FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Defying Assassination Day: MLK vs. Apartheid Housing

On this day of resistance against racist murder we remember the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and we resolve to betray not only the killers but the dreamlessness of the future they kill for.

Some twenty months before he was targeted for that final bullet, King was hit in the head by a common, rock throwing racist. As much as King wanted to believe that his 1966 march through Chicago’s Gage Park neighborhood would affect the structure of residential segregation in America, evidence fifty years later proves that America has done a poor job with the follow-up and follow-through.

We shall overcome racist murder only when we abolish neighborhood segregations that warp our material relations and sustain exclusionary paranoia.

In an amicus brief filed only sixteen months ago, some sixty scholars of American housing reported to the United States Supreme Court that if we measure the “exposure” of African Americans to the majority white population, “segregation is today greater nationwide than it was in 1940, and has remained mostly unchanged since 1950.”

Aided and abetted by federal law and finance, American suburbs have been endowed by their creators with inalienable landscapes of predominant whiteness, homestead wealth, ambitious education, and pursuit of upward mobility for all.

Meanwhile, as amicus scholars report, persistent techniques of systemic “hypersegregation” — in public housing, mortgage guarantees, real estate redlining, financial steering, and city planning — have confined 75 percent of African Americans to sixteen percent of census tracts.

“The executive director of the American Association of State Highway Officials, influential in Congressional highway design” was reported to use the n-word in describing the exploitation and dispossession that transportation planners pursued during the Interstate building heyday of the 1950s.

In Race and Real Estate, published by Oxford University Press in 2016, several more scholars contribute witness and expertise. Kendrick Ian Grandison shows how town geographies that once produced “the other side of the tracks” have since concretized the other side of the so-called freeway, imposing material insults and urban dangers intractably zoned in.

Urban sociologist Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, who released her disquieting study of West Baltimore shortly before the insurrections of April, 2015 rehearses in a chapter of Race and Real Estate her vocabulary for describing American apartheid. On one side policymakers and financiers collaborate to create what Peter Evans has termed “embedded autonomy,” with amply equipped opportunities to work, shop, educate, and enjoy.

On the other side, institutional structures produce “distorted engagement” where babies are likely to meet social workers even before they meet their own mothers. The difference between embedded autonomy and distorted engagement is Fernandez-Kelly’s short answer to why so many immigrant populations have been able to escape from slums to suburbs while significant numbers of African Americans endure (and insurrect against) ghetto confinement.

When King was called away from his August, 1966 Chicago marches to visit the aftermath of the Watts insurrection, he did not fail to point out that housing discrimination was one of the insurrection’s legitimate grievances. Only two years before the Watts insurrection, California had repealed its law banning discrimination in housing. “California by that callous act voted for ghettos,” said King. “The atrociousness of some deeds may be concealed by legal ritual, but the destructiveness is felt with bitter force by its victims.”

On news of King’s assassination in 1968, insurrections broke out across America. As if in recognition of where King’s struggle had stalled out – and where legitimate grievances festered — Congress fast-tracked a Fair Housing Act, the last of the landmark Civil Rights Acts to memorialize the King era.

The Fair Housing Act was but the first of King’s posthumous achievements. He came, he loved, he struggled. He exercised tremendous capacity to wage war on American dreamlessness, and we affirm, especially on this day, that King’s dream of fearless neighborhoods in America is worthy of material affirmation and respect.

Sources in order of appearance:

D.J.R. Bruckner. “Dozens Hurt During March in Chicago,L.A. Times, Aug. 6, 1966.

Brief of Housing Scholars as Amici Curiae Supporting Respondent, Dec. 23, 2014. Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs, et al. v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. Supreme Court of the U.S.

Adrienne Brown and Valerie Smith, Editors. Race and Real Estate. Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Clayborne Carson, Editor. “Chapter 27: Watts,” The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. King Institute, Stanford University, accessed April 3, 2016.

 

More articles by:

Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
September 17, 2019
Mario Barrera
The Southern Strategy and Donald Trump
Robert Jensen
The Danger of Inspiration in a Time of Ecological Crisis
Dean Baker
Health Care: Premiums and Taxes
Dave Lindorff
Recalling the Hundreds of Thousands of Civilian Victims of America’s Endless ‘War on Terror’
Binoy Kampmark
Oiling for War: The Houthi Attack on Abqaiq
Susie Day
You Say You Want a Revolution: a Prison Letter to Yoko Ono
Rich Gibson
Seize Solidarity House
Laura Flanders
From Voice of America to NPR: New CEO Lansing’s Glass House
Don Fitz
What is Energy Denial?
Dan Bacher
Governor Newsom Says He Will Veto Bill Blocking Trump Rollback of Endangered Fish Species Protections
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: Time to Stop Pretending and Start Over
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Inside the Syrian Peace Talks
Elliot Sperber
Mickey Mouse Networks
September 16, 2019
Sam Husseini
Biden Taking Iraq Lies to the Max
Paul Street
Joe Biden’s Answer to Slavery’s Legacy: Phonographs for the Poor
Paul Atwood
Why Mattis is No Hero
Jonathan Cook
Brexit Reveals Jeremy Corbyn to be the True Moderate
Jeff Mackler
Trump, Trade and China
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Democrats and the Climate Crisis
Michael Doliner
Hot Stuff on the Afghan Peace Deal Snafu
Nyla Ali Khan
Spectacles of the Demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh and the Revocation of the Autonomous Status of Kashmir
Stansfield Smith
Celebrating 50 Years of Venceremos Brigade solidarity with the Cuban Revolution
Tim Butterworth
Socialism Made America Great
Nick Licata
Profiles in Courage: the Tories Have It, the Republicans Don’t
Abel Prieto
Cubanness and Cuban Identity: the Importance of Fernando Ortiz
Robert Koehler
Altruists of the World Unite!
Mel Gurtov
Farewell, John Bolton
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail