Monday, November 07, 2005

A Tale of Two Counties

Apparently, the subject of fundraisers and outings at "all-white" country clubs will continue to be raised in political campaigns. I, frankly, think that this is lazy politics. It's shorthand for racial intolerance and insensitivity, but the chain of causation is never spelled out, it's assumed. If a country club has no black members, it's because of conscious policy by the club. If you set foot in an all-white club, you are not only aware of the club's history and policy, you condone every aspect of it. QED.

I find all this silly (although not as silly as similar charges levelled against males who frequent all-male clubs). Is there a policy goal anywhere within shouting distance of meaningful? Is there a human being in the state of Maryland who really honestly thinks that if only Vernon Jordon or Michael Powell were members of the Elkridge Club that the plight of underclass blacks in Baltimore or Seat Pleasant would improve one tenth of an iota? Of course not. Yet refusing to host fundraisers at Elkridge is a necessary proxy marker for sufficient sensitivity to racial issues? Apparently people do think this. Why is that so?

I don't know where Mr. Trippi lives, or how much he knows about Maryland. I've lived here for three years, and I've learned a lot about race issues by doing something I was warned not to do by a lot of people, including some liberals. I bought a house in Prince Georges County, and starting paying attention.

It is staggering to me how segregated Maryland -- a state which never had Jim Crow laws -- remains in the 21st century. What is even more staggering is that this segregation seems to be almost entirely voluntary, and continues even where black socioeconomic status is higher than anywhere else in the country. Despite forty years of civil rights legislation, despite fifty years of integrated public schools, despite enough haranguing about tolerance to choke a stableful of elephants and donkeys, and despite almost identical voting patterns, middle class and affluent whites buy houses in Montgomery County and middle class and affluent blacks buy houses in Prince Georges County, operating in sufficient lockstep that Montgomery County is 27% black and Prince Georges County is 27% white.

Baltimore County, the location of the Elkridge Country Club, is even whiter than Montgomery. Yet I doubt very much that Elkridge has even a tacit rule against admitting blacks. There are simply too many well-connected, powerful, influential African-Americans in the greater DC area to make this plausible. Blacks just haven't done so, any more than they've moved into the very white liberal neighborhoods that tend to vote for the kind of candidates Joe Trippi works for. If blacks are banned at Elkridge, then it is in the same sense they are banned from the bluest-of-blue census tracts in Chevy Chase, Kensington, and Bethesda, which is to say in no sense at all, other than the sense that comes of their own comfort level.

I don't know why this is so, but I have my guesses. Why do blacks who have, beyond question, "made it" -- nailed down educations and careers and salaries that enable them to build seven figure custom homes on five acre lots in one of the hottest real estate markets in the country -- flock to rural Prince Georges County, where their grandparents sharecropped tobacco and soybeans, to do so? Just maybe it's because, having achieved material success, they don't feel any need to put up with the infernal honky bores that infest places like Montgomery County and the Elkridge Country Club.

14 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Which, among other reasons, is why I haven't joined Nation of Islam. Bor-ing. You cursed one White Devil, you've cursed 'em all.

Quick hits, based on your eagerly awaited essay from Ground Zero, Ms. Hutchins:

---Kudos on "lazy politics." We all have strange bedfellows. If we condemn them all, there'll be nobody left in bed with us. That's politics.

Further, "symbolic" politics, as in Elkridge as a symbol, is indeed lazy. Elkridge is not Little Rock Central High School. (Was Ike cool, or what?)

Elkridge is a collection of old white fools. Soon they will be dead, and progress will march on over their dead bodies. Elkridge is not the future, it's the past.

---I watched the Masters on TV, even though Augusta National Golf Club presently has no female members. Does that make me sexist?

---Joe Trippi is a Maryland resident, which is why I think he could afford to join the Mfume campaign at no pay.

---Liberals advised you not to move to Prince Georges County, where whites are but 27% of the population? More more more on this, ¡por favor!


Your main thesis of self-segregation, which anyone who's been near a college lunchroom in the past decade or two can confidently confirm, was examined mathematically a few years back.

An upwardly mobile, new-suburban Black family, wishing to raise their kids with at least some fellow Black folk around, look for a house with at least one Black neighbor.

Soon they are joined by other upwardly mobile Black families.

Ta-da! Not through the social phenomenon of "white flight," but by mathematical model, the neighborhood soon turns majority Black.

The article from the Atlantic, by Jonathan Rauch and featuring the research of Thomas C. Schelling (credit where's it due and earned) is here. If there's a problem accessing it, please let me know. I think it's highly worthy, and it's stuck in my mind since its publication in 2002.

Hunter Baker said...

You reminded me of something. I recall an organization I was working for arranged a reception in Augusta to introduce ourselves to people in the community who might be interested in our work. We picked a club that had the right size room, equipment, was available, etc.

Only a few weeks later did a friend of our group complain that we had chosen a venue that had no black members, allowed no black members, whatever. We had no idea. I'm pretty sure we had a mixed race audience that night and we had (and still have) a mixed race board.

On Tom's point about self-segregation, I have witnessed it up close. When we were buying a house in Clayton County, Georgia, our (interestingly enough) black realtor showed us some subdivisions and skipped others that looked fine to me. I didn't ask him why, but I started looking around on my own after we made a purchase. The neighborhoods he didn't show us were upper middle class black neighborhoods. Nicely manicured lawns. Attractive houses. No whitey anywhere.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Liberals advised you not to move to Prince Georges County, where whites are but 27% of the population? More more more on this, ¡por favor!

The straw-camel-back issue for white liberals is the PG public schools. Since I intended to put my kids in Catholic school anyway, it simply wasn't an issue for me. I never had to come to terms with just how open-minded I really was. As a bonus, it turned out the the premium timid palefaces pay to obtain Montgomery schools for their children, when folded into a conventional mortgage payment, is more than Catholic school tuition for two children. Not sure why the market doesn't do a better job of arbitrage there; maybe Alan or Ben could explain.

Matt Huisman said...

That's because the market isn't involved here. Excessively high property taxes are often seen as a mechanism for keeping the 'riff-raff' out. We're not racist, we're just really committed to our schools. It's not unlike many of the environmentalists in California who want to protect 'open spaces' (and maybe keep out lower-income housing).

Kathy Hutchins said...

That's because the market isn't involved here. Excessively high property taxes are often seen as a mechanism for keeping the 'riff-raff' out.

I don't think I was clear. There isn't much difference between property taxes in the two counties; it's the difference in selling price of the houses, amortized over 30 years, that I was comparing to the tuition checks I write every month. This goes to something I was thinking in the thread over vouchers, but didn't get around to saying -- people shop for schools, and pay for them, now -- but the price they pay is the higher price of houses in good school districts. With vouchers, at least the money would go to the schools, not to the home sellers and realtors. I might do a separate post about that, actually.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

I suppose one could ask Why are the property values so different?

Matt's example, "environmental" impediments to growth, explains the high property values in many No. Cal. counties.

What explains the same phenomena where you live? I have a hard time believing it is simply the schools...maybe I missed something.

Matt Huisman said...

Not sure why the market doesn't do a better job of arbitrage there; maybe Alan or Ben could explain.

Let me try again, then, Kathy...

This community sounds like a well-branded product. Functionally, it's probably only marginally better than other communities. However, it is a product that says something about the owner...it tells a story that differentiates them from others, and allows them to associate with similar people.

People rely on things like style and exclusiveness to express identity, and if it only costs a few measly more dollars...

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ah, Mr. Huisman. Très Postrel.

Matt Huisman said...

You've found me out TVD...well done. I wouldn't have thought that VP would register in the philo-universe...but then again, she's a lot better looking than Plantinga.

Matt Huisman said...

[By the way, I'd love to hear a thought or two on the appropriateness of VP, Seth Godin and/or Diego Rodriguez in the local church.

How important, or how far can one go with aesthetics, style, design and story in ministry?]

James Elliott said...

"symbolic"

Symbols should be left to the symbol-minded.

connie deady said...

This looks like a good thread to air a personal grievance I have and get input from my Republican pro-corporate friends. Any suggestions would be welcome, too.

I get cable modem Internet through Adelphia, which was bought out by Comcast. Adelphia had previously bought out my original cable company, Blue Ridge. Blue Ridge had old satellite equipment. Unfortunately it is going bad. Adelphia doesn't want to pay to upgrade since they want to reap their profits prior to the sale which takes effect in February of 2007.

This means I get periodic interruptions of service, sometimes for a whole day, which they some how patch together until it falls apart a month or so later. Now I'd love to get DSL, but my house is 500 feet or so too far away from the transfer station or whatever they call the place that sends out the signal to my area. That's the joy of living in a rural area.

Competition is free enterprise is good. Monopoly just sucks for the consumer.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Connie,

I live so far out in the boonies I can't get cable or DSL. I use Hughes Communications (DirecTV/DirecWay) for both TV and broadband. Assuming you live south of the Arctic Circle, that option is available to you as well. I regret to inform you, though, that current satellite broadband technology....how do I say this in a mature way.....IT SUCKS. IT SUCKS WITH BELLS ON. Sometimes competitive markets do not give us all we want when we want it.

I assume that by the time Hughes gets its technical problems resolved, the entire globe will be a T-Mobile Hotspot and I won't need them anymore.

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