What Happened? Did All the Racists Move North?

Image credit: New York Times

Image credit: New York Times

by James A. Bacon

NewYork state has the most segregated schools in the country, according to a new report published by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, New York State’s Extreme School Segregation.Other states with highly segregated schools include Illinois, Michigan and California.

“In the 30 years I have been researching schools, New York state has consistently been one of the most segregated states in the nation — no Southern state comes close to New York,” said Gary Orfield, co-director of the project, as quoted by the Associated Press.

Hmmm. How remarkable. What do those four states have in common? Here’s one thing. Their electorates all skew liberal and Democratic, as shown by the percentages that voted for Barack Obama in 2012:

New York — 62.6%
California — 59.3%
Illinois — 57.3%
Michigan — 54.3%

Bacon’s bottom line: Liberals have the loftiest of intentions. They pride themselves upon their enlightened racial attitudes and routinely malign their Republicans and conservative opponents as racist. But there is a vast gulf between intentions and results. It is no accident that the most segregated schools in the country are in blue states. Segregation is the unintended outcome of other “progressive” policies, particularly zoning, also enacted for the very best of reasons. (See Daniel Kay Hertz’ essay on the link between zoning and segregation in Chicago for how that works.)

The trouble with most liberals (not all, there are a few honest ones) is that they seem so incapable of self-reflection. Will this study prompt serious introspection and a wave of reform in New York? Will white liberals, struck by their massive hypocrisy, restrain their impulse to label as racist those who disagree with their policy prescriptions? Not a chance.

Most realistically, will African-Americans, traditionally a core constituency of the liberal/Democratic coalition, wake up and realize that their real enemies are not racists under every bed (like the phantasmagorical communists of the McCarthy era) but the ideology and practice of liberalism? I think that’s a distinct possibility.

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32 responses to “What Happened? Did All the Racists Move North?

  1. Northern de facto segregation is hardly news. Chicago has to be one of the most segregated cities in the country. For a great historic look, read J. Anthony Lukas’ Common Ground” about Boston.

    Many “liberals” stopped saying racism was an exclusive phenomenon years ago.

    I don’t where Brother Bacon came up with that straw man but if traveled more to cities outside of Richmond and the Mid-Atlantic, he might realize this.

  2. Straw man? Really? How about the ubiquitous charge that Republicans oppose Obama’s policies not because they are antithetical to Republican ideas but because “he’s black”? (I heard that one from a Democratic friend two weeks ago.) How about the charges that Republicans are trying to “disenfranchise” blacks by tightening up voter registration? How about VP Joe Biden’s pre-election charge that Republicans wanted to “roll back the clock” on African-American rights? How about the drivel spewed every day on MSNBC?

    The idea that Republicans are racist is a fundamental article of faith among liberal Democrats and a core element of its rhetoric.

    • Jim, personally, I don’t believe that most Republicans are racist, but I have seen – firsthand – people I have known for years that are obviously racist about the President. When Obama was a candidate, I received one of those crazy chain emails from an older woman I’ve known for years – the “Kenyan socialist interloper” sort – and when I gently pointed out a number of inaccuracies in it, because I thought she was honestly mistaken and wanted to calm her concerns, she went ballistic on me. We haven’t been able to patch it up since. These were not policy differences, it was birther Manchurian Candidate nonsense.

      As far as the rest, much of tightening up voter registration appears to be a baldly political decision to discourage the other party’s voters – not racist per se, but not ethical either. To me this is immoral and wrong. If you tighten up voting requirements more than is needed, you’ll knock out women (name changes) and poor people (transportation and other issues getting documentation) more than men and the wealthy.

      Opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and libertarian statements that people should be able to refuse to hire or serve anyone, are pretty creepy to the people who might not be hired, or might not be able to get served. It doesn’t look the same way when you’re pretty sure it’s not going to happen to you.

      I don’t think of it as racist – it comes off as more opportunistic and tone-deaf and unaware of or unconcerned about the needs and concerns of people different from themselves.

  3. Going off topic here. A few responses:

    there seems to be a bit of racism in my opinion regarding criticism of Obama. He’s described with little success as wild socialist which is simply unsustainable by facts. Obamacare, after all is a Republican plan. Don’t believe? Check out Romneycare!

    The voter ID smacks of racism.No question.

    Republicans used to be the party championing rights of African-Americans by far. But this changed in a huge way with Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” and Reagan’s plans to tap the white middle America.

    The GOP used to be a party of race reform but has turned into race reaction.

  4. Please, I beg you, stop writing about education. Especially if you’re not going to consider the historical realities of white flight, the inability to bus across county/city/school district lines, and the fact that while a state may go one way for a presidential election it can go quite a different way when it comes to the makeup of its own legislature and governor.

    And to just touch on one small point, no Southern states come close to New York because Southern states have a much higher percentage of black residents than does the State of New York.

    But yes, liberals are the real racists and this is proven by plucking out two completely disparate data points.

  5. When it comes to kids – some want the best circumstances they can get for their kids and politics is a separate thing.

    almost every house search service organizes the homes by neighborhood and neighborhood school.

    people try to match the best schools with neighborhoods they can afford and this is one reason why school re-redistricting is often such politically-charged issue. Change our district and send my kid to a “bad” school and we’re going to fight.

    so folks in New York like a lot of other places – seek neighborhoods where the schools are “good” and there is little threat of redistricting into a bad neighborhood.

    It’s a herd mentality and over time – financial status creates virtual neighborhood boundaries that really function not much differently than the way that Southern towns in years past would just flat out designated where the “black” schools were …and whites knew where not to move and were twice-assured that their child would not be redistricted into a “wrong” school.

    I don’t know if there is any more, any real busing to achieve racial balance is even done any more as it possible to go to just about any county in Virginia – like Henrico and figure out where “those” schools are .. they’re in neighborhoods you don’t want to live in anyhow.

    and it’s not just solely racial.. it’s other demographics like class and education levels.

    People do not want their kid in a class which has a lot of kids with low-education parents – and those kids are lower-level learners. People do not want their kids in those kinds of classes – either.

    The school systems also participate in unsavory ways in that the better veteran teachers go to the “better” schools and the less experienced, lower performing teachers get assigned to the “other” schools.

    and people can and do figure this out.

    and it’s almost impossible to keep this from happening..

    it’s no really overt racism, it’s a simple view that you as a parent do the best you can for your kid.. and it it means a skewed education system, it’s not your problem.. it’s the schools problem.

    in terms of racial divide, the results are the same but in terms of overt intent, it’s nothing like what we saw going on in Virginia in the 1960’s.

    Not excusing it but saying it has nothing to do with liberal/conservative politics unless one is bound and determined to try to make it about it.

    We’re one or two generations removed from when places like NY and Boston had immigrant tenements and if you were Italian or Irish, or God forbid, a Jew or Asian, in the wrong place – it was as bad as the white or black..thing

    somehow – we got past much of it but other examples stubbornly remain and yes.. we still burn down churches except we call them mosques.

    the whole concept of “liberals are racists too” .. sort of reeks.

    • I’m not saying that “liberals are racist, too.” I don’t think they are (not by my definition of racist, at least). I DO say that they are utterly indifferent to the results of their policies. Liberal policy prescriptions hurt African-Americans. Rather than admit their policy prescriptions are disastrous, Libs convince themselves that racist, obstructionist Republican bogeymen are the real problem.

      • re: ” Rather than admit their policy prescriptions are disastrous, Libs convince themselves that racist, obstructionist Republican bogeymen are the real problem.

        we’re kind of into black and white here.

        some liberal policies have failed – no question but others were successes and cannot be denied.

        but can you tell me from a Conservative view point what Conservative policies that were well-intentioned to help blacks – failed – as opposed to Conservative policies intended to harm blacks from the get go?

        so you’d pick the unintended consequences of liberal policies to compare against overt racist policies of conservatives as proof they both do harm?

        come on Jim.. I know you did not intend it to sound that way but that’s the exact argument that real racists on the right use these days.

        show me the policies of the right that have been explicitly intended to help blacks…

        what prominent conservatives have been front and center in trying to provide a level field for blacks? Give me the list.
        how about it?

        • So…. your definition of policies that help African-Americans is policies that enlarge the welfare state. And how has that worked out for African-Americans? Are they a lot better off relative to whites than they were 10 years ago? Fifty years ago?

          • re: ” So…. your definition of policies that help African-Americans is policies that enlarge the welfare state. And how has that worked out for African-Americans? Are they a lot better off relative to whites than they were 10 years ago? Fifty years ago?”

            you call desegregating the military – the welfare state?

            making it illegal to use dogs and fire hoses on them is the welfare state?

            making it illegal to not serve them at lunch counters or separate drinking fountains or motels or swimming pools is “welfare”?

            Head Start, admission to college, equal access to GI benefits is “welfare”?

            name the Conservatives who led the charge to provide them with equal rights …

            so… giving the blacks equal rights was “welfare” .. “conservatively speaking”?

            why are all these other things mentioned above forgotten to then focus on welfare?

            why is that?


            Name the Conservatives who want to make it EASIER for blacks to vote… not harder?

            bonus question – how many whites are on welfare compared to blacks?

            ” Who Benefits From the Safety Net?”


            now who would bring the welfare issue up – knowing that more whites than blacks receive it?

          • Jim – you say you don’t listen to FAUX or Limbaugh.. but these things you speak of are almost word-for-word their talking points..

            when ever they get talking of ranting and raving about ObamaCare and Benghazi and our “weak” POTUS who should be impeached for being the “Imperial” POTUS.. weak, Imperial? WTF?… anyhow.. they circle back to the welfare stuff and O’Relliey … embellishes it by saying that 72% of blacks make kids without fathers… etc…

            so who among Conservatives leaders call this kind of talk out as racist? let’s get a list together of Conservative leaders who are not afraid to call out such racist talk… so far, I’m having trouble getting that list together.

      • Jim, I am trying (and failing) to figure out which policies you are talking about. Could you please elaborate?

        • Contrary to what PeterG says in the comment below, Bill Clinton did not dismantle the welfare state. He dismantled one part of the welfare state — Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), which has been replaced with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). What other elements of the welfare state are there? Medicaid. EITC. Food stamps. Unemployment benefits. Social Security disability benefits. School lunch programs. Health care for Women with Infants and Children (WIC). Energy assistance. Transportation assistance.

          You can make a good humanitarian argument for any one of these programs, or even all of them. But the cumulative result — especially given the indiscriminate manner in which the programs have been administered — has been disastrous for the poor generally and the African-American poor in particular when you gauge the impact on family structure and the general breakdown of social disorder. Rather than acknowledge the obvious impact of these programs, liberals seek ever more abstruse reasons to blame the problems of multigenerational poverty on the supposed failures of the capitalist system and/or the meanness of conservatives.

          • virginiagal2

            I tend to disagree with this, for a couple of reasons. First, social assistance programs (the ones you list IMHO can’t all be called welfare even when stretching) are mostly for POOR people, not specifically black people. BTW, you picked up at least two that are not specifically for poor people.

            There are many more white people on these programs than anything else – about twice as many as all other races put together. When you adjust for income status, black people are only slightly more represented in these programs than other races. I do get very uncomfortable when people make an equivalence between welfare and black. That is not true and I have seen firsthand it is not true (see below.)

            Second, when I was starting my career (I’m in tech, not social services) I worked, for several years, helping with computer programming and support for these programs, out in the field – including on-site at public health clinics, schools that served low income areas, and public housing. So I learned a little bit about these programs, not from think tanks but from seeing people who were using them. That isn’t an experience I think most upper middle class white techies with entrepreneur parents have. So my opinions on this don’t line up with a neat political philosophy.

            I do have a quibble about the list you gave, so I’m going to run through them one at a time. I am NOT an expert on social services, I’m just a person who paid attention quite a few years ago, so you’re welcome to check behind me and I would encourage you to correct me publicly where I’m in error.

            TANF is both time-limited and has pretty strict work requirements. If I remember correctly, this is the program that was changed for welfare reform.

            Medicaid is available to a very limited set of people, assuming expansion doesn’t happen in the GA – basically those eligible are children, pregnant women, women with small children, and the disabled. I think it also provides family planning for adult women (including married women, I do not understand why men assume contraception is for singles only.) Healthy adult people in general are NOT eligible for Medicaid in Virginia. I believe there are also benefits that cover elderly people in nursing homes. Again, this is not something that poor people in general can get.

            The Earned Income Tax Credit was a favorite of Reagan and basically allows people who work at low hourly rates to have their income boosted up to a living wage. It was designed to make it more desirable to work than to be on assistance – to get people to work. You are only eligible if you are working. People eligible for the EITC are not, by my definition, on welfare. I have heard arguments that the EITC unfairly benefits corporations like WalMart and in fact should be replaced by a higher minimum wage, but I have not taken the time to do a deep analysis of the subject.

            Food stamps are one of the few benefits that very poor able bodied men are potentially eligible for. They are not much, but they do help poor people eat.

            Unemployment, by definition, is available only if you have worked. It is available for a short period of time. There are still many more people wanting jobs than there are jobs (last report I read, it was several people for each new opening.)

            Social security disability is primarily available for those who worked and can’t do their current job. It is not easy to get. Many of the people on social security disability are formerly middle class, most often men, often without the skills to do non-physical jobs and physical issues that make their old jobs impossible. I believe there are some legitimate concerns with another type of SS disability that has to do with kids getting mental health disability payments, but I don’t know enough of those details to intelligently discuss them.

            School lunch is for poor kids who can’t afford food. It’s for the kids, not the parents.

            WIC does not include health care. WIC provides supplemental nutritious food – not all food – for pregnant women, nursing women or babies, and small children. It provides referrrals to health care, to help eligible women get Medicaid, but it does not provide health care. It also provides nutrition counseling. It is a pretty narrow program.

            I don’t know much about energy assistance or transportation assistance, other than I have the strong impression there isn’t all that much of either and that most poor people can’t get either one.

            I do not agree with you on the “obvious impact of these programs.” I do not agree they have been disastrous for the poor. I do not agree that they have negative impacts on family structure (in fact, I don’t see how they could impact family structure) and I do not think they contribute to a breakdown of social disorder.

            Realize, my opinion is based on what I saw with people who actually got these programs, not reports from think tanks. From what I saw, some of the people using these programs just poor. Some were a mess. The ones that were a mess were not a mess because of the programs. However, being a mess was probably why they were poor.

          • The thing is , ALL of these programs were created by CONGRESS and most of them long before Obama was elected.

            and yet.. can’t recall that Bush was called a “socialist” for having these Congressionally-approved and funded programs when he was POTUS.

            this is all part of a right wing echo chamber /Koch Brothers narrative that assumes some people are ignorant and gullible about what the POTUS has authority to do and what Congress does – and not without some success, I might add.

            at some point we’re confronted with the horror with some folks that we know as either being in the ignorant/gullible group or with the groups who knowingly and willfully are promoting the disinformation!

            Wouldn’t it be refreshing and fruitful and true to their “principles” if the folks that promoted these things would just come out and admit that they are opposed to these programs and will vote to get rid of them – like they do with ObamaCare – but won’t do with EMTALA?

            not a one – has added EMTALA to ObamaCare as “socialism”.. not one.

          • I’m not sure how we arrived at the point where you suggest that I equate poverty and welfare with black people. I have spent enough time in the coalfields of SW Virginia to know full well that poverty is a white phenomenon, too, indeed that there are more poor whites in the USA than black people. So, let’s get that cleared up right now.

            The other strange thing that has happened in this thread is the focus on welfare programs, which is not an issue I even raised in the original post. We can argue all day long about the impact of welfare on family structure, the creation of inter-generational poverty and the spread of socially dysfunctional behavior which is at the root of long-term poverty (not temporary, situational poverty). But that wasn’t the point of my post.

            The point was the liberal zoning policies lead to income extremes within congressional districts by protecting the affluent (usually liberal whites) from the presence of disorderly poor people (usually minorities) and driving out the middle class. I refer you to the recent work of Daniel Kay Hertz showing how zoning has driven out Chicago’s middle class, creating a city of extreme affluence and poverty.

          • re: ” The point was the liberal zoning policies lead to income extremes within congressional districts by protecting the affluent (usually liberal whites) from the presence of disorderly poor people (usually minorities) and driving out the middle class”

            is that what you think led to poverty in the coal fields?

            jesus H. keeeerist.. Bacon…!! can’t you even get the right wing trope – “right”!

          • “Is that what you think led to poverty in the coal fields?”

            No, Larry, exclusionary zoning is not what I think led to poverty in the coalfields. That what led to income inequality in liberal congressional districts. Use your brain.

  6. “Liberal policy prescriptions hurt African-Amerians.” Like what? The Voting Rights Act? Integrating the Armed Forces? Head Start?

    Somehow it’s like talking with someone from Mars.

    • Interesting, you couldn’t come up with anything instituted less than 50 years ago. The Civil Rights revolution was the high point of American liberalism. It’s been all downhill since.

      • ahhh…

        so this has been a contest of sorts for 50 years to see who could help the blacks achieve equality – more – between Conservatives and Liberals policies?


        this is starting to sound more and more like Hannity and Limbaugh!

      • Ohhhh, let’s just see about that. Off the top of my head I can think of two:

        The repeal of DADT. Since blacks serve in the military at greater rates than their presence in the general population the number of black gays serving in the military will follow the same. Repealing a barrier to the pathway to promotion materially benefits black Americans at a greater rate.

        The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act because black women are half as likely as their white counterparts to be stay at home moms, this act materially benefits their ability to litigate for fair pay.

        • …And yet the economic condition of African-Americans has deteriorated more rapidly in the past five years than that of any other racial group. The liberal remedies aren’t working. Good intentions do not necessarily equal good results!

          • virginiagal2

            Jim, if you are classifying people by racial group, and generalizing about the average welfare within that group (which is what I think you might be doing), then the disparate effects on African Americans are largely driven by a couple of things.

            The first is economic status, including education level. People with lower and middle class economic status and lower education levels were hit harder in this recession.

            The second is a fairly massive reduction in government workers, which unlike the private sector, has not rebounded. Because government jobs have clear indication of pay, policies against discrimination, and relatively clear paths to promotion, they have historically been attractive and receptive to people who are not white males. So cuts in the number of government workers tend to hit women and minorities particularly hard.

            I believe we’re currently still down over half a million government jobs. It’s not a trivial number. And many of those were good, solid professional jobs.

  7. What “liberal remedies?” The Welfare State? Gee, it’s like talking with Archie Bunker. For your info, a Democrat, Bill Clinton, pretty much ended the welfare state nearly 20 years ago. Maybe you missed it.

    As for “five years ago” what happened then? Gee, the recession, that’s what. Unemployment shot up. Companies laid people off and did not expand, deciding instead to horde cash. What in God’s name does that have to do with “liberal remedies not working?”

    If anything, it was conservative policies not working, such as Bush W. allowing banks to greatly increase their lending ability while not regulating them. That and subprime lending created the financial crisis. Meanwhile, globalization and offshoring American jobs (for which both parties are to blame) hurt blue collar workers hardest. Six thousand were laid off in one afternoon in Kannapolis, NC. Are you linking this to the “welfare state?” If so, you are more insanely delusional than I thought.

    • I get it it, when the economy improves, it’s all the result of Obama’s brilliant economic policies. When the economy gets worse, it’s all the result of that stinkin’ market system.

      • I still fail to see what Obama can do, on his own, to change the economy.

        He can urge the Congress to do what he thinks should be done or Congress can ignore him and send him legislation they think will do it and leave it up to him to sign it or not.

        None of these programs that Jim mentions were created by nor funded by Obama so what do we personalize it to him?

        Ronald Reagan himself supported some of these policies but the blunt truth is that Congress is the one that decides to fund these programs or not.

        and yes.. I get the same chain mails….coming from people who call themselves Conservatives but don’t seem to mind at all edging into just flat out racism .. no excuses.. and that’s the fundamental problem with the GOP these days. In their ranks are racists – standing on the same stage.. speaking on the same blogs and other media – such as FAUX and the other conservatives say nary a word about it other than ” how are you doing brother” to them.

        Then they talk about how Obama’s “socialist” policies are work out… what “socialist” policies …??? please name the ones that he created …

        more than that – name the Conservatives who speak of how to help the blacks – what specific policies ??

        Name the policies that “Compassionate Conservatives” have established to help those who are in economic harms way.

        the primary response has been and continues to be ” Obama’s welfare policies don’t work and he’s the cause of black unemployment” .. beyond that .. not a word about what should be done instead other than Paul Ryan’s “screw those lazy suckers” budget.

  8. LarryG is right again.
    Brother Bacon seems to believe that Barack has his thumb on the pulse of the economy or his wrists around its neck. Sorry but no president,. not even the beloved Ronald Reagan — has or had that kind of influence. In fact, they likely has even less influence because so many companies are multi-national polyglots that are interacting with many disparate forces. The U.S. leader can’t do all that much about them.Tail wagging the dog, you see.

    Even at home there are big limits. The president can recommend legislation, but he needs COngress to pass it. He can nominate the head of the Fed but he cannot have direct influence on its policies. Obama does not control the Supreme Court.Many times, the president cannot even control his own executive branch.JFK used to whine all the time how he couldn’t get the State Department to do anything.

    But Brother Bacon won’t admit any of this because it would f%$k up his argument that we are being crushed by BIG GOVERNMENT.

    As for Medicaid and the like being part of a big liberal system to keep minorities at low levels, what would Brother Bacon do with the poor who are sick? Leave them on the street to die? Thrust them on the emergency room of an underfunded, struggling hospital?

    He and those like him never answer these questions.

    • re: ” what would Brother Bacon do with the poor who are sick? Leave them on the street to die? Thrust them on the emergency room of an underfunded, struggling hospital?”

      that’s would be a taxpayer-subsidized ER of a Hospital that also sells $10 aspirin to those who are insured suckers to help pay for the uninsured?

      well sure… why not? better than socialism, eh?

  9. re: ” No, Larry, exclusionary zoning is not what I think led to poverty in the coalfields. That what led to income inequality in liberal congressional districts. Use your brain.”

    can you give some examples? say Henrico?

  10. seems like it would be not that different to make a list of places with exclusionary zoning along with their inequality index.

    how about it?

    do you think there is a fairly strong correlation or just more goofball stuff from the loony right?

    it just seems like every time I turn around- there’s another assertion from the right – about something that has been in place for decades – like EITC and food stamps, etc ..never questioned before but now pure socialism under this POTUS.

    Of course the idea that we’ve just emerged from the worst recession since the depression and the least educated and least skilled as the last to recover… naw.. it’s can’t be that.. it has to be “liberal socialism” right?

    I still ask – what’s the Conservative alternative other than the “let them eat cake” solution?

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