A Review of Robert Self’s “White Noose”

California is an interesting animal when it comes to liberalism and culture. It is a state where freedom, pioneering and opportunity drove migration and settlement and created mega cities of world renown. Yet, in the sunny county of Alameda in the 1960’s, a rigid population of white neo-liberals would contradict themselves using sly rhetoric to cover their collective posteriors. In a county that “voted in overwhelming numbers for the figurehead of mid-1960’s liberalism, President Lyndon B. Johnson,” an overwhelming majority also voted against fair housing (Boehm 445). As the population saw liberalism as being closely defined by property, masses came out in support of Proposition 14, a bill that repealed the groundbreaking Rumford Act. The California Real Estate Association sought to organize people “on the presumption that property, as space that produces capital, is the highest social good and should remain the least regulated, most free arena of human activity (Boehm 446).” Using the deceptive language that has become all too common in modern political battles, the CREA hid behind an argument of “individual rights” and “freedom.” Essentially, they stated that anyone in opposition was being wholly un-American and hated the freedom of the private citizen. It is the same argument as “protecting the sanctity of marriage” while voting down gay marriage rights or saying that you don’t want “socialist healthcare, so take your hands off my Medicare.” They are all equally and intentionally deceptive bait and switch techniques masking a bigoted agenda that would seek to affirm institutionalized prejudice in the urban landscapes on economic, legal, and residential levels. What truly scared real estate developers and investors, as Self rightly notes, is how fair housing “threatened real estate industry control because it raised the possibility of chaotic market fluctuations (Boehm 448).” A complete lack of guilt and a self assurance they were somehow not racists lead the home owner’s associations of places like San Leandro to dump costs and remove opportunities from black citizens, primarily in Oakland. This created an “architecture of suburban apartheid” as Self describes the situation (Boehm 449). With naive responses to the problem, white Californians, and truly many white Americans, created the very problems they sought to avoid through their callous actions. The new white supremacy movement was one of veiled assertion. Instead of funny outfits and cross burnings, the new language was one of individual liberties and citizens rights. It was, and is, just as much an act of cowardice as wearing a hood over your face while you march your hate in the street. As the Kerner Commission stated in a 1968 report, “white institutions created it (ghetto), white institutions maintain it, and white institutions condone it (Boehm 453).” Though those institutions may take the stance that they didn’t start the fire, their pants are surely being consumed by it.

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