad. Masterman is as good as any school in the Country, and those students come from the elementary school feeder system.

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I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

Thousands of Good Neighborhood Students

There are thousands of students in the non-magnet neighborhood public schools. I really don't think that there aren't "any good ones." And even the kids at Masterman, Central, etc., don't all appear out of nowhere -- most attend neighborhood elementary and junior highs. There are also students in the charter schools, and (on the private side) you can't forget our many Quaker schools, some of the best schools of any kind in the country.

We have a complex problem in our city schools, and it can't be resolved by closing down the magnets (instead of figuring out how they work and replicating that success in other schools), or by integration alone (without addressing the quality of schools in poorer neighborhoods, most students forced to attend failing schools will simply leave). It's not just test performance; it's also the rate of violence, management problems, and other noneducational issues. And the kids themselves are voting with their feet -- dropping out of city high schools at an alarming rate.

One solution may be to enlarge and diversify the number of magnet programs, both to retain students in the district who don't get into Masterman or the other existing magnets, and to attract more gifted teachers into the district. This was part of Vallas's proposal for Lankenau in Roxborough and elsewhere. More slots might also ensure that it doesn't take connections or a ridiculous amount of work to find spaces for bright students.

But all that does for the institution is stop the bleeding. To attract more talented teachers, you may need to relax contractual rules that given the teachers' union wide control over placement of new district teachers. Many people have expressed interest in teaching at a particular school (usually their neighborhood school) only to be told that they will have to enter the general pool, and might wind up teaching across town. In every school where school administrators have been allowed to make their own hiring decisions, parents, teachers, students, and administrators have all been extraordinarily happy with the results.

You also clearly need to improve the schools' infrastructure, and get violence under control. Both take money, goodwill, and a lot of hard work.

I went to GAMP and I can

I went to GAMP and I can tell you there was not even a remote chance that my mother would have sent me to the local high school-South Philly High (or Southern for peeps from SP)-it was a disaster. Magnet schools keep good students in public schools and families here.

Schools have to be quality and safe. At the time, South Philly high was niether. If you could avoid it, why send your child anywhere else. Problem is many of our schools aren't either and there are too few seats at the quality schools.

Admittedly, sasserfras

there is a problem with what I'm suggesting, that can be seen if you compare West Mt. Airy to East Mt. Airy.

In East Mt. Airy, once integrated schools became segregated practically overnight due to white flight.

In West Mt. Airy, once integrated schools became virtually segregated in spite of the absence of white flight and the existence of black middle-class residents. I can't speak with much specificity about the current state of the public schools in West Mt. Airy, but I haven't heard much about them that's very good, and I think what happened to public schools in that neighborhood should be used a abject lessson case study for learning what needs to be done to maintain quality schools.

Schools Need To Be Integrated To Be Better.

sasserfras,

"i don't think that schools need to be integrated. they just need to be better."

I strongly disagree that schools don't need to be integrated to be better. The Civil Rights Movement fought for years against the idea that Seperate, But Equal is not really equal. More money to hire highly qualified teachers along with improved safe facilities would be a good thing, and that might help attract white students.

I will say that I'm a little disappointed that my white liberal friends seem to be sending their kids to private schools, unless the kids get Masterman. This only go to prove my point.

I wouldn't be disappointed,

I wouldn't be disappointed, your black liberal friends send their kids to private schools, unless the kids get into Masterman.

GFS, Springside, Abington Friends are filled with them.

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I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

I think we need to be a bit

I think we need to be a bit more specific on the segregation issue.

The areas of Philly aren't segregated because different races do not want to live together. I am pretty sure they are segregated based on economics. I am sure blacks have no problem wanting to live in Fairmount and I am sure white people have no problem living north of Girard avenue if they had no fears of being shot and had a chance of decent schools.

The overwhelming majority of people I speak to about where I live do not ask me "how is it living around black people" they ask "do you feel comfortable walking outside after dark".

People that can afford to, typically do not live in crime infested areas. The problem with Philly is that the poor are overwhelmingly black, so a correlation of poor neighborhoods is that they are black neighborhoods.

Also, remember the race issue goes both ways. It is a very familiar statement to hear people in poor black neighborhoods not wanting white people to move in because "that means our taxes are going up".

The problem of segregation in philly is not race, but wealth.

That is why the creation of low income housing covering several blocks is a horrible practice and needs to be ended. Development should be mixed income so as to stop perpetuating the segregation of wealth.

Again, a perfect example is the Brewerytown/sharswood area. At 31st and Master you have hundreds of market rate condos going up. 7 blocks east you have hundreds of low income rentals going up. That is bad policy! And it is bad policy being perpetuated by Councilman Clarke.

They are creating one neighborhood of wealth and the next neighborhood of low wealth. That is perpetuating the segregation in this city.

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Staff member of Longacre for 5th Council District.
Longacre Website

I want to agree with you,

I want to agree with you, but the history of many Philadelphia neighborhoods is one of antipathy towards integration.

Crime is a big issue, but there are a lot of areas that are divided by race and crime/income is not the only issue. (B/c your post assumes whites are well to do and blacks are poor. Which does have a lot of truth, but does not answer the question of why middle class blacks are not moving into those recently gentrified areas.
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I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

In Philadlephia, the vast

In Philadlephia, the vast majority of the wealth is white and the vast majority of the poor is black. Statistically it is the truth.

And I can say one of the reaosns why middle class blacks are not moving into those recently gentrifying neighborhoods - many of them worked hard and spent their life to get out of them.

My neighbor does very well for himself with a dry cleaning business. He has been in this neighborhood for about 15 years. He is talking about getting out. I tell him now is not the time to leave. Things are finally starting to get better. He says he knows and he sees it, but he just doesn't know if he can deal with it anymore. He is thinking about cashing out and moving to a stable neighborhood.

And yes, the history has been about avoiding integration ... btu that is the topic of this thread. Are the times changing? I say over the last 10 years they have been.
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Staff member of Longacre for 5th Council District.
Longacre Website

Middle Class Blacks and Gentrification

Middle Class blacks are moving into gentrifying neighborhoods, but in smaller numbers and overwhelmingly those neighborhoods that already have black neighbors and histories: Mt Airy, Germantown, the Graduate Hospital, Overbrook, West Oak Lane. They're less likely to move to Pennsport, Fishtown, the Italian Market, or Fairmount.

Philly has a problem with race…

There, someone finally said it. Whether it’s “as bad” as Detroit or some other cities is not the question. The question is whether there is a problem, and the answer is yes.

It it where people are moving, or where they're not? I'll own it; I'm still renting partially because of Philly’s race problem. I tried house hunting here a few months ago, but quickly realized that I didn’t know enough about the neighborhoods. Sometimes it was the residents of some neighborhoods that made me feel unwelcome, other times friends or coworkers made comments. I've had other personal encounters, some subtle, some not so subtle. But yes, they most definitely had to due with race.

Try househunting as an

Try househunting as an interracial couple. :-)

Mt. Airy was one of the only places in the city where my wife and I felt both comfortable and not alone. We couldn't afford it there (or in University City, the Graduate Hospital...) so we wound up in upper Germantown. (Before a chain of events led us back to West Philly.)

Thinking Citywide, Acting Neighborhoodly

This is a "best practice" from the City of Delray Beach (FL) that I find interesting:

"Community dinners, which are efforts to introduce dissimilar neighborhoods to one another – say, a wealthy beachside area and a Haitian immigrant neighborhood. The dinners are usually held in neutral locations. The city coordinates the events, services clubs like the Rotary or Kiwanis serve the food, and participants usually bring a dish or two of their own. The idea is to widen the networks of neighborhood leaders and, not coincidentally, help them think beyond parochial interests."

It seems to me that one of our challenges as a City is not having ongoing, organic dialog between diverse populations at the inter and intra neighborhood level. The "community dinner" concept (or something similar) might be a way of facilitating this kind of dialog.

A nice idea

I heard Nutter talking on the radio the other day about some kind of community bus tours, to educate people about diverse communities - also a nice idea.

Nutter’s ideas for promoting cross-cultural awareness

I too liked the idea.

Nutter spoke about this on the Radio Times interview with MM Coane which is available at whyy.org.

It was the first time I heard him (or anyone for that matter) broach the idea of cross cultural tours to get folks out of their neighborhoods and give them opportunity to learn about other communities/cultures in the city.

Supporting Michael Nutter for Mayor

that stuff sounds great...

but come on guys. I went to Powel School in West Philly, Dan and Charles went to Project LEARN, Gaeatano went to GAMP. We went to integrated schools in Philadelphia in the last 20 years and experienced many of the "cross-cultural" experiences that you guys refer to organically. And guess what? There's still plenty of racism and classism in Philly.

All of the suggestions above are great, but they are not getting down to the root of the problem or the solutions to it.

race in the Mayor's race

again, to summarize Dan above, this thread is intended to examine a dualism:

1- people, especially the media, has been saying that racism is not rearing its ugly head in this Mayor's largely because Knox has polled well among blacks and Nutter among whites.

Meanwhile, point 2, is Dan's reminder that:

And, lest, anyone think we are in some sort of post-racial utopia in Philadelphia, a quick check of the popular site Phillyblog shows a couple people talking about public housing residents as “vermin” and “rats,” and basically insinuate that Chaka Fattah’s mother is in a cult. Meanwhile, Mike Nutter has been deemed “too white” to attract African-American votes and was called "watermelon man" by civic booster Milton Street. And Inquirer reporters following Bob Brady noted that out of his earshot, racial epithets were casually being tossed around a bar in the Northeast where he was campaigning.

Which brings us back to the original questions which is not "how do you end racism," but "does racism, and its inextricable link to class and classism, play a role in this Mayor's race (and Council as well, where the 4th, 5th, and 7th and the 8th districts all have some inter-racial competition).

There's a whole lot of other

There's a whole lot of other stuff in Dan's post, especially about racial segregation in neighborhoods. But point taken.

The gist I would take away from my original post is that segregation and cross-racial voting can coexist, because white middle-class attitudes about crime, education, and (at least sometimes) race and economic realities affecting most blacks affect where people live with their families, but not how they vote.

What are Fattah's numbers among whites? What are Brady's among blacks? Who's winning the Hispanic vote? Is all the "Evans is a great candidate, but he doesn't connect with people" just code for "white people don't like him, and black people don't like him enough?" We'd need to answer at least those questions to have a better picture of how race is or isn't affecting this election.

More Cross-Racial Voting Than Ever This Year

I expect there will be far cross-racial voting for mayor this year than ever before, with Brady and Knox getting a higher percentage of the black vote than did any white candidates with serious black opposition since Green and Rizzo in 1971, and Nutter, Evans, and Fattah getting a higher percentage of the white the vote than any black mayoral candidates ever.

What significance this has for the future of Philadelphia beyond mayoral candidacies is hard to say. It is a sign that there is growing recognition that one's race is a human characteristic--like height, weight, hair color, eye color, etc.--that is hardly determinative of one's worth as a person or one's ability to perform a given job.

It is also a sign that both white people and black people are willing to free themselves from racial stereotypes. How many additional people will choose not to move when someone of another race moves in nearby? How many more people will be willing to reach out to people of other races for friendship and joint activities? How many more people will see Philadelphia diversity as an asset and not as a terrible burden?

It is impossible to come up with precise answers to these questions, but it is encouraging that we are reaching a point where these questions can be asked.

nutter's non-sequitor

this kind of rhetoric, that he can promote tourism within the city, is empty.

raise your hand if youre going to take one of these tours.

now, raise your hand if your willing to see city money (come from anywhere else to) go to this.

nice try, nutter.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

fortunately, there are other candidates.

brady has a pragmatic and thoughtful way of dealing with crime - that does not involve cordoning off black neighborhoods, ie instant ghetto-ization. clearly that disaster-in-the-making will only lead to capital flight and further race antipathy. nutters nightmare vision is anything but integrationist.

brady, on the other hand, simply demands that police do their job more effectively. his plan for re-vamping the parole officer system certainly offer more security to POs and will reduce recidivism. the fact of more cops on the beat and more oversight will ensure that laws are applied nd applied more fairly...certainly more fairly than under nutters bizarre plan.

finally, i would argue that nutters idea of selling his people up the river might indeed be gathering white votes, perhaps for the wrong reason.

with nutter as mayor - im trying to get the picture here - is he really trying to turn black philadelphia neighborhoods into new bantustans, then offer publicly funded slumming tours?

normally i save the language for when i bang my head on somehting, but what the fuck is that?

jeez

then we come to knox:

much the same can be same might be said of non-white support for knox on the basis of his wealth. if his support from other races indeed comes from his wealth, philadelphia should beware of what sort of role models it is projecting for itself. knox is, at best, a hustler. it would be a pity to see a philadelphia that models itself after a man who crassly made his money by ripping off his neighbors. (not to mention the fact that he got stung for it a couple of times.)

on the same note, would it not be better for philly to have its political leadership in the shape of a man who worked his way up to the top with the sweat of his brow? would it not be better to hold up a man for whom the greater interests of the city are at the top of his agenda? would it not be better to have a mayor who had a clean ethics record?

already, brady draws his support from an integrated base.

if youre looking for a candidate who integrates philadelphia,
and integrates philadelphia for the right reasons, there is only one left standing.

that man is bob brady.

I think it's a good idea

Most of the neighborhoods I've seen have tons to offer in terms if intra-city tourism and I think better publicity of neighborhoods is a great idea. For example, I actually make a point of going to neighborhood festivals. Last year I went to the Italian Market Festival, Fairmount Arts Crawl and the Manayunk Art Festival. And I took people with me. (I tried to go to a few others, something in Germantown and Ogontz, but got lost...).

Look at our great schools.

Look at our great schools. Masterman, Central, Cappa. They are diverse schools and to my knowledge free of race issues.
I teach 8th grade. In 13 years of teaching mostly minority students I have only witnessed one racial incident. I believe it is possible to reach our dreams because I see it and live it every day.

what are you talking about?

I went to Central. There may have never been a fight or altercation between people of different races, but from the admission policy, to the distribution of people of color in AP and star classes to the rules imposed on black kids vs. white sin terms of leaving school grounds and treatment by administration, racism was alive and well at Central.

There's no doubt that people of different races can get along together, but maybe what this conversation is missing is a definition for racism:

From Wikipedia:

Institutional racism (also known as structural racism, state racism or systemic racism) is racial discrimination by governments, corporations, educational institutions or other large organizations with the power to influence the lives of many individuals. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is viewed by many to be an organization meeting these criteria. Stokely Carmichael is credited for coining the phrase institutional racism in the late 1960s. He defined the term as "the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture or ethnic origin".[3]

From various dictionaries:

* According to the Oxford English Dictionary, racism is a belief or ideology that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as being either superior or inferior to another race or races.
* The Merriam-Webster's Webster's Dictionary dictionary defines racism as a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race, and that it is also the prejudice based on such a belief.
* The Macquarie Dictionary defines racism thus: the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others.

Alright, here we go.

Hey kids. I am still a bit delirious from finals, and far from an expert on race, Philadelphia politics, or the messy historical intersection of the two, but:

I think that the conversation that is NOT happening in this thread is happening between the lines of the (truly voluminous) Nutter/Fattah wars happening all over this site. So many words, a lot gets revealed.

Still, maybe the storyline about cross-racial support for Nutter is true, and will prove to be the one with lasting meaning. I'm hopeful but not totally convinced.

I think the anti-Fattah pro-Nutter rhetoric is (not always, but often enough that it is worth addressing here) rooted in a complicated mash of class and race anxieties and prejudices and good old fashioned, "what about me?" [Insert Dan's screaming picture here.]

The virulence of the types and language of the criticism leveled against Fattah are revealing, and I think more about the speaker than the object (not that there aren't valid policy and priority criticisms to be made, such as on budgeting). There is repeated emphasis on Fattah's education, speech, use of allegedly racialized markers like particular forms of music in his ads. And then there is DeWitt's oompa loompa fever dream ... an image of a Fattah win as the return of the jungle.

I don't want to overstate. I don't think that white Nutter supporters who hate or vigorously argue against Fattah are particularly racist.

But I DO think that they have privilege and are HORRIFIED that someone is running a campaign without their concerns and needs and interests at the center of it. Because class and race are tied up, everywhere always, this essentially class-based "why aren't you paying attention to me" thing gets messy fast. And Fattah (in a sort of funny displacement) gets called out for racializing the election.

I'm not pulling up the 1984893 examples of all this, but people can feel free to hash it out below. I will say anecdotally that the exact same type and style and amplitude of Nutter support is the norm among the politically aware students I go to law school with. They are overwhelmingly white and privileged and will make an obscene amount of money very soon. Nutter makes sense to them because his analysis of what the city needs and should be exactly echoes theirs.

-- Jennifer, who is probably voting for Nutter because her 'gut' (I forget if YPP decided this was an okay basis for an electoral decision or not) tells her he would probably be the best mayor despite his horrible crime emergency idea, and who is definitely voting for Nutter if that is necessary to make sure Knox never enters City Hall, and who does not want to be quoted in the City Paper (hi Dan!).

I agree with your analysis Jennifer

You say:

There is repeated emphasis on Fattah's education, speech, use of allegedly racialized markers like particular forms of music in his ads. And then there is DeWitt's oompa loompa fever dream ... an image of a Fattah win as the return of the jungle.

I don't want to overstate. I don't think that white Nutter supporters who hate or vigorously argue against Fattah are particularly racist.

But I DO think that they have privilege and are HORRIFIED that someone is running a campaign without their concerns and needs and interests at the center of it. Because class and race are tied up, everywhere always, this essentially class-based "why aren't you paying attention to me" thing gets messy fast. And Fattah (in a sort of funny displacement) gets called out for racializing the election.

I think this is true. And much like I am living in a Kafka-esque dream world, every time I mention that, BECAUSE, I am a Fattah supporter, I get accused of stirring the racial pot.

There's been so much bullshit in this Mayor's race about how "advanced" Philadelphians have become in dealing with race. You lay out perfectly how untrue that is.

However, as I said in another comment, how can Nutter supporters who don't approach their support of Nutter from a classist or racist view do more to counter their Nutter supporting peers negative views? I can't recall a time here or on other blogs where one Nutter supporter has said to another, you are wrong.

Did anyone challenge DeWitt's Oompa Lumpa thing?

Dan mentions this above, but in the profile of Bib Brady that appeared in the Inky, something similar happens where white NE folks make racist comments about the black candidates in Brady's earshot. Why didn't he say something--like, I don't want support from racist or classist assholes?

On oompa loompas and the supposedly post- post- everything world

Dan and I challenged it.

I also think that an interesting conversation that's not happening (and should be tagged at least as an issue):

We have a situation where black women who have managed to gained political power--still a pretty rare thing--are being challenged by reform or progressive-oriented candidacies (Blackwell, Miller). There are good reasons for wanting to unseat both women. However, whatever reform and progressive means in the context of the blog or this particular political moment in the city, I think we need to think about the promise of the movements that brought some of the incumbent minority and minority women politicians into power in the city and be dedicated to fostering an inclusive group of candidates as we (rightly) support challenges to now-entrenched power where that needs to happen.

A whole long conversation could be happening--though isn't, at least here, about how to do that.

Supporting Maria's candidacy is a great start, and she's received an impressive amount of support. But even in this supposedly hopeful post-racial climate, conversations about her viability are always explicitly in racial terms. E.g., "Is she underestimating the demographic makeup of the district?"

Jennifer

No.

Dan mentions this above, but in the profile of Bib Brady that appeared in the Inky, something similar happens where white NE folks make racist comments about the black candidates in Brady's earshot. Why didn't he say something--like, I don't want support from racist or classist assholes?

Inside a pub Brady visited in the Northeast that weekend, the N-word could be heard outside the candidate's earshot.

----
I support Michael Nutter for Mayor. My slate.

Since Jennifer is calling

Since Jennifer is calling out this criticism of Nutter supporters, while probably voting for Nutter herself, I'll likewise detach myself from the campaign stuff for a second.

It's clear that this kind of pro-Nutter, anti-Fattah support that Jen describes exists, and it's reared its head on this site. (I missed the Oompa Loompa thing.) I think this suggests two things about how racism has changed in our society, and how it continues to affect the mayoral campaign.

1) As I've said before, racism in most cases isn't walking around with conscious hatred of a racial, religious, or ethnic group; it's something you fall into, when you find a particular trope or mode of thinking acceptable. I tell my students that racism is like plagiarism -- sometimes, you blatantly and consciously cheat, and sometimes, you're just intellectually lazy, and you start spouting half-remembered quotes or cliches without really knowing where they come from. This can happen without any conscious racist intent -- in fact, if it were conscious, you would never do it.

2) Most younger, privileged people that I know (and teaching at Penn, I see a few) practice a particular kind of color-blind racism, where racial markers and prejudices are debiologized and translated into attitudes about work, family structure, to a certain extent education, etc. -- what they see as middle-class values (if they could see things in terms of class, either, but that's another story). Screen "Do the Right Thing" for a group of 18-year-old Penn students, and you'll have one white student after another praising Mookie, because he has a job and spends some time with his son. They see every other black or Latino person in Bed-Stuy as idle, lazy. And they all hate Pino, because he uses the word "nigger." That's what "racism" is for these kids -- either cartoonish hatred or even more often, the use of racist language. And I imagine that's what it is for their parents as well.

3) What most people with these kind of racial attitudes like is someone who allows them to be color-blind -- to act as though race doesn't exist. Anyone who's perceived to be making a racial appeal, on either side, is suspect. Now Fattah has been smart here, and right: he's never made his campaign a referendum on race, but poverty. But the problem is that even though they wouldn't grasp it this way, poverty is the lens through which these kids see race, and vice versa. And even though they're pretty thick when it comes to non-obvious signs of racism, they're sharp when it comes to markers of racial difference. Some might feel the same antipathy towards the "Tom Knox: Irish Catholic" sign as they do towards the absence of white faces (besides Bill Clinton's) in Fattah's TV ads -- not just because they tend to be a pretty WASPy bunch.

Brady doesn't resonate with them, because they don't want to be carpenters or policeman, and know even fewer blue-collar whites than they do blacks of any class. I don't know why more aren't interested in Tom Knox or Dwight Evans. (I don't know why more people of any age, class, or color aren't interested in Dwight Evans. I don't think Dwight does either.)

I think Nutter is at his racially weirdest when he trots out lines like "I don't care if you're black, white, green, or purple" -- which in my experience is either a setup to a meaningless truism or a terrible racist torrent of anger. But they do play well, especially for a group of people whose response to conscious racial prejudice has been to try to free themselves of racial vision altogether: the "content of their character" crowd. But it is a double-edged sword for Nutter, since he has to duck charges of racial inauthenticity. "I'm from 55th and Larchwood; that's as black as it gets."

I stand corrected

I just read Monica Yant Kinney's profile of Nutter in today's Inquirer ("Old School DJ Raps To a Mayoral Beat"). What I thought was Nutter's late-boomer-era racial "weirdness" was actually Nutter quoting Sugar Hill Gang's late-boomer-era hip-hop anthem "Rapper's Delight":

Now what you hear is not a test, I'm rappin' to the beat

And me, the groove, and my friends are gonna try to move your feet

See, I am Wonder Mike, and I like to say hello

To the black, to the white, the red, and the brown, the purple and yellow.

Supporting Michael Nutter for Mayor.

The 'Do the Right Thing' phenomenon

is a good, clear illustration of what I was trying to get at.

Jennifer

The great class debate

The overwhelming tone I hear from the various blogs and newspapers and editorials is that it’s time to save Philly. Not a privileged (or underprivileged), few, but the whole city. Of course, rational people can disagree over how this is done. Hell, we’ve done it over and over on this very blog. But I think the reason why race has not entered into the story as much in this race is because people are thinking about the future of the city and not just their own selves. But that doesn’t mean they want to be left out of the debate for the next eight years.

The great class debate is real and candidates ignore it at their own peril. Last week, there was an excellent letter in the Daily News (I believe), from a middle class working single mother railing about programs for the poor when the middle class suffer as well. She spoke of her own resentment at working all day just to pay rent and a gas bill while her layabout neighbors get (very nice) public housing and LIHEAP. There are a lot of voters out there just like her, scratching their heads during this election and wondering, ‘what about me?’

When you listen to Fattah’s rhetoric about his priority of saving the 25% of Philadelphians living in poverty, of course it will raise the hackles of the other 75%. From some of his statements, it sounds like he will focus on poverty to the exclusion of everything and everybody else. You don't have to be privileged to be out of touch with that message; there are plenty of middle class folks struggling out there who feel like they're being excluded too. Fattah has made poverty his Moby Dick, and it’s a laudable goal. But everyone knows how that story ends and a lot of people are afraid he’ll take the city down with him.

I have privellege

I have yet to earn more than $50,000 a year in my lifetime, which when I have some kids will be ok, but will make me solidly middle-class. However, I still have privilege largely because I am white and male.

However, you make privilege sound like an either/or thing when you say:

You don't have to be privileged to be out of touch with that message; there are plenty of middle class folks struggling out there who feel like they're being excluded too.

privellege is a variable--some have more and some have less than others.

I've worked on economic justice issues more often than not for as long as I have been working and this notion of the middle-class people who resent their low-income neighbors for getting better services than they do is a false construct. I know some people really FEEL that way, but factually they are wrong.

A single mother with 2 kids who needs help goes on TANF (which replaced AFDC, which is basically welfare) and she gets about $500 a month. The Section 8 waiting list is about 2 years long.

Beyond that, Fattah has talked a lot about poverty to highlight the dramatic problem and need. However, every single one of his programs helps middle class Philadelphians more--like the people who need help from the city for basic systems repairs, or maintaining property taxes for the elderly, or providing doctor's visits to people who don't have healthcare OR qualify for Medicaid or making green home building easy and cheap to do in Philadlephia or making SEPTA services better and more efficient or making government more open and accountable.

Fattah has laid out a plan for ALL Philadelphians, but because he has chosen to highlight reduction of poverty as opposed to reduction of tax revenues as his passion, he is accused of being unable to govern all.

You don't have to sell it to me, Ray Murphy

But you do have to sell it to the rest of Philadelphia. I agree that when you look at his proposals, a lot of Fattah's programs will help all Philadelphians. Unfortunately, it doesn't come across that way in his commercials or the debates. My point is that perhaps the reason Knox and Nutter's numbers are rising, and across all racial demographics, is because they are appealing to everybody, across income levels. Meanwhile, the folks over at Phillyblog will be taking a shot tonight everytime Fattah says the word "poverty."

two things going on

you may be right there J that i don' have to sell it to you, that it has to be everyone else, but outside the context of the horse race for Mayor, the fact that a message about the moral imperative to help the poor, while enacting policies that help ALL Philadelphians, to me, speaks to the fact that classism is alive and well in Philadelphia, and of course, by proxy, racism.

This has been some

This has been some thoughtful analysis by all and I have enjoyed reading it.

A couple of random thoughts.

1. I have -- and most people I know -- believed that the Northeast was not a friendly place for folks of color. Remember events at George Washington High School about 10 years ago. (Of course, that event was also an example for those who lived in the Northeast about classism as well -- moving poor Blacks to the Northeast.) In my mind, that was an example of pure segregation. The history of its development also has that as its theme.

2. Blackwell and Miller view themselves as reform candidates. Not in the sense that most on this site use the term, i.e., systemic change w/ progressive ideology. But as progressives b/c they focus entirely on the poor. (Jannie w/ the homeless and Donna out of Dave Richardson's camp.) It seems that the two movements could agree on something.

3. A lot of the City is very poor. Most African Americans/Latinos who live in the City live in abject poverty. (Abandoned buildings on your block, where bricks fall off and hit kids, to me is poor.) Their representatives focus almost exclusively on the issues of poverty to the exclusion of all else. (My critique has been that by overspending in the budget and overtaxation that actually hurts poor people the most, b/c its regressive, rich people don't pay taxes and poor people need city services that are to be paid by taxes.)

4. African Americans, and to some extent Latinos, tried very hard to get the status quo of the Ward System integrated. Bowser for Mayor, Hardy Williams for Mayor, Dave Richardson, etc., were all movements to get City Government to be responsive. Bill Gray's Northwest Machine also had as its goal bringing in minority politicians to power. (Nutter is an example, Tasco, Louise Williams Bishop, John White, George Burrell, lots of judges, etc.)

5. There is a sharp class divide amongst African American politicians. Burrell v. Blackwell. Street v. White. Tasco v. Blackwell.

6. The reform movement, as I see it, would do well to try to build better bridges b/w the communities of color who believe that they are engaging in progressive politics and reformers. (That's actually an issue for cities everywhere and the Democratic party generally.)

__________________________________________________________________________
I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

I think the issue many

I think the issue many progressives and reformers have with both Blackwell and Miller is that while they campaign on progressive, anti-poverty issues, in many instances they seem more concerned with their own power and enriching themselves and those around them than helping anyone else. As are many of the progressive organizations in those districts -- CDCs, Germantown Settlement, etc.

Ultimately, the position I would stake with respect to reform, for all Philadelphia politicians, especially progressives, is that ultimately embracing reform helps your progressive bona fides, since it proves that you have the full, uncoerced support of your voter base and that you serve no one but the people of your district.

In the eighth district, not just one but two progressive candidates (Ackelsberg and Bass) are trying to beat Donna Reed Miller -- out of frustration on exactly this score.

I would much rather have more Marian Tascos wield real political and institutional power in the city than DRM or Blackwell for another day.

This is the conversation I hoped would surface

about the quest to unseat Blackwell and Miller. Cool. I do think though that we have to be careful how we wield "reform." Timothy's formulation above, that reform is progressive because "it proves that you have the full, uncoerced support of your voter base and that you serve no one but the people of your district," is a great start.

Without devolving into absurd racial scoreboard keeping, though, I think any progressive/reform effort that seeks to replace a generation of minority and minority-female politicians (see Truthtold's invocation of that generation above) should be very attentive to the need to support racial- and gender-diverse leadership in city politics. Sam may be right that the PFC slate is beautiful, but if we are drawing up our dream list of City Council challengers, mine would be less overwhelmingly male.

This is--hopefully obviously--not just or even mostly about elections. It is about the priorities of self-identified progressives and the need to interrogate the replication of structures of power and exclusion.

Oh, I'd also be interested in Truthtold expanding on the class divisions within Council.

Jennifer

City Council is a relatively

City Council is a relatively small body, unlike the gargantuan State House of Representatives or State Senate. So there is sense of camaraderie that crosses class lines. So I don't mean to suggest in my example above that the class lines play out in council discussions. Aside from that, most legislation on the City level gets voted out unanimously. There is very little debate on most legislation. And most councilmembers make about the same amount of money and live fairly similarly.

Also, because many councilmembers are incumbents, and ward leaders, everyone knows eachother very well. So there is a broad support of existing incumbents.

But what does play out is the fact that Councilmembers have constituencies. And there are some very reliable things about those constituencies that lead to positions that will bring councilmembers together. An example, if you represent any part of the Northeast, you must be opposed to a new trial for that copkiller Mumia. (I am not taking that position, just showing the feeling. The Northeast Times endorsement of Nutter uses a modified version of that analysis in rejecting Fattah.)

Conversely, many who live in and around parts of the City with high African American or Latino populations have a serious concern/fear of the police. So strong pro police positions without adding community support/interface concepts will get you a campaign issue in the Primary. But, for most, is a position that their base constituencies will point out.

However, the class divide that has been taking place in the African American community has been going on for years politically.

Bill Gray versus Milton Street for Congress is a good example of those lines. Milton Street, then State Senator, referred to then Congressman Bill Gray in all sorts of derogatory terms, but most highlighted the feeling that Bill Gray was part of the middle class Black community seeking to run the City. (Bill Gray was, until recently, a pastor in a prominent North Philly church and grew up in North Philly, but Milton thought he had hit on a sense.)

The Northwest Alliance that so many African American leaders came out of focused on Mt. Airy (which still had several white ward leaders and elected officials representing majority African American areas). Many African American leaders were in that group, Gussie Clark, Tasco, George Burrell (three members on City Council at once.)

However, that Alliance was not the only one in the City. At the same time, in North Philly, and West Philly African Americans were trying to push out an older group of African American politicians who had stayed beyond their time in the mind of some. (Congressman Nix, Cecil B. Moore in his last years, etc.) Dave Richardson, who is/was considered a giant in Germantown, also had a movement which focused on Germantown. (Donna Reed Miller is out of that movement.)

That divide showed itself in the Burrell/Blackwell race for Mayor (Rendell won.) It sort of showed in Street/White/Weinberg -- but White supporters fled to vote for Street in the waning days.

So what is interesting is that there is this tripartite election movement. Older, legacy African American politicians holding office, white challengers who are reform minded, and middle class challengers complaining about the older legacy African American politician, while competing for their base. (The 5th has that, the 4th has that, the 8th has that dynamic, the 9th is missing the white candidate, and the 2nd has flipped where the legacy candidate is not an African American but the challenger is.)

I would caution the importance of including either the poor or middle African American constituencies in the reform movement. (I am not saying that they are not, but it is something to be careful of.) Because many African American voters are concerned about replacing the African American elected official they may have issues with over a non-African American, b/c it seems to violate the whole purpose of the 60s and 70s political movements I have described above. Also, there are African American potential candidates/communities who have the same sorts of problems that most reformers have with the existing power structure.

I also don't mean to suggest that African American voters will support someone solely because they are an African American. I think that day is over. (Note high support of Clinton over Obama, higher numbers for Knox over Nutter and strong support David Cohen received.)

But some of my friends who live in Center City complain about Miller and Blackwell (and John Street) and sometimes fret over how "those folks continue to get re-elected" (b/c virtually every one they live around and talk to do not support them) and I think the answer is that many voters are older African Americans who are giving them credit and remember them as reformers against a long defeated Rizzo-like power structure.

This example is not unique to Philly. Compare Booker/Sharpe in Newark. Same phenomenon.

__________________________________________________________________________
I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

One Last Comment

After spending most of my life in Detroit, Philadelphia still is the closest thing to an integrated, racism-free utopia I have ever seen.

Given the comparison, it may not be saying much, but most of the people I know from other cities say the same thing.

The Best Way to Integrate Is To Appeal Across Racial Lines

The best way to integrate anything is to have something that appeals across racial lines.

Masterman and Central appeal to all races because of their high academic standards. The school for the performing arts appeals to students interesting in the performing arts of all races.

More magnet schools would produce more integration.

More magnet services of any kind would produce more integration.

Integration for the sake of integration has little support. Integration as a byproduct of offering opportunities that are broadly appealing as a lot of support.

Since when is Mark Cohen...

The moral compass for Philadelphia?

Arguing that Philadelphians need to be bribed into inter-cultural interactions like educating children of different races is beyond cynical. Integration is both an end and a means to a more equitable and just society.

It is an embarrassment that this guy draws a publicly funded salary. Perhaps when you are on your next publicly funded shopping spree at Barnes and Noble, Rep. Cohen, you can pick up a book or too that tells the story of Philadelphia's shameful past regarding racial segregation and strife and understand where I am coming from.

"I honestly haven't made my mind up about who I want to vote for for Mayor yet, but I am leaning toward Nutter and Fattah"

I Have Over 50 Years of Dealing With Racial Questions

I have over 50 years of dealing with racial questions. I went to an integrated elementary school (Pennell), an integrated junior high school (Wagner), and an integrated high school (Central). I grew up in an integrated neighborhood (Broad & Olney area), and live in an integrated neighborhood today (Castor Gardens).

As a high school student at Central, I was a leader student efforts to send books for the education of Mississippi school children, at a time when there was effectively no high school system for black Mississippians.

As a law student at Temple, I worked with minority law students to end Temple's discriminatory attitude towards them.

As a state legislator, I have been at the forefront of efforts to protect and expand civil rights in voting, criminal justice, and education. In 2002, because of my record of leadership, advocacy and my attentiveness to numerous community concerns, I was the first white legislator to receive an award from the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

When the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative action program was challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court, I was the lead counsel, working pro bono, on behalf of about three dozen legislators, the Philadelphia NAACP, and the Black Clergy in filing an amicus brief before the Supreme Court supporting the maintenance of affirmative action. Sandra Day O'Connor's majority opinion upholding affirmative action followed my brief in asserting that the verdict of the trial court was not supported by the evidence before the trial court.

Full civil rights for all people is not just one of many causes for me. It is one of the great motivating passions of my life, strongly influencing my support of candidates from Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy in 1964 and 1968 to Barack Obama in 2008.

More straight up racism

From a string of comments on the NextMayor:

Now I just cannot vote for Obama or Chaka Fatwah

Posted by: Anonymous | May 7, 2007 3:58 PM

Fattah's mother asked her boys to take African names as a part of the black power movement in the 1960's. Why does that make people make comments like the one above?

The short answer is that

The short answer is that people are idiots.

The slightly longer answer is that jokes about "foreign-sounding" names, whether African, Asian, Arab/Middle Eastern, Hispanic, or (less often) Jewish, Polish, or Italian, is one of the last refuges of stupidity-racism in the US.

if only racism had retreated to its last refuges

come on Short, you really believe that?

Much like with the Don Imus incident, there are white people out there who will take any opportunity they can to depersonalize, dehumanize or disempower people of color.

This is not the first time Fattah's name has been made fun of and it's a pretty small, but clear example of racism.

I don't care that people are idiots--that's a battle we'll never win. I do care that people who have power in our society, and all white people have access to privilege and thus power, that people of color do not, are using that power--ie racism--to try to win an election.

I think the key words in

I think the key words in "one of the last refuges of stupidity-racism" above are "one of" and "stupidity-racism." There are plenty of other refuges of all kinds of racism in America. And "stupidity-racism" really is racism, not just stupidity.

If I had to define "stupidity-racism," it would be racism that acknowledges the speaker's own ignorance and somehow revels in it.

A better example than Imus -- which isn't stupidity racism but some really hateful shit -- are politicians refusing to learn how to pronounce someone's name -- say Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, to think of one example that comes to mind. It is about privilege -- racism always is, whether it's people at the top trying to stay there or two groups at or near the bottom who are economically competing with and fearful of each other. (Say, the traditional racism between the blue-collar Irish, Italian, Latino, and Black folks.)

Now when you're talking about institutional racism, you're really talking about something different. When you're talking about the color-blind racism of my Penn students -- who would never make fun of Chaka Fattah's name -- you're talking about something different. Racism has shades and hues, and finds lots of nefarious and multifarious places to hide. Racism is smarter than all of us.

yes I know

I know the difference between institutional and personal racism. At the end of the day though, making fun of Fattah's name is racist. Period. I am not sure why you feel the need to mitigate the impacts of that racism or apologize for it.

I'm not mitigating or

I'm not mitigating or apologizing for it, at all. You asked why people would say these things, and I said that some people's racism makes them think it's okay to be (or act) ignorant. That's it.

it was a rhetorical question

but i am glad we agree.

Oh, for May 15

It goes to how nasty the mayoral stuff has gotten that even when I'm trying to back you up, you think I'm arguing with you. :-)

almost 7 days

can't wait!

Chaka Fattah on Nutter's Race

I now would not vote for Chaka Fattah under any circumstance. In case you missed his race-baiting scumbag moment from last night's debate, here it is:

During the hour-long encounter at the National Constitution Center, Chaka Fattah and Michael Nutter went at it bitterly over race, with Fattah stunning the crowd by accusing Nutter of having "to remind himself that he's an African American."

Congressman Fattah: do you have to remind yourself that you are an arrogant, rich, asshole who pretends to care about poor people while you eat caviar and sip martinis at your shishi Country Club? Do you have to remind yourself that you're not really as smart as you think you are?

Thanks for helping to quell the city's racial tensions, Mr. Congressman. Now go back to Washington and play golf.

Asshole

Oops

Alex's wrath

I am not going to have time today to get into a flame war with Alex today, especially since an Alex scorned is someone none of us particularly likes to argue with, but Alex, please.

I posted a comment on Mike's post here but basically Nutter is proposing a policy to allow any member of the police force to stop and frisk citizens and prevent public gatherings. He is then saying that there is no way this could be construed as a racially motivate policy or a polciy complicit in racial profiling because he himself is black.

That's the truth about what happened last night.

This thread is still intended to provoke a thoughtful response to Dan's question above, which was:

So, where are we then? Is it that we have advanced as a city, or is it that we just don’t talk about it anymore? Are we acknowledging the challenges we face and solving problems or are we papering over them and hoping they go away? And given the incredibly different opportunities in life that the average white child in Philadelphia will see, as opposed to his African-American counterpart, is it possible to have a discussion like this without coming back to class, as well? And lastly, what can the next Mayor do- and what can we do- to change course as a City?

the truth about what happened last night.

Is that Fattah claimed that Nutter had to remind himself that he is black. There's no parsing it in any way, shape or form. I won't get into a flame war about this either, but if you were to say "Alex, you have to look in the mirror to remind yourself that you're Jewish" I think we'd have one badly scorned hothead. And in the profound words of the Incredible Hulk: "You don't want to see me when I'm mad". ;-)

ok...

There is no disputing the "truth" you mention above but there is another truth that you keep editing out which is that Michael Nutter is aggressively proposing, as solution to violence, a policy that will discriminate against people based on their race and that HAS discriminated against people because of their races in different places.

Jennifer and Dan have written far more eloquently and in detail about this than I can, but how can you justify that?

Which takes us back to the original question of this post: how does race play into this Mayor's race? If you want to end that conversation with Fattah's remark, fine, but that is a very limited and ultimately useless view on race in this campaign.

The simple fact is that if it were Tom Knox, not Nutter, who was supporting stop and frisk in the very expansive way that Nutter is, HE would be called a racist.

The fact that Nutter, unlike Knox, is black has changed the nature of the conversation.

In a global sense, that is really interesting, but it does not change the fact that a policy is on the table that would limit the rights of more blacks than whites, and whether or not a majority of Philadelphians support that plan or not, it does in fact mean that race is now and HAS ALREADY been in play with this election.

I would disagree with Ray

I would disagree with Ray that ending the conversation "with Fattah's remark... is a very limited and useless view on race in this campaign."

It might actually be the most revealing moment yet. Think about what it's about: racial authenticity (clearly) and also, more charitably to Fattah, who is affected by mayoral policies over and against who makes those policies. It also speaks, in a number of different ways, to the intersection and conflict between race and class in the city and in this election.

Nutter has charged -- rightly or wrongly -- that the murders of hundreds of black men and a disturbing number of black women have gone unaddressed because of the victims and perpetrators' race and class (people with criminal records living in poor neighborhoods), AND because of the race of the mayor, police commissioner, and other people in key positions, which has stifled criticism and pointing out the racially disproportionate nature of the murders. (The last data I saw said that African-Americans are nearly twice as likely to be killed per capita in Philadelphia than nationwide. And the nationwide average is already disproportionately high.)

Fattah has charged -- rightly or wrongly -- that Nutter's solution to this problem invites racial profiling and that Nutter is trying to use his race to deflect valid criticism of this program. He's also said that Nutter is using his race to make a racial appeal to voters, that focusing on murders of (or by) African-Americans deflects attention from murders of (or by) other racial and ethnic groups, and last, that Nutter seems to need to remind himself that he's black. (This last claim is clearly the strangest and may be the most hurtful, both as a thing to say and to Fattah's already sliding positive/negative numbers.)

But -- in principle -- what both candidates are saying is that it's not enough to have a black mayor, a black police commissioner, or black representation in council to have policies that benefit black people. (In a similar, not quite as race-specific move, Evans argued last night that city representation in the schools was less important than better schools.) This might be part of the shift in racial politics in the city that Dan is looking for -- not post-racial necessarily, but one that actively question whether representation, in the form of the identity of the man or woman in the chair, is enough.

Of course, then they blow the whole thing when Nutter says "I'm black" and Fattah effectively says, "He's not black; I'm really black.

Supporting Michael Nutter for Mayor.

I was out of the loop this

I was out of the loop this weekend and wanted to write a response, but after seeing all of the above, I really didn't know where to start. So, I'm starting over.

Sometimes, when I read things on this blog about being poor versus being privileged, I can't help but chuckle. Why? Because Philadelphia is not a sociology classroom. Things do not fall neatly into these themes--if you are black you are poor or, even better, if you are white you are privileged. And, I believe it is assumptions like this that make race and class an issue in Philadelphia.

I can speak to this first hand--just because you are white in Philadelphia does not mean you have privilege. Yes, I am aware that globally there is a belief that whites more easily move from class to class, which is something I believe is relatively true. But, that is global. Here in Philadelphia, there are many poor and working poor white families who would laugh if they heard they had privilege. If you do not believe me, I offer my own childhood, which I have written about numerous times, as exhibit "A". But, there is more. I would like people to take a few hours and get into their cars and drive through Southwest Philadelphia, Grays Ferry, South Philly, Kensington, Port Richmond and Frankford and go around telling the white-folk in those places they have "privilege." After the initial laugh, I would believe you would get a justified ass-whooping or "Kenso-stomp." It just isn't the case.

In making my own calculations over this weekend, I counted on one hand the number of high school friends who during the late 1990s overdosed and died in the oxy-cotin epidemic that hit parts of South Philly. I'm sure their families are comforted by knowing that because they were white they had "privilege."

Then, on many hands I counted the number of times me or my high school friends were jumped, robbed or had a weapon of some sort used on us by people who were white and black in South Philly. I can only tell you how comforted I was being kicked and beat for a bike because I had "privilege."

I counted the number of times this "corner" messed with a "corner" my friends hung on and how many times I was asked "what are we going to do about it" or "are you with us."

The number of times I walked through different a white-ethnic community to visit a high school friend to have rocks thrown at me by other white kids and then to be chased through the Wilson Park housing projects by black kids for the final 5 blocks until I was safely in the confines of my Italo-American neighborhood. I remember visiting that friend and remarking that he had a hole in is floor--not just a small hole, but an actual hole about two feet in diameter.

These are not the ramblings of privilege. When I think privilege, I can only, maybe apply it to a handful of people I went to school with.

I guess I can put it more plainly, not all whites in Philadelphia live in Center City, Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy, or the Upper Northeast. There is a vast city out there where the word "privilege" just does not apply.

Now, to the more substantive point. Why do race and "class" matter so much in Philadelphia--because white and black, in these neighborhoods Philadelphia is a citizenry of people who do not have all that much. When you do not have all that much, you tend to fight for every piece. I can't blame either community, black or white, for doing it. It is in-part human nature. The rhetoric is terrible, however, and I have heard it on both sides. I have also heard Irish and Italians do it to each other and other "white" communities. But, when you are fighting for scraps, you fight very hard. Having grown up in a true Philadelphia neighborhood, despite its relative homogeneity, I understand first hand the fears of neighborhood people throughout the city.

Part of the problem, in my estimation is that these people fail to realize how much they have in common. Let's blame old prejudices for it, but the political establishment who often trades on racial fears and class differences is just as worthy of fault. This is not a Frank Rizzo thing, it happens in communities meetings throughout the city, in white and black neighborhoods.

This election seems to be bucking the racial voting trends. It is important that the next mayor be a uniter--otherwise, Philadelphians will re-trench themselves and begin fighting for their things.

Also, I think the assumption of a broad white privilege here in Philadelphia only adds to the race issue from the progressive side. It just isn't the case--and if you spent any time in any of the working poor white communities, you would know that it is true.

Unless you all mean something different by the word "privilege."

Gaetano P. Has Written A Very Wise and Important Post

I think this is probably one of the wisest and most important posts Young Philly Politics has yet displayed.

To get beyond race requires that we listen to the voices of all races. Low-income whites have a similar sense of victimization as do low-income blacks, and it is important that we hear the anger of both in order to forge new policies that improve the lives of both.

Rep. Cohen, thank you so

Rep. Cohen, thank you so much for the kind words.

Okay, since my point has

Okay, since my point has been obsured:

Now, to the more substantive point. Why do race and "class" matter so much in Philadelphia--because white and black, in these neighborhoods Philadelphia is a citizenry of people who do not have all that much. When you do not have all that much, you tend to fight for every piece. I can't blame either community, black or white, for doing it. It is in-part human nature. The rhetoric is terrible, however, and I have heard it on both sides. I have also heard Irish and Italians do it to each other and other "white" communities. But, when you are fighting for scraps, you fight very hard. Having grown up in a true Philadelphia neighborhood, despite its relative homogeneity, I understand first hand the fears of neighborhood people throughout the city.

Part of the problem, in my estimation is that these people fail to realize how much they have in common. Let's blame old prejudices for it, but the political establishment who often trades on racial fears and class differences is just as worthy of fault. This is not a Frank Rizzo thing, it happens in communities meetings throughout the city, in white and black neighborhoods.

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