Hate Thy Neighbor: Move-in Violence and the Persistence of Racial Segregation in American Housing

By Jeannine Bell | Go to book overview

Conclusion
The Reality of Anti-Integrationist Violence and Prospects for Integration

Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, and other ethnic minorities choose to move to white neighborhoods for many of the same reasons that whites do: attractive houses, good schools for their children, better proximity to employment, and access to services. As previous chapters have shown, however, some minorities’ dreams of a better life quickly turn to a nightmare of racial epithets, vandalism, cross burnings, and even arson and firebombing. The harrowing nature of contemporary anti-integrationist violence and the promise of integration are captured by two stories, both of which occurred in Vidor, Texas.

As chapter 2 describes, in the early 1990s Vidor, Texas, was a nearly allwhite town. It had a reputation as a Ku Klux Klan stronghold. Few, if any, blacks lived there until 1993, when East Texas housing authorities were ordered by the court to desegregate the Vidor housing complex. As part of the plan, two black women and their families, and two single black men moved to a housing development in Vidor. The women were harassed and threatened by local residents and moved out within two weeks. The two men, fifty-eight-year-old John DeQuir and thirty-seven-year-old Bill Simpson, stayed a bit longer. Simpson, who was the last to leave, moved to the development in February 1993 and left in September 1993.

Like other low-income individuals who move to housing developments, Simpson moved to Vidor out of necessity. An imposing figure at seven feet tall and three hundred pounds, Simpson had broken his leg, leaving him unable to work. Explaining why he moved to a place with a reputation as a Klan stronghold, Simpson said, “I never wanted to be a hero, I just needed a place to stay. I was living on the street in Beaumont.”1 “I wanted to live a quiet honest life.”2 But his life in Vidor was

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