This passage is taken from Matthew Lassiter’s book, THE SILENT MAJORITY: SUBURBAN POLITICS IN THE SUNBELT SOUTH, (Princeton University Press, Princeton University, 2006)
The theme of this book is best expressed in this passage:
“Racial inequality is a constant theme in American history, but the manifestations of racism are evolving and multifaceted, refracted through frameworks such as economics and geography. The ascendance of color-blind ideology in the metropolitan South, as in the rest of the nation, depended upon the establishment of structural mechanisms of exclusion that did not require individual racism by suburban beneficiaries in order to sustain white class privilege and maintain barriers of disadvantage facing urban minority communities.” Introduction.
“ ‘As a member of the silent majority,’ a white father from an affluent suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, declared in 1970, ‘I have never asked what anyone in government or this country could do for me, but rather have kept my mouth shut, paid my taxes, and basically asked to be left alone.’ James McDavid, Jr., lived with his family in one of the new white-collar subdivisions developed outside Charlotte during the postwar growth boom that transformed the political culture and the physical landscape of the American South. Along with middle-class homeowners throughout the nation, the consumer lifestyle of the McDavids depended upon government programs that provided massive subsidies for suburban sprawl and efficient implementation of residential segregation. Federally funded highways crisscrossed the automobile-dependent metropolis, federally guaranteed low interest mortgages and generous tax deductions made a racially exclusive version of the American Dream affordable for white suburban families, and federally bankrolled urban renewal policies systematically concentrated almost all of Charlotte’s black residents in a compact ghetto located on the other side of downtown. Along with thousands of other parents from Charlotte’s outer-ring suburbs, McDavid had written his congressman in outrage after a federal judge ordered a comprehensive busing plan to overcome the stark metropolitan patterns of state-sponsored housing segregation. From the perspective of his all-white subdivision, McDavid denounced busing as a form of reverse discrimination in violation of the color-blind philosophy of neighborhood schools and then issued a blunt threat to the politicians in Washington: ‘I think it is time the law abiding, tax paying white middle class started looking to the federal government for something besides oppression.’ ” pp.1
“During the civil rights showdowns of the late 1960s and early 1970s, white-collar families that claimed membership in the Silent Majority rallied around a ‘color-blind’ discourse of suburban innocence that depicted residential segregation as the class-based outcome of meritocratic individualism rather than the unconstitutional product of structural racism. ‘I couldn’t believe such a thing could happen in America,’ explained Don Roberson, a prosperous physician from the upper-middle-class suburbs who became a grassroots leader of the antibusing movement in Charlotte. “ “ ‘So many of us made the biggest investment of our lives—our homes—primarily on the basis of their location with regard to schools. It seemed like an absurdity that anyone could tell us where to send our children.’ ‘My first reaction was one of disbelief,’ remembered insurance executive Thomas Harris, another officer in the Concerned Parents Association, the local manifestation of the Silent Majority during the Charlotte busing crisis. ‘I did not believe there was any possibility whatsoever that the government was going to dictate where my kids were going to public school. It was crazy; it was not going to happen.’ From the other side of the metropolis, a black father who served as a plaintiff in the busing litigation acknowledged the potency of this class-driven interpretation of the city’s protracted desegregation saga. ‘People thought we were destroying the whole American dream for them,’ James Polk observed. ‘To whites, that meant pull yourself up by your bootstraps, buy a nice home and two cars, live in a nice neighborhood, and go to a nice church, send your kids to the appropriate school…. We understood that a lot of white people would raise holy hell.’ ” pp. 1
“Through the populist revolt of the Silent Majority, millions of white homeowners who had achieved a residentially segregated and federally subsidized version of the American Dream forcefully rejected race-conscious liberalism as an unconstitutional exercise in social engineering and an unprecedented violation of free-market meritocracy. In 1968, the Kerner Report issued by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders asked the middle-class residents of the segregated suburbs to reconsider the meritocratic ethos of color-blind individualism and ponder an unpopular interpretation of their own history: ‘What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.’ The Kerner Commission also issued a dire warning: ‘To continue present policies is to make permanent the division of our country into two societies; one, largely Negro and poor, located in the central cities; the other, predominantly white and affluent, located in the suburbs and outlying areas.’ During the decade after the civil rights movement defeated the acknowledged ‘American Dilemma’ of racial segregation mandated by law in the Jim Crow South, the bitter busing and housing battles that spread throughout the nation confronted a New American Dilemma—the fusion of class segregation and racial discrimination embodied in the urban-suburban divide. In response to the civil rights offensive against the structural forces of residential segregation, a grassroots suburban backlash rippled upward into national politics and established powerful and lasting constraints on the integrationist agenda of racial liberalism. The political culture of suburban exclusion and middle-class entitlement forged a resilient bipartisan consensus that ultimately exempted most affluent neighborhoods throughout the nation from any collective responsibility for the government programs that simultaneously developed the postwar metropolis and contained the inner-city ghettoes.” pp.1-2
SILENT MAJORITY: SUBURBAN POLITICS IN THE SUNBELT SOUTH, by Matthew Lassiter
The following questions are based on the passage from the book.