My whole life, I’ve been the first black person to do this and enter that – one of the first blacks in the Catholic school, one of the first blacks to venture into the white officer’s club, the first black official in the CIO, the first black mayor of Detroit, the first black member of the Democratic National Committee – and every time, I was merely raising the old quota by one. We need to continue raising it. If quotas are the only way to keep the white folks honest, let there be quotas. Let us build on their long and revered heritage in this country to which I can personally attest. Put in the historical context, it’s obvious that all the carrying-on about quotas really isn’t about quotas at all; it’s about turf. A lot of white folks don’t want to give it up. And if they must, which they know they ultimately will, they’re not going to give up any quicker than they have to.To a great extent, I regard the civil rights slowdown of the last two decades as a predictable middle-class, Republican reflex to retard the reform movement that swept them off their feet in the sixties and early seventies. When the black and other politically enlightened communities set out to reverse Jim Crow, the results (the Great Society programs, anti-discrimination laws, and especially affirmative action) were assailed as merely Jim Crow of a different color – which of course they were. But I have a problem with anybody who has a problem with any type of legislation that might try to atone for the generations of suppression and indignity systematically inflicted upon a race of people. Our sluggish white friends have to understand that aggressive measures like affirmative action are the only way to make up for the deep-seated wrongs of the past.On that point, the common response from many white people these days is that they’ve personally done nothing to keep the blacks down; but the fact is, they’ve all benefited incalculably from the discrimination and inhumanity imposed by their ancestors. Affirmative action does not ask why society to pay for the social crimes of its ancestors, only to give back what has been wrongfully obtained and passed down. If the hypothetical sale of my great-grandfather, for example, brought $500 dollars on the auction block, he was a form of primitive capital with which a landowner improved his property and net worth…Since you have money to spend – my money – shopping malls have sprung up in your neighborhood, which has prospered as a result. There is very little evidence of hopelessness or desperation where you live; very little crime, drugs, social decline. Your children have gone to safe, well-funded schools and then to college. Meanwhile, my neighborhood has been abandoned and neglected. There is little money with which to improve our situation, and few businesses are interested in moving into an area that they consider blighted. (p. 307-308)
Three years ago, Lamar Grace left Detroit for the suburb of Southfield. He got a good deal — a 3,000-square-foot colonial that once was worth $220,000. In foreclosure, he paid $109,000.
The neighbors were not pleased.
"They don't want to live next door to ghetto folks," he says.
That his neighbors are black, like Grace, is immaterial. Many in the black middle class moved out of Detroit and settled in the northern suburbs years ago; now, due to foreclosures, it is easy to buy or rent houses on the cheap here. The result has been a new, poorer wave of arrivals from the city, and growing tensions between established residents and the newcomers.
"There's a way in which they look down on people moving in from Detroit into houses they bought for much lower prices," says Grace, a 39-year-old telephone company analyst. "I understand you want to keep out the riffraff, but it's not my fault you paid $250,000 and I paid a buck."
The neighbors say there's more to it than that. People like John Clanton, a retired auto worker, say the new arrivals have brought behavior more common in the inner city — increased trash, adults and children on the streets at all times of the night, a disregard for others' property.