“Wasn’t anything we could do about it.”
January 6, 2015 7:53 AM   Subscribe

 
Very apropos, I just started re-reading Kruse's White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism which looks at how even the most incremental gains of the civil rights movement were met with disproportionate force, first in outright violence, then in more subtle ways. The setting is Atlanta, not rural Mississippi, but similar forces are at play in the way the re-creation of de facto, rather than de jure, segregated spaces gutted communities in a social and particularly economic way, establishing a groups that could arguably said to be more divided than before.

One thing I would like to see more authors on this subject tackle though, is the impact of deindustrialization. It's one of the more tragic aspects of history that, right as Black people were achieving full legal rights, what had been the main economic engine for propelling workers into stable middle-class lifestyles was declining in favor of jobs which increasingly required more education. Combined with the 1-2 punch of the crack epidemic and the drug war, it's one of the under-examined aspects of how powerful structural racism can be, undercutting gains in the mid-20th century through more subtle means.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:32 AM on January 6, 2015 [14 favorites]


What gets me is that pre-Civil Rights Act Mississippi was basically an authoritarian enclave inside the boundaries of the United States. The next time a Southern Republican claims he's a paragon defender of freedom, tell him to shut the hell up.
posted by jonp72 at 8:41 AM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Granted, Mississipi's governors were all Democrat from 1882 until 2000.
posted by enamon at 9:08 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Granted, Mississipi's governors were all Democrat from 1882 until 2000.

Oh, god, what is this, the comments section on a Fox News story? You are aware that the platforms of the respective parties have shifted some in the past half century? If not, you should be. "Southern Strategy" is a nicely googleable term.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:25 AM on January 6, 2015 [21 favorites]


Slap*Happy: I'm not sure what your point is. I am definitely aware that "the platforms of the respective parties have shifted some in the past half century". This is why it's surprising to me that for 118 years the same party, even with a shifting platform, stayed in power. Furthermore, I fail to see what the Southern Strategy had to do with Democrats.
posted by enamon at 9:35 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


enamon, assuming you're not trolling, pretty much every single white racist in the South that had voted Democrat (because the Southern Democrats historically favored keeping Dixie a white power enclave) switched to voting Republican upon passage by the Democrats of the Civil Rights Act.

If you want to discuss policies of either party in the South, you have to swap D<>R in 1969.

For clarity, pre-1969 Democrats ought to be referred to as D* (*modern R).
posted by IAmBroom at 9:53 AM on January 6, 2015


The South was Democratic until the 1980s because Lincoln freed the slaves, and he was a Republican.

Goldwater broke that dam by saying it was OK to be GOP if it meant you weren't in the party that passed such things as the Civil Rights Act.
posted by eriko at 9:55 AM on January 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


switched to voting Republican upon passage by the Democrats of the Civil Rights Act

But then it's interesting that Mississippi had Democrat governors for another 36 years.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:56 AM on January 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Tthe reason Mississippi took longer to switch is because the state was essentially the last bastion of Dixiecrat sentiment in the South. You had generations who'd voted Democratic for so long that it took a while to get that out of their system while the parties had already realigned at the national level.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:57 AM on January 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Furthermore, I fail to see what the Southern Strategy had to do with Democrats.

OK. There was this thing called the Civil War that abolished slavery and caused a lot of long-lasting economic hardship in the deep south. Those living in Mississippi intensely disliked the political party they saw as being responsible for it, the Republicans. So, as soon as the Reconstruction-era restrictions on local politics was lifted (late 1870's, early 1880's), southern states voted in the not-Republican reliably, mostly because of racism.

Then, the northern constituents of the Democratic party turned towards socially politically progressive policies, like an end to segregation, and they had more votes than the southern Democrats because the North was more populous, even divided as they were between Democrats and GOP.

First there were the Dixiecrats, Democrats who demanded segregation, who at first tried to go their own way with a third party, and then insinuated themselves into the Republican party. Then along comes Nixon, a good California Quaker, and he tacitly puts himself and his party in opposition to Northern liberal policies, many of which up until that very moment were also planks in the Republican party.

So, a change in party is an indication that there was a continuation in policy, as the two parties had reversed their positions on race, beginning with Nixon, and cemented with Regan/Bush. It took a while for the parties to re-align as the old local power structures faded and lost national support.

The modern Republicans like to trot out the fact that Democrats were responsible for Jim Crow, assuming we won't know who Strom Thurmond is.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:58 AM on January 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


ROBERT BYRD! BOTH SIDES DO IT!
posted by tonycpsu at 10:01 AM on January 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


From TFA, I don't know if I buy the answer of why one town prospered while others went to abject poverty. I mean, I get that the whites stayed, businesses didn't close, the schools remained public (vs private white-only academies) -- those are presented as "why" the town prospered or at least remained a viable town ..

But I find the "well the whites all faced their guilt/owned up to it/came-to-jesus, and here we are" as very uncompelling. Why did whites stay ? Is that the lynchpin for a town ? (or should I say the business owners/rich/upper echelons of whites stayed, the "job creators" in some modern parlance ? )

And for the towns suffering: I get that the capital left the towns when the rich whites left, but TFA leaves it like an intractable problem to grow town/re-open stores, etc, but if no one has jobs to earn money to buy things from stores, well, isn't that how towns die out ? No new industry coming to the area (blocked by whites in the past, but now, there is still manufacturing/industry in the US, but education in the town is so bad and can't offer any inducements to bring business in, etc ? )
posted by k5.user at 10:10 AM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mississippi was a one-party state basically forever, for reasons that several people above have pointed out: Republicans were all but unelectable in the south post-civil war.

The two governors during the Civil Rights era (elected 1964 and 1968) did not immediately defect to the Republican party, but they were segregationist to the bone and completely out of step with the shift in the stance of the national party. Just because the Dixiecrats felt betrayed doesn't mean they were ready to join the party of Abraham Lincoln, a party which had little political power there until Nixon's Southern Strategy jumpstarted it. It wasn't until Bill Waller came in until 1972 that there was a Democratic governor who represented something of the new civil rights stance of the Democratic party; the shift of the democratic party essentially being matched by the increasing power of black voters.

And by the way, Mississippi elected a Republican in 1992.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:10 AM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bah. Republican, Democrat, arguing about who was/is the most racist is distracting from the real truth: goddamn white people in general are to blame, have always and everywhere did their utmost best to not have to deal with their fellow human beings on an equal basis.

And until we as white people accept this essential truth and don't try to play party political games with racism, racism won't end.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:10 AM on January 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


the two parties had reversed their positions on race, beginning with Nixon

Nixon had his moments.
posted by BWA at 10:12 AM on January 6, 2015


MartinWisse: And until we as white people accept this essential truth and don't try to play party political games with racism, racism won't end.

I agree to some extent, but racism also won't end by having the same "national conversations" over and over, and expecting white folks to suddenly get it. The thing about the political process is that you can encode things into law, like the Voting Rights Act, and then as the political process changes, you can lose those gains, with things like Voter ID and last year's SCOTUS case that neutered the VRA. I think these things matter, and they are the direct result of party politics, so it's very relevant where those parties stand on these issues.

It may be tiring to deal with partisan bickering and what-not, but this is one of those issues where there actually are substantive differences between the parties, and we shouldn't stop talking about that out of some notion that it's getting in the way of some magical solution involving white folks acknowledging their complicity and in some cases giving up their ill-gotten gains.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:15 AM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tthe reason Mississippi took longer to switch is because the state was essentially the last bastion of Dixiecrat sentiment in the South. You had generations who'd voted Democratic for so long that it took a while to get that out of their system while the parties had already realigned at the national level.

The Republican party of Lincoln was the party of Northeast *industrial* capital and the financiers associated with that industrial capital. The modern Republican party is still the party of capital, just now entirely "financialized." The white supremacist order in the South has been built on the economic and social power of large land-owning families, people who aren't particularly well-disposed to a bunch of pushy New York bankers. You can see this division (very broadly) in the modern Republican party between the religious right and the old-line power structure (i.e. people like the Bushes). Racism and religious bigotry in the South has always been about sustaining a neo-feudal social order. The religious right isn't actually all that sympathetic with the small-government, anti-regulation, bank-friendly agenda , I mean, they want more government regulation of people's moral and social lives, not less. And, the people who have large mortgages and leveraged real-estate don't necessarily have the same interests as the banks who hold those mortgages and securities...

which is all just to say that the migration of the Dixiecrats into the Republican party just papered over some real and continuing divisions in the economic and social life of the South.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:19 AM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


For clarity, pre-1969 Democrats ought to be referred to as D* (*modern R).

Anyone who thought that Clinton was a "Democrat" like those who preceded him for 50 years sure got fooled. Just like the people who voted for Obama based on his (countless) promises sure got fooled.

The track record of Presidents from the South isn't pretty. (Not a reflection on the people of the South.) If you include California in "South", its uglier still.
posted by Twang at 10:21 AM on January 6, 2015


this thread is like watching a man fall down the goddamn stairs.
posted by boo_radley at 10:29 AM on January 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


TFA is actually pretty poorly written and tries more to Say Something than to be accurate. For example, it talks about "all-white private academies." Really? Where are those? What state are they legally allowed to exist in? There's a huge difference between "private school, that mostly only the well off, who happen to be white, can afford" and "Segregated private school that non-whites are not able to attend," and this article does an extremely poor job of differentiating between them.
posted by corb at 10:36 AM on January 6, 2015


this thread is like watching a man fall down the goddamn stairs.
posted by boo_radley


Eponysterical...
posted by k5.user at 10:38 AM on January 6, 2015


That said, the "Tchula News" gif is kind of amazing and adorable. I mean, granted the town has a current population of 2,300, but I still kind of love "We are sorry Mrs. Johnson is in the hospital" and "Mrs. James of Jackson spent the week with her mother" as news stories.
posted by corb at 10:38 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


For example, it talks about "all-white private academies." Really? Where are those?

The first mention of them in the article includes a link to another Atlantic story about segregation academies.

They're definitely still a thing in Mississippi, and I've known many people who attended them, though I went to public schools there myself.
posted by asperity at 10:42 AM on January 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


There's a huge difference between "private school, that mostly only the well off, who happen to be white, can afford" and "Segregated private school that non-whites are not able to attend,"

The huge difference between "You will never study here" and "Theoretically, you could study here, but you never will."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:44 AM on January 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


TFA is actually pretty poorly written and tries more to Say Something than to be accurate. For example, it talks about "all-white private academies." Really? Where are those? What state are they legally allowed to exist in?

Go read the fucking wikipedia article on them.

The problem with the article is typical of liberal progessives: they'd rather make some moral point about racism then look at how the world actually works. The question is: who owns the rich productive agricultural land, not the old mansions and hardware stores.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:45 AM on January 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's a huge difference between "private school, that mostly only the well off, who happen to be white, can afford" and"Segregated private school that non-whites are not able to attend,"

Hm. Is there really a "huge difference" between these two? Seems more like the difference between "black people not allowed to vote" and "well, you can vote if your grandfather could".

And on preview, it seems segregationst academies existed.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:46 AM on January 6, 2015


I still kind of love "We are sorry Mrs. Johnson is in the hospital" and "Mrs. James of Jackson spent the week with her mother" as news stories.

Oh, yeah. Small-town Mississippi papers are delightful for this. I've been recognized for visiting my grandmother in her local paper!
posted by asperity at 10:48 AM on January 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


For example, it talks about "all-white private academies." Really? Where are those? [...] There's a huge difference between "private school, that mostly only the well off, who happen to be white, can afford" and "Segregated private school that non-whites are not able to attend,"

Well, that's disingenuous. Private schools are open to all in concept, maybe, but in the deep south, I assure you, there is no difference in practice. The private schools in Mississippi have a few black students (nearly all on scholarship, athletes) but are so hugely, overwhelmingly white that any legal prohibition segregating these schools would be moot, as it would have no practical effect on how things already are.

It's facile to suggest that, sense there is no legal segregation, there is no practical segregation. In Mississippi, nearly completely segregated schools are a reality, no matter how that reality came to be. The problem is the problem; what is salient to ask is, how can this be remedied?

While we are lucky that the answer to that no longer starts with, 'repeal racist, segregationist laws,' we still need to move forward from that to the problem that actually, in reality, exists.

(On preview: what everyone else jumped in and said.)
posted by LooseFilter at 10:49 AM on January 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


There is a strong sentiment in the article that the root of the problem is "Republicanism" which is now interpreted by liberal sentiment to mean racism. I have heard just as many racist statements and seen actions by both sides of the aisle and some first hand. Unfortunately, stereotyping never really brings much to the table in terms of progression of resolving the problem.

Republicans were the driving force behind ridding the country of slavery. Democrats fought that tooth and nail and they fought the Civil Rights Act as well. Democrats did so even after the Civil Rights Act was passed. A thorough study will show that the Democrats retained power in the South by delaying and denying change and promising poor Democrat economic benefits. It was not until Reagan promised more economic achievement for poor whites than the Democrats had been able to promised did that change.

The problem still exists that for the most part southern blacks and other minority races are not well equipped to compete in the modern day economic market. The cause of that inability cannot be written off as the fault of one group. It will take a collective effort by all and those who try to force only one side to make the effort delay progress.

I sit as the parent of minority children. I had to fight to get them educated...all with college degrees. Many times the fight came with liberals estimating that my minority children just could not achieve. Many times the fight came from conservatives over the "coddling" and offering of resources.

So when I read an article like this about how "white flight" caused all these problems, I dismiss it as pandering and not very useful.
posted by OhSusannah at 10:49 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was not until Reagan promised more economic achievement for poor whites than the Democrats had been able to promised did that change.

Artist's depiction of the Reagan that exists in the dimension(s) where this actually happened.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:53 AM on January 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


So when I read an article like this about how "white flight" caused all these problems, I dismiss it as pandering and not very useful.

Would it be more useful to talk about the problems caused by the departure of everyone with any economic power from the area? I'm not sure how ignoring the fact that pretty much all of those people were white helps matters, though.
posted by asperity at 10:56 AM on January 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is a twist of the white flight concept often in mind. Tchula retaining its class of white population hardly seems like it would have been a blessing. The atmosphere of resentment among that population was just too entrenched, preferring to salt the earth until just leaving entirely.

Interesting parallels with the modern conservative movement nationwide in gerneral.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:05 AM on January 6, 2015


Slap*Happy says re the Civil War:
"Those living in Mississippi intensely disliked the political party they saw as being responsible for it, the Republicans."
Actually the opposite is true. The majority of those living in Mississippi supported the party they saw as responsible for their emancipation, the Republicans.
This error is not uncommon. You see it all the time -- 'the South' thinks this, or that, etc. It's nonsense.
posted by LonnieK at 11:07 AM on January 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


[A couple comments removed, let's not dig in on this derail.]
posted by cortex at 11:07 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not just white flight. Here in Chicago many African-Americans and quite a lot of other people have delta roots including myself. I have thought about moving to the Delta, as some of my family lives there and there are a lot of things I like about it. I've also spoken to African-Americans here who have said similar things. But I think there will need to be a lot more focus on more urbanized development and higher education to reverse out-migration and attract young college-educated people. Jackson has gotten more attractive over the years but not in comparison to other coastal or inland small cities. Oxford is probably the most promising place. Little isolated towns that aren't doing so bad aren't going to bring anyone who has choices home.
posted by melissam at 11:12 AM on January 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Here in Chicago many African-Americans and quite a lot of other people have delta roots including myself.

My dad lives in Jackson, has for a long time, and says that the flight of young, educated black adults is one of the biggest problems the state faces. I know in my own home state of Louisiana, when I moved away over 15 years ago, I was part of a growing wave of educated-young-adult flight, and that pattern has only increased in scale. The folks who live in those places need to take a serious look in the mirror, and to ask themselves why large populations of their most capable young adults GTFO as soon as they can (in Louisiana, it's brutally apparent: the top HS graduates in the state can go to a state school fully-funded, through the TOPS program--the numbers of students who take advantage of this funding and then move out-of-state upon graduation is staggering).
posted by LooseFilter at 11:18 AM on January 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Actually the opposite is true. The majority of those living in Mississippi supported the party they saw as responsible for their emancipation, the Republicans.
This error is not uncommon.


This is an excellent point, and I'm dumb for skipping over it and the perspective of Southern African Americans - Mississippi was one of two confederate states where the slaves outnumbered the free (the other being South Carolina). Suppression of the black vote, much of it violent and well financed by the Bourbon Democrats and the Redeemers, ushered the Democratic Party into power in Mississippi.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:42 AM on January 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Bah. Republican, Democrat, arguing about who was/is the most racist is distracting from the real truth: goddamn white people in general are to blame, have always and everywhere did their utmost best to not have to deal with their fellow human beings on an equal basis.

And until we as white people accept this essential truth and don't try to play party political games with racism, racism won't end.
"

Yes, because all white people are exactly the same. From the lowly slave in Russia in the 1600s to John D. Rockefeller. From the blonde blue eyed kid begging for change in Persia to the Finnish reindeer herder.

Yes, ALL these white people "have always and everywhere did their utmost best to not have to deal with their fellow human beings on an equal basis."
posted by I-baLL at 11:50 AM on January 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Granted, Mississipi's governors were all Democrat from 1882 until 2000.

The partisan labels have changed from Democrat to Republican, but it's basically been a one-party authoritarian enclave the whole time.
posted by jonp72 at 12:01 PM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Twang: The track record of Presidents from the South isn't pretty. (Not a reflection on the people of the South.) If you include California in "South", its uglier still.
Lessee... both Clinton and Obama presided over hugely increasing economies, decreasing unemployment rates, increased influence abroad (up until the phonetapping scandals broke, at least), increased protection for LGBT people (you may not like DADT, but it's still hella better than "I bet he's queer; let's courtmartial him anyway")...

Yep, an awful track record. Lord, for the good old days of... who, exactly?
posted by IAmBroom at 12:24 PM on January 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Not to mention the fact that "If you include California in 'South', its uglier still" sounds a lot like "if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a streetcar."
posted by tonycpsu at 12:33 PM on January 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


(And yes, I realize that San Diego is farther south than Atlanta. Geographic regions aren't defined by latitudes.)
posted by tonycpsu at 12:36 PM on January 6, 2015


Not to mention the fact that "If you include California in 'South', its uglier still" sounds a lot like "if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a streetcar."

There's some truth to this - a lot of southern California was settled by Southerners. But which presidents does this pick up? Nixon, and maybe Reagan.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:59 PM on January 6, 2015


If we are complaining about Southern/Californian Presidents, we are complaining about everybody post-Kennedy, except for Ford and Obama.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:56 PM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here is a metafilter link to Lemann Promised Land prize winning book on how people left Clarksdale in waves. If you could grow medical marijuana in that delta dirt it might be the most amazing economic boon they ever saw bigger than cotton.
posted by bukvich at 3:06 PM on January 6, 2015


Ah, yes, California, that great bastion of Southern style and thinking. There's that series Californication, about a kindly local sheriff who don't take to city fellers, and throws darkies and drunks in the city jail to keep them from causing troubles. LA, which would have been renamed "RushLimbaughville" had San Francisco not trademarked it for their tourist board's use. And who can forget the Beach Boys' famous tune, I wish They All Were Real American Girls, (Cuz That's The Only Kind I Like)?
posted by IAmBroom at 3:42 PM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you could grow medical marijuana in that delta dirt

Interestingly, for many years the only legally-grown marijuana in the United States was grown in Mississippi, on the University of Mississippi campus. They'd hire students to tend the fields, too.

Having to go through background checks and bag searches every shift for a minimum wage summer field-work job never sounded all that appealing, though.
posted by asperity at 3:45 PM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


If we are complaining about Southern/Californian Presidents, we are complaining about everybody post-Kennedy, except for Ford and Obama.

And George HW Bush.

George W Bush is debatable I suppose --- born in the North but elected from the South and with a Texan/Southern brand, so counting him as Southern works for me.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:11 PM on January 6, 2015


(I guess HW is debatable too, but even though his political career was in Texas he never seemed very Southern and his identity always seemed very New England, and he certainly didn't grow up in the South. At best he was a carpetbagger, not a Southerner).
posted by thefoxgod at 7:16 PM on January 6, 2015


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