Segregation: Our Most Cherished Myths

From the blog Those Who Can See (TWCS):

Sixty years after Brown vs. Board, forty years after the end of busing, it appears that all the social engineering in the world can’t make our multicultural dreams come true:

Economist Tyler Cowen, who is a conservative, calls white parents’ visceral fear of a mostly black school “discouraging.” … [Journalist] Hannah-Jones agrees. “You’re gonna have to force and cajole people” into integration, she says, which is why the court orders of the 1960s and ’70s proved effective. “We’re not going to do this voluntarily.”
By 1988, the high point of school integration in the U.S., nearly half of all black children attended a majority-white school. … Since then, however, the gains of Brown v. Board have been almost entirely reversed.

Water will find its level. Yet the narrative remains that somehow, after the right amount of ‘forcing and cajoling,’ a peacefully diverse future awaits us all–even ethnic groups as radically different as Northwest Euros and Sub-Saharan Africans.

We at TWCS, on the contrary, posit that:

Any time a large flux of Afros has arrived among ethnic NW Euros (up to and including the present), the latter have reacted sharply by separating themselves, and
Their reasons have been not senseless but on the whole fairly defensible.

The two biggest laboratories for this social experiment, of course, have been South Africa and the United States. We have chosen to examine the latter…

Northerners often vaunt their early abolition of slavery, but rarely mention what came next. Harper:
“Both Indiana (1816) and Illinois (1818) abolished slavery by their constitutions. And both followed the Ohio policy of trying to prevent black immigration by passing laws requiring blacks who moved into the state to… post bond [up to $1000] to guarantee their good behavior.”
The territories of Michigan, Iowa, and Oregon all passed similar laws in the early 1800s.

“Oregon forbid blacks to hold real estate, make contracts, or bring lawsuits. Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and California prohibited them from testifying in cases where a white man was a party.” (4)

Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited the country in 1831, said:
“So the Negro [in the North] is free, but he cannot share the rights, pleasures, labors, griefs, or even the tomb of him whose equal he has been declared; there is nowhere where he can meet him, neither in life nor in death. In the South, … people are prepared to mix with them to some extent; legislation is more harsh, but customs are more tolerant and gentle.”

Just before the Civil War, historian Leon F. Litwack describes the situation in the North:

‘In virtually every phase of existence,’ he writes, ‘[in 1860] Negroes found themselves systematically separated from whites. They were either excluded from railway cars, omnibuses, stagecoaches, and steamboats or assigned to special sections; they sat, when permitted, in secluded and remote corners of theaters and lecture halls; they could not enter most hotels, restaurants, and resorts, except as servants; they prayed in “Negro pews.”
…Moreover, they were often educated in segregated schools, punished in segregated prisons, nursed in segregated hospitals, and buried in segregated cemeteries.’ (1)

1) Getting around the law

One of the biggest current myths about segregation in the U.S. is that it’s a thing of the past. We at TWCS argue that this is merely a polite fiction.

Despite fifty years of civil rights laws and twenty years of hard-core diversitopia boosterism, there is something about ethnic Sub-Saharan Africans that still pushes ethnic Euros to want to live as far from them as possible.

But housing segregation is illegal– so how do they do it?

Charter schools have also become a new tool of re-segregation. In North Carolina:

North Carolina’s charter schools [opened in 1997] have become a way for white parents to secede from the public school system, as they once did to escape racial integration orders. … Charter schools in North Carolina tend to be either overwhelmingly black or overwhelmingly white–in contrast to traditional public schools, which are more evenly mixed…

IV. Myth #4: The Desire to Segregate Is Senseless

It is a popular myth that Euros have always fled Afro encroachment due to some kind of irrational fear of melanin. But the evidence hardly bears this out. As we have seen, Euro-Americans from a century ago, just as today, had concrete reasons for fleeing black in-migration. Let’s revisit them.

1) Property Value Decline

A white homeowner in post-war Levittown, PA said of his new black neighbor, David Myers, “[he’s] probably a nice guy, but every time I look at him I see $2,000 drop off the value of my house.”
Confirmation from the 1919 Chicago race commission report:

No single factor has complicated the relations of Negroes and whites in Chicago more than the widespread feeling of white people that the presence of Negroes in a neighborhood is a cause of serious depreciation of property.
[…] A leading real estate dealer said that “when a Negro moves into a block the value of the properties on both sides of the street is depreciated all the way from $100,000 to $500,000 [$1,300,000 to $6,500,000 today], depending upon the value of the property in the block”; that it was a fact and that there was no escaping it. (7)

…John Dollard, who did a racial study in small-town Mississippi in the 1930s:

In general the white side [of town] is quieter, especially at night; there are fewer people moving on the streets, although the number of whites and Negroes in town is about the same. A sense of discipline and order is more apparent. People are more likely to move about in cars. There is less walking, loitering, and laughing than on the negro side. (13)


Harlem, New York City

From a 2005 Chicago study on ‘urban disorder’:
White residents were far more likely to report disorder than black or Latino residents living in the same neighborhood — sensitivities that might explain, they theorized, why whites are relatively scarce in many city neighborhoods.
That is, what Blacks and Latinos consider ‘normal’ living conditions are seen as ‘disordered’ by Whites. One clue as to why the latter are so averse to living near the former?
But then the number-crunching got really interesting. As the proportion of black residents in a neighborhood increased, white residents’ perception of disorder also soared — even in neighborhoods that the [visual] raters had judged to be no more ramshackle than others with a smaller proportion of black residents.

The ‘visual raters’ watched video taken of city streets, judging purely by this cue how ‘disordered’ it was.

Camden, New Jersey
Much to the researchers’ surprise, they saw the same patterns when they looked at the perceptions of black residents. As the percentage of African Americans in the neighborhood increased, the percentage of black residents who judged their neighborhood to be in disarray also rose — out of proportion to the neighborhood’s [visual] rating. Among Latinos, the pattern was even starker. They were far more likely than either blacks or whites to be negatively affected by the increased presence of black residents, the researchers found…

Euro-Americans still sense that Afro citizens do not share their familial values, and that this makes them poor neighbors. The latter have lower marriage rates, higher divorce rates, more unwed motherhood (formerly known as ‘illegitimacy’), more child abuse, engage in more gambling, have poorer credit, their children have more school discipline problems, and they’re far less likely to have two parents in the home…

As we have seen, the different evolutionary path Africans have tread has left them with such divergent levels of future orientation, impulse control, aggressivity, abstract reasoning ability and out-group empathy, that other groups find it devilishly hard to ‘mesh’ with them.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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