Short History (2)

In my last post, I mentioned that I’d be covering 1940s Detroit next. Specifically, I want to focus on the battle around a housing complex in Detroit.

The Sojourner Truth Homes still exist today. They are public housing, but were built before the stigma of public housing became the norm in the US. They were actually built during a time when even the white public didn’t have a problem demanding that the government do something about housing.black and white image of sorjourner truth homes in Detroit Michigan. THere are two rows of homes with a long sidewalk down the middle. the homes are small but neat single family homes. there is a black man outside--it's hard to tell what he is doing.

And during WW2, housing in Detroit was a problem. The problems of overcrowding caused by the Great Migration mixed with a desperate need for labor by industry. This was also a time of economic restructuring of the labor market due to the ending of slavery. The Great Migration was the largest movement of people in the US in history–but it was *also* the largest movement of *labor* as well. The US was investing in heavy industry. Which is why you find the fingers industry recruiters all over the Great Migration.

Housing was such a desperate situation that houses and apartments were slung up where ever space could be found, and regardless of any cohesive sense of urban planning. Multiple families were living in single houses, outrageous rent was being charged for the most squalid of conditions. The corporations had a hand in the situation as well, constructing massive dorms and family housing for workers–and of course, charging them for it too.

Oh, and housing was segregated as well. Which meant that not only was housing difficult to find period, but it also meant that people were restricted to finding or building housing in certain areas. The massive dorms built by the corporations hiring the laborers were segregated by gender as well as race.

So it’s in this context that the Sojourner Truth Homes sprung up. The homes were built in response to the demand for housing, but even so, they did not escape the heat of white supremacist heteropatriarchy. First, nobody could figure out where to put the homes. Because of segregation, black folks were confined to a few neighborhoods across Detroit, and those neighborhoods were already bursting at the seems. But no white neighborhood wanted the homes near theirs. This is the very little known or covered fact of Detroit: there were more riots in Detroit than the ones in ’67. And in the 40s, a vast majority of the riots were started and exacerbated by whites. Specifically, whites that were angry about the desegregation efforts of the black community.A white sign with two flags on it that was posted in Detroit Michigan during the battle over the Sorjourner Truth Homes. The sign says: We want White Tenants in our White Community"

After the housing commission finally decided on a place for the homes (which was close to other black communities, but closer to the white communities in the area), whites protested so vociferously (in part due to the FHA announcing that they would not back mortgages of houses near the homes if the homes were occupied by black people), the housing commission decided the homes were actually for white people. Then the black community protested along with housing rights folks, and it was decided they’d be for black people again. This went back and forth until finally it was officially decided; these homes are for black people. The housing commission set the move in date and began collecting rent from families before they had even moved in.
White protestors surrounding the Sorjourner Truth Homes in an effort to keep black families from moving in. It is winter, the protestors are wearing winter clothes from the 40s. The homes are single family homes and painted white.
The day of the move in arrived–and white protestors surrounded the homes and started to riot. There were multiple injuries that day, and over 200 people arrested. And that is correct–only three of those people who were arrested were white. The move in date of the families had to be put off until April, and it was only under the supervision of over a thousand local and state police officers and 1600 National Guard that six families were finally moved in. a protestor struggles with two white police officers. One police officer has his arm around the protestor as if to throw the person down. A white cop on a horse watches.

So why does any of this matter? Well, if capitalism is a system of distribution that normalizes the idea that some have more resources than others (i.e. it’s an unequal distribution system)–then white supremacist heteropatriarchal nationalism is the method that capitalism uses to *enforce* that unequal distribution system. In other words: white supremacy makes it seem normal and natural that white people have access to the most and the best resources. Heteropatriarchy makes it seem normal and natural that straight men control access to the resources. Nationalism makes it seem normal and natural that the US control the rest of the world’s resources.

So if Detroit is the “Arsenal of Democracy” and where the gathering and production of massive amounts capital for very few (i.e. capitalism) centers itself, then Detroit is the geographical location where capitalism must be enforced. And the Sorjourner Truth Homes are where this enforcement is most visible.

The questions that are important to think about right now:

* Did the government really have any interest in desegregation? If it did, why did it make things worse by announcing repeatedly that it would not fund mortgages for homes near black communities? To the point that white community members in some areas even put up a wall to hide the black community near them? And why were they then rewarded for that wall by the government agreeing to fund their mortgages post-wall?

* Did the corporations bringing workers in have any accountability to the cities they were growing? Specifically, did they feel any obligation at all to follow urban planning principles or city policies designed to protect community infrastructure? Was there incentive for them to do so? What did their influence/control of city governments have to do with how the housing crisis played out?

* If neither a corporation or a local government is accountable to the land or the community they are ruling over–what effect does that lack of accountability have on the community? What effect does it have on the community’s future?

* What role did the housing crisis and segregation of not only the black community, but women, and families as well, have to do with the workers efforts to unionize? What did the corporations supporting desegregated housing have to do with stopping efforts to unionize and decreasing labor demands?

* In what ways does the seemingly “unnaturalness” of desegregation (specifically of race, but also of gender) *increase* the “naturalness” of white, straight, cisgendered, US citizen men owning and controlling all the resources?

Thinking through these questions really help you to swallow the red pill more easily. You start to see things like:

* having a static two gender system not only keeps white babies a comin’, but also keeps a gender based network of jobs where it is normal to not get paid. Either men or women can do the jobs–but the jobs themselves are gendered female, and as such, it is normal to not expect payment (or very little payment) for those jobs. ie. housework, child rearing, secretarial work, etc. Or: a static two gender system acts as an effective method to control who has access to resources and the idea that some jobs are worth more than others.

* demanding heterosexuality: creating the idea of a “traditional nuclear family” (i.e. a man, a woman, children) with a man at the head of the house because he earns the money, creates something for men to “protect.” It becomes normal and natural to expect men to “protect,” unstated: what is theirs. It is how acts like starting riots when black families move in up the street can actually stem from a place of love. They are protecting their families–by enforcing white supremacy *through* heteropatriarchal violence. But they are also protecting their families because they love them. Something to think about in context of today’s seemingly inexplicable working class white membership of the Tea Party.

* all that negative press you’ve heard about the cities up and down the I-75 corridor *especially since they’ve shifted from largely white cities to largely black cities* may actually have more to do with the need to justify NAFTA, CAFTA, the Peruvian Trade Agreement etc than it does with black people being fundamentally unable to govern themselves (as it is argued). Specifically: as corporations move out of areas that they never had any accountability to to begin with–they need reasons to *justify* that move to the white middle class that has enough resources to continue buying their goods–but may not out of anger at the move. They need it to make “practical” and “natural” sense to move towards cities with fewer regulations and less overhead. White supremacy is “natural” way to make that happen. White supremacy is so normal and ‘natural’ as to be invisible.

As such, things like white flight and the vestiges of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation are not noticed. Things like white people rioting repeatedly throughout the years to maintain segregation are not noticed. Neither are things like resources being poured into fixing the destruction of white rioters and not black rioters or the unnatural relationship between corporations and local governments and how that relationship devastated and literally murdered white and black people alike. None of it is noticed.

White supremacy is best at making black bodies and communities hyper visible–and as such, it is *black* violence that we see in the papers. It is *black* city governments fucking everything to hell that we see. It is *black* women having babies and *black* riots and *black* segregation (i.e. when white people are in the minority) that we see.

And it makes sense then, that we all think to ourselves, well damn. It sucks, but it makes sense that all the corporations are leaving. I’d like them to stick around, but in the face of *that*–what are they supposed to do?

Rather than: in light of all *the corporations* crap, what are *we* supposed to do?

Ok. So that’s it for another “short” history lesson. Now that I’ve got all the major themes set, I’m going to start getting into some of the stuff we discussed in the intro post! First up: Decay Porn!

21 comments for “Short History (2)

  1. Linnaeus
    September 13, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    This is great, bfp, and I look forward to the next installments in your series!

    Have you read Thomas Sugrue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis? He develops a number of the same themes that you do here, and confronts a lot of the dominant narratives about Detroit’s troubles and places the origin of those troubles much earlier than you’ll hear in most discussions about Detroit. For example, this:

    all that negative press you’ve heard about the cities up and down the I-75 corridor *especially since they’ve shifted from largely white cities to largely black cities* may actually have more to do with the need to justify NAFTA, CAFTA, the Peruvian Trade Agreement etc than it does with black people being fundamentally unable to govern themselves (as it is argued).

    is disturbingly familiar to me, not only because I observed these shifts (though they’d been largely completed by the time I was aware of them) while growing up, but also because the “blacks ruined the cities” is still rather common (unfortunately) among white Detroiters of my parents’ and older generations. My mom and I were having a discussion about this very notion while on vacation in northern Michigan, and it got to the point where we just had to stop because we were clearly talking past each other.

    A note of personal family history: my stepdad’s father had extensive permanent scarring (and some other damage) to one of his arms which resulted from injuries that he sustained during the 1943 riot, or so my stepdad told me. I don’t know for sure if that’s true, and I don’t know which end of the violence he was on. But I could certainly believe it.

  2. September 13, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    I’ve lived in a few other cities, most segregated (SanFran, Chicago) but the feel of SE MI is so different to me. Because I’m assumed to be white, male, and hetero (which are more or less true assumptions—some don’t consider me “white”), I’m assumed by other whites to be a natural ally, but an ally in what fight, they don’t know. They just assume I share the same assumptions about gender, race, etc. They feel free to tell their jokes, make their hiring decisions right in front of me.

    Sexism/patriarchy is so much a part of our culture that it becomes “invisible” to many, but in detroit, racism assumes a similar status to majoritarians (at least, I’d argue that). It is behind every action like nowhere else I’ve lived, and I’m the white guy.
    I see little interest among the power structure here to change anything, and the so-called corrupt black city governments have no support, as they are always cut off economically by a physical line. The white and off-white collar counties keep detroit fenced off, keep resources away, allowing for a steady stream of cheap housekeepers moving north of 8 mile every morning.

  3. honeybadger
    September 13, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    I find that a lot of middle-class white people’s attitudes toward Detroit is very simplistic. They were able to move to Rochester Hills or Bloomfield Hills so any black people who are still in Detroit are there because of choice. It seems to me that the riots in Detroit are never discussed much, as a whole sometimes I feel Detroit is completely invisible to the rest of the country, only popping up when it’s time to make most dangerous city lists. I wonder if it is because of a general racism. Since it’s mostly black people who live there, they brought it upon themselves and have only themselves to blame. I don’t think that anybody ever blames the corporations, because somehow, if you’re doing something in the name of capitalism, to gain a profit for yourself, it’s permissible to use people and no one ever cares. I’m very glad you’re writing about Detroit, it’s a place very close to home and I haven’t been there in a long time.

  4. Medea
    September 14, 2011 at 2:51 am

    I never thought about a white man “protecting” his neighborhood being an extension of his role to “protect” his family. I assumed that men were more involved in riots because they just tend to be more aggressive and have greater freedom for misdeeds. Also interested by the idea of corporations creating conditions and then using those conditions as an excuse to jump ship.

  5. kmd
    September 14, 2011 at 6:03 am

    My grandmother, an undocumented (white, Canadian) immigrant her whole life, fought for and got a place for her family of 12 children in the “projects” built in this era. I always heard growing up that my dad grew up in the projects in Detroit. I didn’t learn until I was in my 40s that the “project” was housing built for returning soldiers that my grandmother somehow finagled her way into. Makes all kinds of sense now, as I read about the housing history of Detroit in the 1940s.

    All of those houses bought by returning soldiers under the much-touted GI bill were also subject to the same restriction you name here — no mortgages for homes in multiracial areas.

    Clearly a federal government policy of enforcing segregation. Which flies directly in the face of the picture we always get from 1960s Civil Rights history, of bad (Southern) states being brought to justice by the intervention of the feds using the National Guard.

    Using the excuse of protecting white women (and children) in order to terrorize the black community and particularly in order to murder black men really should come as no surprise. What we never learn in mainstream media is that it happened in the North every bit as much in the South. And I didn’t know at all about the housing riot in Detroit.

  6. Rich
    September 14, 2011 at 6:50 am

    Very good stuff! I read the entire post this morning and it challenged everything I ever believed (or was taught to believe) about “white”/”minority” relations in the cities of the US after and during WWII. I learned a lot about Detroit, which up until today I viewed as a “hell hole” of horrible crime and despair. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    As I alluded to earlier, my father lived in a “project” outside Boston that closely resembled that of Detroit’s. After the effort of “Urban Renewal” in the 1960’s, his neighborhood was torn down and replaced with supposedly clean, crime free housing. I wrote about it in my High School History class and was commended for it but no one else had a clue what I was talking about: “What???, But aren’t we living in a perfectly class-free Utopian wonderland??” My dad says: BULLSHIT! I tend to believe him.

  7. September 14, 2011 at 7:36 am

    bfp, I’m not as familiar with the ethnic makeup of Detroit in the 1940s—to what extent was the white rioting an assertion of whiteness? of “American-ness”? By…recent arrivals, proving to the (unquestioned) established white population, “see, we’re white, too! (now give us some of your good housing and stuff!)” Because I’m seeing this: It is how acts like starting riots when black families move in up the street can actually stem from a place of love. as coming more from a place of fear….fear of being treated the same as black people, from losing white status. (that may be seeing it through an Illinois lens, as southern and eastern European immigrants—the “swarthy masses”—made up the bulk of the industrial working class here).

    I fully agree with you on the gender analysis as well—but again, what you describe is somewhat different from how it played out here….women did work in the industrial factories here, doing shittier jobs for less pay….but that wasn’t seen as a threat to heteropatriarchy; it was part of the standard bootstrap narrative. I also wonder what institutional practices were in place in the Detroit area to break down the extended family and replace it with the norm of the “traditional” nuclear family. In Illinois, that was of prime importance to social workers of the time; pathologizing the extended family. Or was that not necessary?

    Did the corporations bringing workers in have any accountability to the cities they were growing?

    Heh. Well, of course not—that’s the purpose of a corporation; to prevent any sort of accountability of the people who own it. Bringing workers in from elsewhere was a standard union-busting tactic (as it remains today).

    (keep kickin’ ass and takin’ names, bfp!!)

    • bfp
      September 14, 2011 at 8:29 am

      Great questions/points La Lubu!

      From what I know–YES, there was TOTALLy that element of ethnic immigrants attempting to “become white”–In fact, if I remember correctly, it was a first generation polish mayor that basically helped to lead the charge against the Sorjourner Truth Homes. and the 1920’s and 30s in Detroit and southeast michigan in general, the KKK and another particularly violent white supremacy organization (whose name I can’t remember now, but they basically thought that the KKK was too soft) organization ran a targeted campaign in Detroit, which at the time, was the forth largest city in the US. They had people running for local offices and creating neighborhood associations with the specific intention of controlling the “n*ggers and Catholics.” and what would “catholic” be code for at that time but eastern eurpoean immigrants? so–in my opinion–even the “not wanting to be a black person” rhetoric of immigrants (which lets be clear, is something that *citizenship is based on in the US* as toni morrison argues), in many ways stems from fear and a sense of needing to protect the family (i.e. from the KKK).

      Now–I want to be *very* clear here–I am not excusing this love based white supremacy either from immigrants or white folks. I am instead first of all arguing that the heteropatriarchal way expressing “love” through protection is the at the *core* of the whole “I’m not a bad person” argument you hear so often *now days*. what non-white folks *experience* as white supremacy, white folks are *inflicting* out of misguided and rarely critiqued or understood love. (think: the whole situation with the book The Help and how the white author is all, but I loooove my black maid! I’m trying to *help* her! and the black woman is like–you *hurt* me). secondly, I’m arguing that the weird attachment to white supremacist institutions like the tea party by poor white folks especially, privileged liberals/progressives write off as the poor white folks being *stupid* or being *bat shit crazy*–in other words, privileged (white folks) use abelism to write off *what they literally can’t see* because they’ve been trained to be “color blind.” maybe it’s not so stupid or “bat shit crazy” what is motivating those folks. Maybe it makes perfect sense within the construct of white supremacist heteropatriarchal world–and what is going on is that the “color blind” method of organizing that white liberal/progressives are so attached to is simply incapable of *addressing* that–or: the type of organizing that needs to be done to move poor whites from the tea party to progressive or even radical left politics is a type of anti-violence organizing that is heavily steeped in addressing white supremacisty heteropatriarchy. and white liberals who are so attached to election models of organizing, are as incapable of seeing white supremacy as the people in the tea party are. (and it should be noted: the christian conservatives and tea party folks do *grassroots* organizing like forming neighborhood associations and getting elected to local political boards–which is why they are so often successful).

    • bfp
      September 14, 2011 at 8:48 am

      women did work in the industrial factories here, doing shittier jobs for less pay….but that wasn’t seen as a threat to heteropatriarchy; it was part of the standard bootstrap narrative. I also wonder what institutional practices were in place in the Detroit area to break down the extended family and replace it with the norm of the “traditional” nuclear family.

      Yes–women worked in the factories here, but from what I can make out–they worked in the factories doing shit work for less pay (as you say) *until they got married*. then they either quit or moved over to secretarial work. there’s an excellent documentary about the women union workers organizing in Flint (and eventually Dearborn and Detroit as well), the women’s emergency brigade. the women in it talk *very* clearly about how married women *who buy defacto were stay at home mothers, wives, etc, largely confined to the houses* were used by the bosses as ways to pressure the male laborers to stop organizing. because of their basic social confinement to the houses once they married–and because they were the ones who had to worry about feeding/clothing the kids–they were especially susceptible to threats of “you’ll lose everything…” that bosses were making when husbands were at work. It was the women working in the offices and at the shit jobs that really helped to push those women into supporting their husbands. but the women workers noted–their power as organizers/workers *also* made them into dykes and queers in the eyes of not only the bosses, but the men they were organizing along side of. Even the women who were married spoke of being called dykes and were pressured regularly to go back home and do their work there. They were often regulated in their organizing to logistical work like cooking and cleaning–and even when one of them refused to do that work, she instead organized a day care so that women who *were* cooking and cleaning had a space to bring leave their children for a while.

      so to me–what all this speaks of is that as these men from all sides enforced the idea of “women’s work”–they were enforcing the idea that *some labor is worth more than other labor*–and as such, ironically, they were reinforcing the idea that an unequal pay scale *made sense*.

      The interesting thing about that documentary is that it is dominated in particular by one white woman, but in general by that one white woman and two or three others. But there is *also* a black woman in there–and she rarely if ever speaks and when she does, she doesn’t contribute too much–but she *does* mention the segregation that ran the factories/communities at that time.

      I’ve always been sort of irritated by how those other women dominated the conversation–because I wonder what that black woman thought of the racial dynamics. Especially in light of the fact that black women often were hired for the secretarial work–and thus were experiencing segregation AND unwanted sexual attention AND unequal pay rates both compared to white women coworkers AND black husbands…

  8. Sheelzebub
    September 14, 2011 at 8:46 am

    I am loving your posts, BFP. This one is really, really meaty.

    Apologies in advance for the derail, but the whole “ethnic/immigrants wanting to be ‘White'” thing–there’s an excellent book about this thing in the history of one of my ethnicities called How the Irish Became White (though I do dispute some of the contentions of the book; he acts as if the Irish weren’t racist until we came to the US, but I have Black friends who’ve been to Ireland who’ll tell you different).

    • bfp
      September 14, 2011 at 9:03 am

      Thanks Sheelzebub!

      And here is another good book: City of Race and Class Violence which talks about the legacy of the KKK in Detroit.

      And here is that documentary I was talking about re: the women union organizers!

      And here is a clip of one of the women organizers talking about the violence organizing unions in Flint–and how gender roles continued even in the face of heavy violence (there is a transcript at the link).

      Oh, and here is a link to the book Linneaus mentions up top! The origins of the Urban Crisis (which I have not read, but I am scanning on google books, and looks *amazing*…

      • bfp
        September 14, 2011 at 9:44 am

        and here is another clip from the same woman talking about how pressure was put on her father by the bank to get her to stop organizing.:

        That included not only his real estate building, but also his photograph studio. He had no funds that he could write any checks. He was frozen. And he went down to see them, and they said, “Until you get that communist daughter of yours out of your apartment building, we’re not going to—” This was just pressure, when I stop to think about it. Just his daughter moving out of the building? This is the pressure that they used. And it was—I remember the banker’s name very well because the son-of-a-beehive was a KKK member with my father through the church minister where I belonged. And so he told him, “You get your daughter out.” And so my father marched home and he said, “For God’s sake, I’m frozen here. I can’t move in any of my business enterprises, and your nonsense, so you’ll have to move.”And I said, “I’m sorry. I haven’t got time to move,” and who would take care of my kids anyway. So then he said, well, then he was going to shut the heat and water off, and I said, “You do that, and I’ll issue a statement to the press that their grandfather is—” you know, from their grandchildren,“and call the health department.”

        So my mother at this point didn’t dare to defy my father, but she let me know that whatever I thought was right for working people, you know, she would be in agreement. She may not understand, but she understood that I had my reasons.

        And what would happen is that—you know, I had two young sisters, remember. One was eight and the other one was twelve. And they would take turns. They would get up and eat breakfast with mother and dad in the morning, and then they would kiss them goodbye and go off to school. One would go to school and the other one would go up the back stairs and stay with my children during the day, and then they would take turns.

        I mean here–we could look at superficial sexism and say “why was she the one worrying about child care, and not her husband?” or “look at these men trying to control women!”

        but I think it’s more useful and ultimately transformative to look at this *how she describes*. Racial intimidation and violence intimately intertwined with/dependent upon gender control and violence (the KKK banker who was *literally* controlled access to resources). Class intimidation and violence intimately intertwined with/dependent upon gender and racial control and violence. If the daughter doesn’t come under control and get back to where she belongs (i.e. in the house having babies), then you *take away her resources*. and if you can’t make her do what she’s supposed to do, then *I* (white rich man) will take away *your* resources–it doesn’t matter if you’re a white man as well. If either of you let black families move into your neighborhoods, then we will not finance your loans. and through all this the corporations/govt are playing on all the fears even if they directly contradict each other as a way to control–promising black workers “equality” and “support of desegregation efforts” if they work against the unions while the government is sending in troops to move black laborers into homes, while refusing to lift FHA ban on funding white homes in desgregated areas.

        It’s all a categorical mess on so many levels–but really demonstrates why holistic approaches to organizing and understanding situations are so essential….

  9. annalouise
    September 14, 2011 at 10:06 am

    One thing I want to mention is that even within white surburban views of Detroit I have noticed a clear class divide as well as a clear divide between people who have a family history in Detroit and those who don’t.

    My mother’s family is working class and lived in “Old Redford” on the far, far northwest side of Detroit. They moved to Livonia (an extremely white*, working-class, mid-ring suburb in Wayne County (the county that Detroit is in). My mother married into a wealthier family from Texas and by the time we moved back to Michigan when I was a teenager we moved to an upper-middle class suburb in Oakland county (the mostly wealthy county to the north of Detroit).

    My mother was always scornful of her Oakland county neighbors for not knowing anything about Detroit, not knowing how to get to places, not knowing the history etc. To her it was pathetic that the racism prevalent in that community was more about fear and isolation.

    In her family and the white working class community she grew up in the racism manifested itself in a much more virulent, hateful and personal way. It also was related to what bfp was talking about in terms of “love”. There was a narrative of love and of loss and anger. “This was our neighborhood. They took it from us.” My extended family still goes to a reunion every single year for people that lived on their block in the 1950s and 1960s. My grandparents genuinely grieve for what they lost when the people in their neighborhood fled to the suburbs. There is a true and very deep sense of loss, of communities being shattered.

    And as the children and grandchildren of that generation of white Detroiters, I truly don’t know how we create a new narrative and honestly face what our parents/grandparents did and what was done to them by huge social forces outside of their control. Can we forgive them their racism by seeing them in no small way as victims of institutionalize racist expectations? How do we call bullshit on that particular narrative and face that, at the end of the day, these people chose to destroy a community that they loved, because they hated black people that much.

    Either way, I agree that middle-class white liberals are not willing or able to see this. And that means that most white liberal narratives don’t acknowledge that “we” really haven’t “moved on” and the same virulent racism exists in working class suburbs like Livonia to this day, or to see that racism as crazy-stupid-old-fashioned.

    *though with a growing Chaldean population

  10. September 14, 2011 at 10:37 am

    What you posted at #12 just *floored* me with culture shock—the relationships within the family and between the family and the community at large. But, it also illuminated for me just why those social workers worked so hard in immigrant communities to break those familial bonds that could be a source of support and resistance. Familial relations in immigrant communities were (still) structured along *feudal* lines….peasants that still affliated themselves along familial and villiage (paesani) lines….but what you describe there, in that post, was how much industrialism infiltrated itself into the home….so the same family that held to traditional means of interfamily support (sharing living space, child care) could have that familial loyalty questioned by or usurped by outsiders. And how much that relates to ownership…peasants owned nothing, so family was everything…..but once someone (like this father) got ahold of some property…he was beholden to the structure that allowed him to have it.

    What does that do to a person inside, that he would even entertain the notion of tossing his daughter and grandchildren out? Because once that line has been crossed….once violence (overt violence or that of neglect) has been used on one’s own family….makes it that much easier to use it on others…channel that resentment of one’s own betrayal against the bodies of others, no? And all the while trying to reconcile the moving goalposts of what *family* is and what *manhood* or *fatherhood* is against the fact of what is actually happening in the home. That “manhood” and “fatherhood” is supposed to serve capitalism, rather than one’s own living, breathing family.

    Absolutely cosign to everything you said about right wing grassroots organizing and communication. (I’ll have more to say on that later, specifically in reference to motherhood *e familglia*…..contrary to popular middle-class belief, my identity as a mother *does not* depoliticize me…grr)

  11. Delurking
    September 14, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Delurking to second the recommendation on Thomas Sugrue for anyone interested in learning about Detroit. I’d also suggest Whose Detroit.

  12. Linnaeus
    September 14, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Delurking to second the recommendation on Thomas Sugrue for anyone interested in learning about Detroit. I’d also suggest Whose Detroit.

    Yes, Whose Detroit? is also an excellent book. I was going to mention it, but thought I should wait for another installment.

  13. September 14, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Pardon my gush, but this series of posts makes my heart happy. If feminism (by whatever name) is going to help us at all in bringing forth a new and better society, it’ll be by helping us to understand and act upon insights like these:

    Well, if capitalism is a system of distribution that normalizes the idea that some have more resources than others (i.e. it’s an unequal distribution system)–then white supremacist heteropatriarchal nationalism is the method that capitalism uses to *enforce* that unequal distribution system.

    Racism and sexism can seem so abstract and purely ideological until we start to really examine the circumstances around “My family getting fed, or their family getting fed” — and meanwhile, workers are producing enough to feed everyone, but the profits are going to the ruling class.

    An organizer and auto factory worker — from Detroit, actually! — came here to Oakland, CA to discuss the book Detroit, I Do Mind Dying (also fabulous, about the mostly-Black revolutionary union movements in Detroit auto plants during the 60’s), and laid it out plain: bosses would pay Blacks less money to do the most dangerous jobs, but white workers still perceived this as “Blacks taking my job.” This became quite a barrier to the naïve “Black and White, Unite and Fight” slogans of class-reductionist labor organizers and revolutionaries. The ideological apparatuses are strong, but it’s important to remember that they are reinforced by these material conditions. In California, we hear basically the same thing from white working-class people: “The Mexicans are taking our jobs.” And yet, of course, the reason for the labor supply shift is that “undesireable immigrants” of various races and peoples — and especially women — compose a hyperexploitable and super-precarious source of labor-power (particularly in agro-business, construction, and food and service industries) which supplies the California economy and generates megaprofits for capitalists.

    For this reason, I think building class consciousness and solidarity has to take on the race and gender and ability stuff, or else we keep on fighting each other instead of the bosses.

    Anyway, lots to think about, and I’m gonna pore over the intro/background series one more time, but thanks to bfp and all the dope commenters for making this a worthwhile discussion. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

  14. bfp
    September 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Oh, I remembered that other group that was affiliated with the KKK in Detroit! It was the Black Legion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Legion_(political_movement).

    So if you have all these white supremacists running local governments and forming local “neighborhood associations”–and then you have the threat of the black legion, who is like, fuck running for office, let’s kill us some …..’s–and with this comes the formation of the unions and housing crises–we have some serious shit that inevitably effects what is going on today. and yet, the media, the politicans, the corporations, and to some extent, the unions–they don’t *talk* about that history–they give no context for what happened then so we can understand what is going on *today*….

  15. bfp
    September 14, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    kloncke: Racism and sexism can seem so abstract and purely ideological until we start to really examine the circumstances around “My family getting fed, or their family getting fed” — and meanwhile, workers are producing enough to feed everyone, but the profits are going to the ruling class.

    THIS. this is exactly why I am starting the discussion where I am–because otherwise the stuff happening today *makes no sense*–it’s just “the way it is.” and we don’t like it so we have to make it stop. but how can you make it stop if you don’t know what started it to begin with?

  16. September 19, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Sheelzebub:
    I am loving your posts, BFP.This one is really, really meaty.

    Apologies in advance for the derail, but the whole “ethnic/immigrants wanting to be ‘White’” thing–there’s an excellent book about this thing in the history of one of my ethnicities called How the Irish Became White (though I do dispute some of the contentions of the book; he acts as if the Irish weren’t racist until we came to the US, but I have Black friends who’ve been to Ireland who’ll tell you different).

    True, True! I’ve been to Ireland and saw first-hand how minorities were treated, specifically “black” or African people.

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