tv [untitled] May 4, 2012 4:30am-5:00am EDT
might think we were all loving it. we love innovation. we're new york. but actually the support guy who had this building was not too happy. he couldn't rent it out. nobody wanted to be in this building because they figured at any moment it was going to topple over. >> this weekend, lectures and history. new york city in the late 1900s. saturday at 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. on c-span 3. each week, american history tv has sat in on a lecture with a college professor. here every saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. this week, an examination of urban america in the mid-20th century with a professor of maine. the course is called the wire,
race, class, gender, which covers the social, economic, political and cultural u.s. cities after world war two. this lasts an hour and 20 minutes. >> so today is a lecture on the origins of the urban crisis. the term urban crisis is in the title of this class. all right? race, class, gender and the urban crisis. we use the hbo miniseries "the wire" as a text to study, or to think about the urban crisis. and also, again, we use "the wire" for the sociological presentation that gives us the post-war american cities and also to ask questions of it because it gives us the window into the post-war police procedural, through fighting crime, or through police and criminals, which allows us to
see a great many things. but it also occludes and hides other elements of life in post-war cities as well. so we use "the wire" both for what it does and what it doesn't do. but today's lecture is more or less a historical overview of the origins of the urban crisis. and that comes from the title of a book of a monograph 1995, a book that you read an excerpt from it. he concentrated on detroit. and that's where i'm using the title of the lecture. you know, what will this lecture do. it does about five things. one, it will give an overview of the concept of the post-war urban crisis. so what does that term mean. two, we will do some historical
contrasts between what arnold hersh referred to as the black enclaves, or what you could call the first ghetto, and what he labels as the second ghetto. we'll do some contrast between those two historical moments in american urban history. three, we will review quickly the impact of de-industrialization on northeastern and midwestern cities. four, we'll talk a bit about -- you know, and that comes from the segrew piece. and the fourth piece which refers to robert self's selection that you read, we'll talk a bit about the spatial dynamics and implications of post-war suburban/urban divides. the concentration is on oakland and southern alameda county. and the fifth thing we'll do in
this lecture is raise implications of this history. and that's where the wicont piece that you read from slavery to mass incarceration comes in. and it's also where the john mcwaters piece that you read comes into play. you know, there was some comments before class about how mcwater is very strong, clear critic of a lot of what you read. and i think that it's important that we read multiple approaches to these questions. we can't just read one particular argument from one particular point of view. so that's why i gave you the mcwater piece from his book "winning the race." which is a criticism of much of the other things that you read. so the post-war urban crisis,
i'll start there. what was it. what was the urban crisis, or what is this historical phenomenon that i'm referring to as the urban crisis. on the one hand it is political and cultural reactions to mid to late 1960s violence and disorder in american cities. it's also a shorthand explanation for the fiscal insecurity. a lot of cities, a lot of northeastern and midwestern cities are experiencing fiscal crisis in the mid-1960s, which is basically they can't pay their bills. they cannot pay their bills. the urban crisis refers to the fiscal insecurity that's besetting many northeastern and midwestern cities. it refers to the decline in services that rack many northeastern and midwestern cities, decline in police
protection, fire, transportation, sanitation. which is related to the inability of cities to pay their bills. and it also refers to the loss of a tax base. the loss of tax revenue. so the urban crisis is a way to talk about these political and cultural phenomena. and i'll talk about that as well as the fiscal insecurity that's really hitting american cities in the northeast and midwest particularly hard. so, you know, in the urban crisis, as a concept, it's an overarching way to think about a confluence of social issues. crime, disinvestment, abandonment. the abandonment of housing. de-population.
what will the role of government be in american cities, the role of government in policing, in sanitation, in education. how will government in cities deal with housing issues in the late 20th century. how will it deal with loss of employment. and how will it deal with this kind of all-encompassing concept of race relations. i'm still not totally sure about what people mean by race relations. but i think that in the mid-20th century, and beyond, race relations was this way to talk about racism. talk about the effects of racism, and to talk about how in cities, primarily how african-american and black populations would fare as citizens. black populations are particularly important when we're talking about post-war
american cities, and we'll see why later on in the lecture. because their numbers swell so much. in the mid-20th century, there are so many structures, if we could go back to our study of c wright mills and the sociological imagination, there are so many structures that shape black people's lives in cities in particular ways. and these create, again, what mills would refer to as social issues. these create social issues, and crises. there's a crisis of segregation in housing. there's a crisis of poverty and
unemployment. some would argue there are crises in crime, in cities. so it's important that we focus on black populations when we're talking about the urban crisis, for those structural issues. what caused the urban crisis. there are, i think four main things that i'm going to hit on. and kind of a half one i'll throw out there right now. you know, one of the things that people caused the urban crisis is black migration. that's one of the arguments at the time. that's one of the arguments -- that's kind of one of the myths and the stories that people who lived in cities who were immigrants, who grew up in communities that they see transform, that's kind of one of the stories and arguments that they make. what happened to american cities, why did they suffer all these calamities. well, it's because right at the time, in the mid-20th century,
when african-americans moved to the south in such large numbers, the city begins to decline. the reason for the decline must have something to do with these newcomers. it must have something to do with who they are. the culture that they bring. this culture of poverty that people start to talk about. their behavioral practices. these are arguments and ideas that float around as to why cities change the way they do. it's not for a structural issue, it's not for a political issue, it's a cultural issue. it's a behavioral issue. it's the way that, quote unquote, those people are. now, i think much of the rest of the lecture will engage in that argument, in some way, shape or form. so i'll just let it hang there for a bit. i'll not tell you if it's right or if it's wrong. but i'm going to go through some of the other causes of the urban crisis that people at the time and scholars since have pieced together, to understand the long history of it, and the structural reasons for it as a social issue. going back to mills, though, a bit, if we argue that these problems, these problems of abandonment, loss of tax base, loss of jobs, residential segregation, if we argue that those are the fault of the
people who came, then we're treating it as, what? mills would say that's treating it as an individual trouble. that this is the result of these individuals, and their individual troubles. therefore, the solution is if you just fix them, if you fix the way that they act, the way that they think, then you will fix the urban crisis. my personal, and my personal opinion and my opinion as a historian is that doesn't make much sense. personal behavior could not cause the problems that we see with the urban crisis. it's not the result of what some people do. we have to look at it structurally. we have to ask those three questions that mills invited us to ask. what's the structure of the society, what's the history of the society, and who prevails and who doesn't. who wins and who loses. who has power. so that's kind of a half answer to the question, well, what caused the urban crisis. and i say that in the beginning,
and i say it at the end, because i want you to think about it. i want you to think about those arguments. take them seriously. so one thing that caused the racial -- the urban crisis, and this comes straight out of the government report, that followed the 1960s violence, is that racial discrimination caused the urban crisis. that's straight out of the kerner commission report, or the report of the national advisory commission on civil disorders published in 1968. racial discrimination caused these problems, particularly the problems that led to the violence that erupts in cities in the mid-1960s. you know, if i could just briefly give you some insight into that. starting in around 1964, really
the attention takes attention in 1965, there are these moments of urban disorder. or at the time, people referred to them as race riots. others of different political position called them urban rebellions, or uprisings. some of you who took racial ethnic conflict in the american city, this will be familiar. in the mid-1960s, there's these moments, these kind of punctuated moments of violence in cities. and it's pretty -- some of them are pretty catastrophic. the first one which doesn't get a lot of attention happens in new york. it's 1964, it's the summer of 1964. a white police officer off-duty shoots and kills an african-american teenage young man in manhattan. harlem and bedford stiverson, people come together in rally against this act, what they see as an act of aggression, this act of police brutality and violence kind of spurs from those collective gatherings.
in the end, one person dies, 500 are injured, 465 are arrested. and there's up to $1 million in property damage in new york. again, that's 1964. not many histories of the mid-'60s disorders really takes that new york moment into account. people really start to wake up and pay attention to the possibilities of urban violence in black sections of cities in 1965 with los angeles. which hersh, he made reference to it. violence spreads throughout the watts section of los angeles in 1965 for six days. again, in response to an altercation between an african-american citizen and a police officer. six days of violence that results in 34 dead people, 1,032 injured, 3,400 arrested. the national guard is called in.
and over 970 buildings were damaged and destroyed estimated at $40 million in property loss. that's los angeles 1965. 1967 is a long, hot summer in the language of the 1960s, insofar as there are multiple moments of violence in cities throughout the country. the two largest concentrating in detroit and newark. again, both tied to altercations, misunderstandings, moments of violent exchange between african-americans and police officers. july 12th through 17th, 1967, newark erupts into disorder. that results in 26 people dead, 725 injured, 1,500 arrested, and property damage is estimated at
over $10 million. detroit, after a police raid of an after-hours -- illegal after-hours establishment, detroit erupts into violence for four days in july of 1967. 43 dead, 33 black, 10 white, 467 injured, 7,200 arrested, half of whom had no prior arrest record it was indicated, 2,500 stores looted, 388 families left homeless, 412 buildings damaged and demolished, and between $40 million and $80 million in property damage in the detroit violence. so this is a crisis. i think mills would agree, or mills would kind of -- this is something he would point to a disruption in collective value that leads to a moment of crisis. so when the federal government brings a panel together to investigate these moments of --
these moments of disorder, these moments of violence, they want to ask three main questions. what happened, why did it happen, and how can we prevent it from happening again. the overarching theme of the kerner commission report is that racial discrimination caused this. right in the introduction, the commission report states, our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal. and later on in the introduction to the report, the commission surmises that white americans have never fully understood but what the negro can never forget is white society is deeply created in the ghetto. white institutions created it, and white society maintained it and condoned it. so much focus regarding the causes of the urban crisis was
on the violence in black sections of cities. people were extremely -- you know, for a lot of people in america, this came out of nowhere. how did this happen. especially given it's the mid-1960s, this would be a time i would normally ask you a question. can i do that? anybody might field bold enough to step up to the mike? you know the answer. we can do this. what's happening in the mid-1960s, in the united states, that might cause people in the country to look at this violence in american cities emanating from black sections with befuddlement and curiosity? saying, what's going on in the country at that time? that directly involves african-americans, that directly involves their -- and now i'm
giving it away. that would cause people to say, what are all these people in l.a. angry about? come on. nobody's going to answer this? no, you got to come to the microphone, man. come on, for that now -- >> all right. >> there you go. >> the civil rights movement? >> the civil rights movement. very good. the civil rights moment is happening, all right? the civil rights act of 1964 passes, outlaws racial discrimination in public accommodations, has the section 7 on employment, anti-discrimination in employment, major piece of legislation that redefines american citizenship, the first time this has happened since the post-civil war reconstruction. summer of 1965, right before
l.a. erupts, the united states passes the voting rights act. bringing into kind of fruition the promises enshrined in the 15th amendment after the civil war. there's this disorder amongst african-americans in cities. and people around the country see this as coming out of nowhere. i should say, african-americans or -- activists who had been in the cities for decades, they knew that these types of things potentially could happen. they had been talking about it
for decades. but the rest of the country wasn't used to thinking about racial discrimination in cities, outside of the south. the rest of the country didn't know in some ways, or didn't want to know what racial discrimination looked like if there was no jim crowe sign hanging on the water fountain or on the bathroom. how can there be racism in places that have anti-discrimination laws. so it's the loss of the urban and when city services are most strained. it's the time -- you know, the loss of erosion of the tax
dollars and coming in contact with the increased population puts a strain on infrastructure such as public schools. when increased crime is putting even more strain on police departments. when abandonment and arson is putting strain on fire departments, at the precise moment that cities need tax dollars the most to fund services, is the moment when they are losing those tax dollars. primarily due to suburbanization. primarily due to -- and to the unemployment in industrialization. but one reason is the suburbanization, the loss of the tax base.
sometimes people refer to it as white flight. you may have heard that term white flight. and it's true, right? cities are hemorrhaging white folk. for a few reasons. which we'll get to. we'll get to in a bit. but you know, the white flight argument can take on a few connotations that don't really help to explain what happened in cities, or really doesn't help to explain what caused white flight. if you just say, well, why are cities going down the tubes in the mid-1960s, well, white flight. white people are leaving. there's kind of this individualistic troubled way to think about it is to say, white people are leaving and that's what's causing the cities to go down. if white people had stayed, the cities wouldn't be suffering these social calamities. again, when you take structure into consideration, when you ask questions about the structures that have a history of causing problems in the cities, the simple fact of white people leaving doesn't explain what caused the crisis. also, just by saying, well, white people left the cities, it leaves it as an indu