All the arguments typically made against blacks were once made against various non-WASP ethnic groups. Those other white Americans had (and, in some cases, still do have) high rates of social problems, violent crime, and addiction/alcoholism. They also were involved in some of the largest riots in U.S. history.
In the North, the KKK spent more time attacking ethnic immigrants than attacking blacks. Poor whites, including those coming from the South, were often viewed as worse than poor blacks. Part of the reason was all these new whites immigrating from elsewhere were competing with the jobs of whites already in the industrialized North.
One of the differences, though, is that most white ethnic immigrants were eventually forced to assimilate, often against their will. Take the destruction of German culture in this country that was almost entirely erased in the era of the two world wars, even though German descendants were (and still are) the majority of citizens. Blacks, on the other hand, were disallowed from assimilating, even when they wanted to, and forced into isolated ghettos with few opportunities of escape. Their successful communities were destroyed (e.g., Black Wall Street) and sundown towns forced them to flee into the inner cities, including during the New Deal when most Americans were looking toward a bright future.
Racists, racialists, and other defenders of the status quo claim that blacks brought it onto themselves. But how did blacks bring onto themselves a systemic and institutional racism that lasted for centuries through the New Deal Era with Jim Crow?
They have no answer for that. All they can do is evade the question and ignore the evidence.
Even if all they cared about is whites, why do they care so little about the mistreatment of white ethnic immigrants and poor rural Southerners who were at times treated with great oppression?
The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America
By Khalil Gibran Muhammad
“One of the strongest claims this book makes is that statistical comparisons between the Foreign-born and the Negro were foundational to the emergence of distinctive modern discourses on race and crime. For all the ways in which poor Irish immigrants of the mid-nineteenth century were labeled members of the dangerous classes, criminalized by Anglo -Saxon police, and over-incarcerated in the nation’s failing prisons, Progressive era social scientists used statistics and sociology to create a pathway for their redemption and rehabilitation. 27 A generation before the Chicago School of Sociology systematically destroyed the immigrant house of pathology built by social Darwinists and eugenicists, Progressive era social scientists were innovating environmental theories of crime and delinquency while using crime statistics to demonstrate the assimilability of the Irish, the Italian, and the Jew by explicit contrast to the Negro. 28 White progressives often discounted crime statistics or disregarded them altogether in favor of humanizing European immigrants, as in much of Jane Addams’s writings. 29 In one of the first academic textbooks on crime, Charles R. Henderson, a pioneering University of Chicago social scientist, declared that “the evil [of immigrant crime] is not so great as statistics carelessly interpreted might prove.” He explained that age and sex ratios— too many young males— skewed the data. But where the “Negro factor” is concerned, Henderson continued, “racial inheritance, physical and mental inferiority , barbarian and slave ancestry and culture ,” were among the “most serious factors in crime statistics.””
Poor rural Southerners who remain unassimilated are to this day treated according to a different variety of near-racist prejudice by the ruling whites of the South, two groups with different ethnic histories that have been in conflict for centuries. The same classism and ethnocentrism that keeps poor whites down is what also keeps poor blacks down. It is all about the feared ‘Other’, whether blacks and Hispanics or Scots-Irish rednecks and white trash.
By the way, the same sundown towns that expelled and excluded blacks did the same for ethnic whites (as described by James W. Loewen). These are the most WASPish towns in America. They lack both racial and ethnic diversity. The different threads of prejudice are tightly woven together.
Also, if the critics are so against affirmative action for blacks, then why don’t they equally criticize the affirmative action that was used against blacks?
When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America
By Ira Katznelson
“From Robert Lieberman, we know how Social Security left out maids and farmworkers and how the landmark law of 1935 distinguished between social insurance for old age and more constricted , less centralized instruments of social assistance. From Jill Quadagno, we learn about the racial sources and implications of modern social policy. From Michael Brown, we discern the tight set of linkages that connected race and fiscal imperatives to the power of the southern wing of the Democratic Party when the modern American welfare state was shaped. From Suzanne Mettler, we are taught how even apparently universalistic public policies can divide categories of citizens from each other. From Neil Foley, we understand the impact of midcentury social policy on racial groups in the cotton culture South. From Lizabeth Cohen, we experience how, even in the North, the treatment of veterans after the Second World War was significantly differentiated by race. From Daniel Kryder, we comprehend the powerful impact race had on the nation during that global war. From Desmond King, we perceive the role that the federal government played from the 1910s to the early 1950s to secure racial segregation. From Nancy Weiss, we witness how torn black Americans were by the bounty and constraints the New Deal presented. And from William Julius Wilson, we grasp the economic, social, spatial, and political mechanisms that have divided black America between a growing but minority middle class and a far less fortunate and good deal more marginal African American majority.”
A similar point is made about sundown towns. The following explains why at least a certain segment of our society has a clear self-interest in remaining willfully ignorant of white affirmative action and sundown towns.
Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism
By James W. Loewen
“Republicans do especially well in sundown suburbs owing not only to their racial ideology, but also to their NIMBY principles and small-government philosophy.41 But these principles too have a racial tinge and tie in with the soclexia that results from living in sundown towns and suburbs. In Chain Reaction, their analysis of the GOP’s appeal to racism from 1964 to 1990, Thomas and Mary Edsall pointed to Republicans’ use of the stereotype that whites work and succeed, while blacks don’t work, hence don’t succeed. As former Nixon aide John Ehrlichman put it, Republicans win in the suburbs partly because they present positions on crime, education, and housing in such a way that a voter could “avoid admitting to himself that he was attracted by a racist appeal.”42
“Sundown suburbs are politically independent and usually quash efforts at metropolitan government. Their school systems are separate and usually oppose metro-wide desegregation. They resist mightily what they view as intrusions by people or governments from the larger metropolitan area or the state. In New Jersey, trying to comply with a New Jersey supreme court decision mandating equal educational opportunity, the legislature passed the Quality Education Act, and Governor Jim Florio proposed higher taxes on families earning more than $100,000 to pay for it. Suburbanites responded by voting out of office many of the politicians who supported the equalization bill, including Florio, whom they replaced with Republican Christine Todd Whitman.43
“The Edsalls point out that the principle of self-interest explains what otherwise might seem to be an ideological contradiction: sundown suburbanites usually try to minimize expenditures by the state and federal governments, but locally they favor “increased suburban and county expenditures, guaranteeing the highest possible return to themselves on their tax dollars.” The Edsalls cite Gwinnett County, Georgia, as an example. Gwinnett, east of Atlanta, is “one of the fastest growing suburban jurisdictions in the nation, heavily Republican (75.5% for Bush [senior]), affluent, and white (96.6%).” Its residents “have been willing to tax and spend on their own behalf as liberally as any Democrats.” Such within-county expenditures increase the inequality between white suburbs and interracial cities. They also do nothing to redress or pay for the ways that Gwinnett residents use and rely upon Atlanta and its public services.44
“Meanwhile, white suburbs favor “policies of fiscal conservatism at the federal level.” Interestingly, despite enjoying more than half a century of federal intervention on behalf of whites in suburbia—FHA and Veterans Administration (VA) loan guarantees, FHA and VA policies that shut out blacks, highway subsidies, and all the rest—residents feel they achieved home ownership in their all-white suburb entirely on their own. Since 1968, whenever African Americans have mobilized to try to get the federal government to act on their behalf, suburban Republicans have rejected the idea: “We’ve done so much for them already.” Many white suburbanites identified attempts of the federal government to be fair about housing, such as the 1968 housing act, with the Democratic Party, and considered them outrageous examples of “special interests” and “federal intervention in local affairs.”
“Today the most important national impact of sundown towns and suburbs is through their influence on the Republican Party. The Edsalls conclude, “The suburban vote is becoming the core of the Republican base.” Since elected officials from safe districts develop seniority, suburban Republicans dominate committees in the House of Representatives and in state legislatures when Republicans control those bodies. They also wield much power over their party in most states.45”