[Excerpted from the latest Radio Derb, now available exclusively through VDARE.com]
[Clip: Pete Seeger, “Little Boxes.”]
Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes all the same
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same
That was old-style Lefty Pete Seeger mocking the suburbs back in 1963. The suburbs, according to the songwriter (Malvina Reynolds, another old-style Lefty), were just breeding farms for the bourgeoisie, a wasteland of conformist middle-class values: doctors, lawyers, golfers, and—oh my God!—nuclear families, who drank their martinis dry and sent their kids to summer camp.
Pete’s recording of the song was a big hit. There was a market for mocking the suburbs in the sixties: not just songs, but movies like The Graduate and novels like those of Updike and Cheever. The Boomers were looking for something more exciting, more spiritual, more life-affirming that the routine drudgery of middle-class life.
This being America, there was of course a race element to anti-suburbanism. The people in those little boxes Pete Seeger was sneering at were far too white; everyone understood that.
This was the Civil Rights era, so government action followed. Five years after Seeger’s hit, in 1968, the Lyndon Johnson administration gave us the Fair Housing Act, bringing the power of the feds to bear on race discrimination in those lily-white suburbs. Federal agencies were required, quote: “affirmatively to further” the purposes of the Act, which included diversifying residential neighborhoods.
Fast-forward 47 years. Someone in the Obama administration plucked those words out of the Fair Housing Act and brought forth the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, ordering the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to withhold federal funds from localities that weren’t sufficiently diverse.
Some shameless cynics like our own Steve Sailer suggested that Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing—which, Steve says, sounds like something Daffy Duck might say—that AFFH was really just a scheme to move poor blacks out of the inner cities. This would open up more prime urban real estate for gentrification, for the benefit of hip young Obama-voting urban types with outlooks formed by TV shows like Friends and Sex in the City; and perhaps, coincidentally of course, perhaps also to the benefit of urban real-estate developers like Obama’s pal Tony Rezko.
The poor blacks being shunted out of the inner cities would have to go somewhere. So where? To the suburbs, of course. Suburbanites might grumble at having inner-city blacks and their problems dumped on them; but hey, suburbanites are mainly racist white people with way too much white privilege, so it serves them right.
Well, July 23rd the Trump administration announced they are dropping the AFFH rule on the grounds that, in the words of HUD Secretary Ben Carson:
Washington has no business dictating what is best to meet your local community’s unique needs.
HUD revokes Obama-era rule designed to diversify the suburbs, AP (Fox) July 23, 2020
Under the AFFH rule, said Carson, local jurisdictions were forced to comply with complicated regulations that require hundreds of pages of reporting, to very little practical effect.
That started off what news outlets call a “firestorm” of indignation from Social Justice outfits like The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (which recently libelled VDARE.com to scare our Domain Registrar into dropping us). It sputtered that dropping the AFFH Rule was “a full-frontal assault on the rule of law.”
President Trump stoked the flames by tweeting out
I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2020
What do I think about all this?
First off, I was never on board with the anti-suburb sentiment, even in my lefty college days. I’ve always liked the suburbs. I’ve been living in one for nigh-on thirty years, and have no desire to live anywhere else.
One of the first opinion pieces I wrote for an American magazine was in defense of suburbia. That was in reaction to an initiative out of the Clinton administration with the almost comically moon-booted bureaucratic title: Building Livable Communities For The 21st Century. I opened with the ringing declaration that, quote:
I shall give up my lawn mower when they prise it from my cold dead fingers.
That Clinton initiative—the year was 1999—was not in fact explicitly anti-suburb, just a play for more federal control over zoning and transportation. I don’t think it was anti-white, either. The really open, aggressive anti-whiteness we’re all used to now wasn’t much in evidence in the nineties, before the Great Awokening. It took another fifteen years of Leftward drift before Obama came right out into the open with AFFH.
I think Steve’s probably right that there were ulterior motives behind AFFH. It’s hard to watch someone as sanctimonious as Barack Obama without glimpsing the dollar signs flickering on his eyeballs.
Probably there was also racial revenge in play. How dare white Americans monopolize those pleasant leafy suburbs, leaving blacks stuck in smelly, crowded, crime-addled inner cities?
I’m going to give benefit of the doubt, though, and assume that there was some element of genuine altruism in there, too. Let me explain that.
The one great everlasting problem of American society is the problem of poor blacks. There are poor whites, too, of course; but because of race differences in ability and behavior, there are proportionally more, way more, poor blacks.
I raise again my analogy of a man dragging a sack along the road. If the sack is not too big in proportion to the man, it’s a nuisance, but he can keep moving. That’s the situation of whites in relation to their own poor, antisocial element.
If the sack is too big in proportion to the man, however, it’s really hard for him to make any progress. That’s how it is for the so-called Talented Tenth of blacks—and indeed for the rest of us, too—in relation to the black underclass.
But that’s a race realist point of view. If you’re a race denialist, there’s a solution: Magic Dirt!
Just move poor blacks out of the inner citie s where they are concentrated and scatter them out into the suburbs. The magic suburban dirt will cure them of antisocial behaviors and have them crowding into Advanced Placement classes in no time. Problem solved!
I’ve no doubt there are white people who sincerely believe in Magic Dirt Theory. That’s the element of altruism I just mentioned.
However, a great many suburbanites—including Talented Tenth black ones, and probably a lot of white liberals whose enthusiasm for social justice goes no deeper than virtue signaling—a great many of us don’t believe the Magic Dirt Theory and don’t want to live around poor blacks. When we hear the phrase “low-income housing” we think of crime, disorder, welfare mommas, and discipline problems in schools.
I bet it was.
But so what? We suburbanites have votes, too.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by VDARE.com com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.