Touré Neblett’s ideological twin brother Ta-Nehisi Coates:
I went on a Twitter rant yesterday because I’d finished Isabel Wilkerson’s phenomenal The Warmth Of Other Suns. The book is a narrative history of the Great Migration through the eyes of actual migrants. Several points stick out for me.
1) The Great Migration was not an influx of illiterate, bedraggled, lazy have-nots. Wilkerson marshalls a wealth of social science data showing that the migrants were generally better educated than their Northern brethren, more likely to stay married, and more likely to stay employed. In fact, in some cases, black migrants were better educated than their Northern white neighbors.
2) In this sense, the migrants to Northern cities resembled immigrant classes to whom black people in these same cities are often unfavorably compared to. There’s a quote in Wilkerson’s book which I can’t find where a supervisor basically says that blacks are the favored workers because they will work hard at the worst jobs for relatively little money. You would have thought the guy was talking about Hispanic farm-hands today.
3) The black migrants were not immigrants. They were citizens of this country who did not enjoy its full protection. Unlike other immigrant classes, blacks were never able to cash in on their hard work and middle-class values. For all of their work-ethic, education-valuing, and long-term marriages, they received the worst wages in the worst jobs, were limited to the worst housing, and stuffed in the worst schools.
6) America does not really want a black middle class. Some of the most bracing portions of Wilkerson’s book involve the vicious attacks on black ambition. When a black family in Chicago saves up enough to move out of the crowded slums into Cicero, the neighborhood riots. The father had saved for years for a piano for his kids. The people of Cicero tossed the piano out the window, looted his home, torched his apartment and then torched his building. In the South, when black people attempted to leave to earn better wages, they were often forcibly detained, and thus kept in slavery as late as the 1950s.
On a policy level, there is a persistent strain wherein efforts to aid The People are engineered in such a way wherein they help black people a lot less. It is utterly painful to read about the New Deal being left in the hands of Southern governments which were hostile to black people, and then to today see a significant chunk of health care, again, left in the hands of Southern governments which are hostile to black people. At this point, such efforts no longer require open bigotry. They are simply built into the system.
Where do I start?
First things first – from Wikipedia:
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (2010) is a historical study by African-American author Isabel Wilkerson. It is about the The Great Migration and the Second Great Migration, the movement of blacks out of the Southern United States to the Midwest, Northeast and West between 1915 and 1970. The book intertwines a general history and statistical analysis of the entire period, and the biographies of three persons: a sharecropper’s wife who left Mississippi in the 1930s for Chicago, named Ida Mae Brandon Gladney; an agricultural worker, George Swanson Starling, who left Florida for New York City in the 1940s; and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, a doctor who left Louisiana in the early 1950s, for Los Angeles.
As you can see, we are really talking about two great migrations, both of which were triggered by wars, the mechanization of southern agriculture and northern/western industrialization.
Now a little point-by-point rebuttal:
1. Which “Northern brethren” is Mr. Coates referring to? The White Anglo-Saxon Protestants? The Irish Catholics? The Italians? The White Russians? The Jewish? The Poles? The Hungarians? The Germans? During the same period that 6 million blacks moved north and west there were also tens of millions of immigrants flooding into those same areas from all over the world.
2. If blacks were the favored workers then what happened? Did those greedy, rich, white factory owners prefer paying higher wages to inferior employees because of racism?
3. Yes, black people got a raw deal in this country for most of our history. I don’t want to seem flippant about slavery and Jim Crow segregation but lots of groups have been mistreated throughout history. At some point there needs to be a statute of limitation on historic grievances.
6. Isn’t Cicero a suburb of blue/Democratic/unionized Chicago? Last I checked Chicago was in Illinois, and even southern Illinois is north of the Mason-Dixon line. So exactly who is to blame here?
I’m not quite sure how the idea that black people weren’t allowed to leave the south fits with the “great migration” concept.
As for those New Deal Southern governments, they were all Democrats. In regard to the current implementation of health care, is there some documentation that the quality of healthcare in the South is racially discriminatory? Seriously – that’s a really troubling assertion, especially if it’s true. Where is the evidence?
The fact is that Touré/Ta-Nehisi is a bigot. He doesn’t care about facts or evidence. All he cares about his irrational hatred of white people. He will grab a hold of anything that supports his bigoted views and ignore anything that doesn’t.