Race, Poverty, and American Cities

By John Charles Boger; Judith Welch Wegner | Go to book overview

forty years ago has been transformed. As Peller contends, however, the integrationist program "has been pursued to the exclusion of a commitment to the vitality of the black community as a whole and to the economic and cultural health of black neighborhoods, schools, economic enterprises, and individuals." 151 It is this neglected commitment that drives my call for spatial equality.

In 1979 I was a Legal Services attorney, attending a meeting of low- income housing advocates and clients in Washington, D.C. Some of the black clients questioned us as to why we were all so intent on trying to move them out of their communities instead of working to improve those communities. It was in response to representing their interests that I began to rethink integration. Since that time I have urged spatial equality as a moderating force to the pursuit of integration at all costs. Integration comes with a lot of freight for those such as the clients I have mentioned. We must awaken to its practical dysfunctions and conceptual shortcomings. When integration works, fine. When it does not work, we should not pretend that it will with just a little more time and understanding. Instead, we should move to something else; "God gave Noah the rainbow sign / No more water, the fire next time." 152


Notes
1.
Cornel West, Race Matters ( Boston: Beacon, 1993), 4.
2.
Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass ( Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), 16.
3.
Charisse Jones, "Years on Integration Road: New Views of an Old Goal," New York Times, April 10, 1994.
5.
Gary Peller, "Race Consciousness," Duke Law Journal, 1990, no. 4 ( 1990): 758, 843.
7.
Peller notes that the reappearance of race consciousness in critical race scholarship partly reflects an attempt "to reopen a political discourse that was closed off in the 1960s" (ibid., 847). This essay is a case in point. On other occasions my position has been vilified as "1960s retreaded black-nationalistic, black-power separatist rhetoric" (remarks of a white liberal speaker at the Conference on Homelessness, Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Villanova Law Review, November 1990). His comments really were retreaded from the 1960s, when black power advocates were called "black neo-segregationists" and "advocates of apartheid." Then and now these charges are ridiculous. As Peller points out, black power troubled integrationists, in part, because one of its underlying assumptions was that power, rather than reason or merit, determined the distribution of social resources and opportu-

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