Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Race in Municipal Politics

There really are just two points of view when it comes to race.

The liberal point of view holds that race is just a social construct and we're better off trying to overcome and ignore these differences.

The conservative point of view basically says "my side comes first and the rest don't matter. They're probably inferior anyhow."

During the civil rights movement you saw both sides emerging in the black community. Martin Luther King Jr was a liberal and tried to work for a color-blind society. Malcom X headed a more conservative movement that really was only concerned with advancing people of African descent, not the whole culture.

If you have a problem seeing Malcom X as a conservative, remember he was a practicing Muslim and on pretty much every social issue Muslims are very conservative. His Nation of Islam followers might have espoused communism and socialism, but that really was just a means to the end of getting more economic and political power in the hands of ex-africans.

These opposing positions are pretty well evident in today's Municipal Elections in Jackson.

There is an element who wants to work with white Jacksonians and try to encourage white business people to invest in Jackson. They're opposed by a faction who wouldn't be all that upset if all the white people left Jackson. They want all the power and control for themselves and couldn't care less what anyone else wants.

The problem with that second point of view is that we've been there before, only it used to be white people looking for total control where now it's black people. It was a bad idea then and it's a bad idea now. No community functions well with just one side controlling everything.

We've seen this cycle all over the country. As demographics change, white people move out of a city at first voluntarily because they're afraid of change, but in the middle of the cycle the growing black power base starts actually pushing them out to gain more power for themselves, then at the end of the cycle, as the city gets poorer and poorer, white business interests are able to move back in and buy up land at pennies on the dollar.

The right get richer and the poor get poorer and nothing changes. Somebody could actually break the cycle by working to keep a city racially balanced by encouraging white people to stay in the city and invest in the city, giving black politicians a tax base sufficient to actually do something to help their constituents with.

That's probably not going to happen in Jackson. From what I've seen there's a pretty strong movement to actually prevent white business people from investing in Jackson or getting involved in municipal politics. That's probably exactly what's going to happen. Most of these guys aren't going to go where they're not wanted, especially when there are successful suburban communities practically begging them to invest in their cities.

What really hurts is that poorer communities have a higher need for social services like police and fire protection, but as the tax base shrinks, the ability to fund these needs shrinks as well, making the quality of life in these poorer communities worse and worse and ironically, as black citizens gain political power, they lose the ability to do anything useful with that power because they're no money in the budget.

The logical move would be to really push to keep middle class people, white and black, living in the city to keep the tax base high enough to fund needed projects in the poorer side of town, but since that might dilute the political power of black politicians I don't see it happening.

I hate seeing Madison prosper while Jackson deteriorates. It's Jackson's legacy to make really bad decisions when it comes to race though, so maybe it's the future as well. Even though the races changed, the stupidity remains the same.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Boyd, do us all a favor and don't presume the conservative point of view.
Better yet, read Martin Luther King's speech and then rethink yourself.
MLK was a conservative.

Pogue