School Reform and Metropolitan History

As I wrote recently, part of what makes Andrew Highsmith’s new book Demolition Means Progress so compelling is his attention to schools, and particularly to the intersection of the “community school” concept and segregated real estate markets, as drivers of racial and economic polarization in metropolitan Flint. There are many books coming out that seek to examine the role of schools in urban and suburban history, not just by explaining how changing communities affected schools, but how schools figured in those changes. Emily Straus’s  Death of A Suburban Dream: Race and Schools in Compton, California, Brett Gadsden’s Between North and South, and Ansley Erickson’s forthcoming Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits exemplify an important trend in scholarship.

That said, there is another trend that I think is worth noting, that of long-form journalism that engages with this sort of academic history. Some of its practitioners, like Jelani Cobb, are both academics and highly prolific public intellectuals, which fills a blogger like me with envy and gratitude at once. Gratitude chiefly for pieces like Cobb’s New Yorker article on the demise of Queens’s Jamaica High School, once a thriving center of opportunity in a neighborhood in transition from white ethnic working class to African American and now truly multicultural but disadvantaged (you can google the title and access the article through the search page if you’re not a subscriber).

In his opening, Cobb writes that

The school’s closure felt less like the shuttering of a perennial emblem of stagnation than like the erasure of a once great institution that had somehow ceased to be so.

All too often such a “somehow” is made to be an all-purpose deflector of analysis, on par with “mistakes were made.” But Cobb digs in to “somehow” in ways that avoid a reductive narrative of white flight and neighborhood disinvestment. Jamaica thrived, though not without challenges, as the first Black students entered, and continued to thrive, though with escalating challenges, through economic crises that spanned Cobb’s own years as a student at the school, even as whites left the area and the school’s population became poorer. So why is it closing?

Historians tend to look toward long-term antecedents, processes set in motion by decisions that, because they happened long ago, are surprising to read as relevant to the present. And, for sure, Cobb writes by way of conclusion that

In a way, the protests over school closure are a bookend to the riots that broke out over busing four decades ago. Like “busing” and “integration,” the language of today’s reformers often serves as a euphemism for poverty mitigation, the implicit goal that American education has fitfully attempted to achieve since Brown v. Board of Education.

But good historians can recognize more proximate causes, and narrative breaks.

Both busing and school closure recognize the educational obstacles that concentrated poverty creates. But busing recognized a combination of unjust history and policy as complicit in educational failure. In the ideology of school closure, though, the lines of responsibility—of blame, really—run inward. It’s not society that has failed, in this perspective. It’s the schools.

Indeed, the idea of failed schools is the principle innovation in the opportunity hoarding of educational opportunity, replacing the ideology of the neighborhood school that condemned busing in the 1970s. In New York, it’s been a post-millennial phenomenon. First, the school campus was cannibalized by smaller independent schools because the New York School administration was in thrall to Bill Gates’s ultimately failed experiment in small high schools. Then, further reform, also driven by large philanthropists, kicked in:

In 2004, in the name of greater choice, the Bloomberg administration revised the districting rules to allow students to attend any high school in the city. Given the realities of residential segregation, and of school quality as a determinant of real-estate values, there was something almost radical in that idea. It’s even possible to see the Bloomberg plan as a long-awaited response to Arthur Levitt’s claim, in 1954, that the problem in New York was not segregated schools but segregated neighborhoods. But it also meant that students whose parents—owing to language difficulties or work demands, immigration status or a generalized fear of bureaucratic authority—could not or would not pursue other educational options for their children found themselves relegated to increasingly unappealing schools.

Indeed, both neighborhood schools and “choice” have worked within a political economy where educational opportunity was scarce, and therefore susceptible to hoarding and exclusionary behavior. The invocation of neighborhood schools was effective in the 1970s as a way of linking territory, property in real estate, and a presumed property right to superior educational opportunity. Today, when pertinent divides of socioeconomics and race are as likely to be expressed by differences among central city neighborhoods and among suburbs as by the city-suburb divide, the wealthy and influential seem, at least in metropolitan areas, to be asserting a presumed right to superior educational opportunity by deterritorializing education–other than in neighborhood schools of last resort–and letting those with privileged mobility claim the spoils.

Disaster Envy and Austerity Morality

Over the weekend Kristen McQueary, who is not some crank on Thought Catalog but in fact a member of the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune, a major metropolitan news daily, wrote what will surely go down in history as one of the most repugnant opinion pieces of all time. McQueary used the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating landfall on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to reflect on what she considers the storm’s ultimately positive legacy: the privatization of the public school system, the dissolution of public housing, and sweeping fiscal austerity. This may not have the rhetorical panache of William Graham Sumner’s 1883 What the Social Classes Owe Each Other, but if I ever have the good fortune to write the history textbooks of the 2030s it will be reprinted in one of those little sidebars as a primary source illustration of the elite mindset of our second Gilded Age.

McQueary’s column might not otherwise have raised much ire; after all, such austerity narratives dominate public discussion of urban issues as well as city governments. Bond ratings have pushed aside questions of how people can earn a living; educators have become cast as obstacles to education while “entrepreneurs” are mythologized as the solvers of problems heretofore unknown; and prosperity seems increasingly to consist of a funhouse mirror view wherein wealth follows from making everyone poorer. But McQueary wasn’t content to leave it there, wishing that a similar storm might hit Chicago, unleashing the kind of disruption that changed New Orleans, because, and I’m not kidding here, people in Chicago are waiting for deliverance from the city’s budget and unfunded pension problems just as people in New Orleans waited on rooftops to be rescued from drowning in floodwaters (it’s worth noting that McQueary’s metaphor doesn’t even make narrative sense–are Chicagoans already desperate to be rescued? Why do they need the storm, then?). Hard to imagine anyone getting upset, right?

McQueary has of course “apologized” for the fact that some readers (those with functioning moral sense) found her comparative assessment of the seriousness of death and displacement in New Orleans and budget troubles in Chicago, and her apparent belief that lowering the wages of garbagemen and stripping teachers of tenure protections made it all worthwhile, to be completely disgusting.

The problem is that McQueary has disowned her metaphorical conceit but not the ideological indifference to human suffering behind it. She has also completely distorted the political economy of rebuilding, imagining the wrenching changes to the city’s political economy that followed its physical destruction as more or less consensual:

In the years after the storm, residents were divided. Some wanted everything rebuilt the way it was. Others wanted to move forward in a new direction. And that’s ultimately what happened for large parts of the city. New Orleans, of course, hasn’t solved all of its problems. But as Mayor Landrieu reminded us, by the time he took office in 2010, there was a mandate not to put New Orleans back like it had been, but to build a city that works.

Who could quibble with such an anodyne statement? The city used to be messed up, but now it works! Some people disagreed about what to do, but eventually some of them got their way! Out with the old, c’est la vie, laissez la privatisation roulé!

Perhaps the 118,000 African American residents who have not returned to New Orleans might have objected, had they been there to raise their voices in favor of a different mandate. For those who do live in today’s New Orleans, the notion of a “city that works” papers over some gruesome inequalities in terms of who actually works, and for how much. The city’s racial inequalities in earnings and employment are worse than ever, and the Brookings Institution has recently found “good jobs”, defined as

jobs that are accessible to low- and middle-skilled workers and offer stable incomes and upward mobility—

are insufficient in number and growing too slowly relative to those with low wages and no path to advancement or security.
Good jobs

represented 33 percent of all the metro area’s jobs in 2014. These good jobs were found in high numbers and concentrations across a range of occupational fields, from production to maintenance and from management to health care. Yet good jobs in the metro New Orleans area grew by 2.2 percent from 2010 to 2014, while other jobs expanded by 6.1 percent.

It would surprise nobody, perhaps aside from Kristen McQueary, that those holding “good jobs” in New Orleans today are overwhelmingly white. One might think that increasing the number of these jobs and ensuring equal access to them might be a priority. But that kind of thinking clearly ignores the magic of entrepreneurial disruption that so enchants McQueary and that demands fewer jobs with high wages and the security that tenure or a union contract might provide.

With occupations like garbageman and school teacher being purged from the list of good jobs, the percentage may reach single digits soon. Presumably, once nobody in New Orleans can earn a living today or save for tomorrow, they’ll all get rich through the power of the market. This sort of magical thinking would be hilarious if it weren’t the ruling idea of our time.

If you’re not tired and nauseated thinking about this, Adolph Reed has published all that needs to be said on the subject of McQueary’s column and “unpology” at Left Business Observer. A taste:

And what notion of democratic government does she operate with such that Paul Vallas’s having been freed from “restrictive mandates from the city or the state” seems like something to be applauded? He may have “created the nation’s first free-market education system” (can someone pass the salad dressing?), but, if McQueary could imagine doing the most superficial research instead of merely exuberantly rehearsing press releases, she’d have learned that that system has not, even by the the education “reformers’” very dubious metric of standardized testing, improved educational performance overall and certainly has undermined educational quality for many students in the city. And what notion of education does she operate with such that teachers are not only least competent to organize conducting it but are somehow its enemies, though a random “entrepreneur” with no expertise is the one — actually The One — to whom that vital public service should be entrusted? God help us if McQueary starts thinking about how to organize the fire department.

Ouch. Where Reed really nails it, though, is in the observation that austerity, by gutting social provision and underwriting the reorganization of the workforce around poverty wages, in fact constitutes a slow-working violence on people like those of New Orleans and, in McQueary’s fond hopes, Chicago:

The greatest irony of her original stupid article and the backtracking unpology is that she can’t recognize that it’s precisely the sort of arrangements she enthusiastically touts as the utopian possibilities opened by the horrors of Katrina that created that disaster in the first place. She’s right; it was man-made, but, if she were a little less smugly shallow and ideological, she might have asked how it was man-made. It was the product of decades of the sorts of policies, pursued at every level from Orleans Parish to the White House and by corporate Democrats as well as Republicans, she rhapsodizes about—privatization, retrenchment, corporate welfare paid for by cutting vital public services and pasting the moves over with fairy tales about “efficiency” and “lean management” and “doing more with less” and hoping to avoid the day of reckoning.

So, I’ll give this much to McQueary; she’s right that Katrina has a lesson for us. It’s a lesson about what happens when you follow the sorts of destructive approaches to public policy that McQueary shills for.

If anybody needs me, I’ll be off wishing I had written that, then wishing that it hadn’t been necessary to write in the first place.

One Way to Not Comply With Fair Housing Laws….

Via Brentin Mock at Citylab: 

In the early 2000s, Palmdale and Lancaster began spending “significant resources” to pay for investigators and sheriff’s deputies for the sole purpose of aggressively monitoring families in the Section 8 voucher program, reads the Justice Department’s complaint. As a result, hundreds of black families had investigators randomly show up at their doors, often with a posse of armed sheriffs, to search their homes and interrogate them about their housing status.

Mock quotes this from the Justice Department’s press release, available here:

[The Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles] and [the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department] used their resources to effectuate the cities’ [Palmdale and Lancaster] mutual discriminatory goals and to carry out their own discriminatory motives by disproportionately subjecting African-American voucher holders in the cities to more intrusive and intimidating compliance checks and referring those households for termination from the voucher program at greater rates than white voucher holders living in the cities, or any voucher holders living elsewhere in the county of Los Angeles.

Read Mock’s whole account. If you guessed that public authorities in Lancaster and Palmdale would be chastened by this finding, guess again. A growing literature is addressing the history of American public housing and its privatized successor programs, notably Larry Vale’s Purging the Poorest, which evaluates the shift away from modernist mass-scale public housing in Atlanta and Chicago. Despite the well-known problems with public housing, the shift toward vouchers and market-rent subsidy programs exposes the poor and particularly the poor of color to a double-edged sword–by accepting the incentive offered by Section 8 and other market-oriented housing programs to move out of urban areas and embrace the opportunity to raise families in middle-class communities (which comes with a hefty dose of cultural paternalism), those families land in neighborhoods where their presence becomes a symbol of decline and an object of hostility.

Is The Suburban Persecution Complex Having Its Moment?

I wrote here a couple of years ago about a book published by Stanley Kurtz called Spreading the Wealth: How Obama Is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities (and quoted at length a well-written takedown of same). Kurtz’s book generally used the spatial frame of city vs. suburb, which can be selectively interpreted as a set of spatial referents that help articulate a variation of the common core of the right-wing message: “regular Americans” are getting screwed over by liberals, bureaucrats, and social engineers to help minorities, which is futile because of the deficiencies of the recipients (they’ll waste the aid) and the inerrant truth of the market (which demands homogenous neighborhoods).

There is a strong basis for the appeal of this message. The suburbs are home to the largest number of Americans, and, while suburbs tend to be internally homogenous and differentiated from one another by racial, ethnic, class, and occupational distinctions, our most common image of the suburbs is of affluence and whiteness. The differentiation of suburbs from each other and from cities helps perpetuate economic inequality, organizes racial segregation spatially, and, most importantly, encourages affluent white suburbanites to develop deep emotional investments in the “quality” of their communities. Quality is very often defined by racial homogeneity as much as by uniform levels of affluence–recent research using video-based sociological experiments shows that whites subjects’ perception of the quality of the same neighborhood changed significantly for the worse when the otherwise identical scene included black people. When members of minority groups (and to a lesser extent, the white poor) challenge the identity of a community through their presence, those emotional investments are threatened–people perceived as “outsiders” can, by their presence in the community, trigger intense resentment and even repression by the authorities.

Which is why the timing of the Supreme Court’s recent decision (halfheartedly) supporting the application of disparate impact standards under the Fair Housing Act was so serendipitously timed with the release of the tape of the McKinney, Texas pool party police riot. McKinney was identified by the fair housing advocacy group that sued the State of Texas over the practice of distributing low-income housing tax credits in ways that concentrated low-income housing options (and thus, virtually by definition and certainly by design, racial minorities) in a small number of urban and suburban neighborhoods. The segregation of the community and the organization of public policy to consign affordable housing to one side of the city are essential contexts for understanding the McKinney police riot, which in turn graphically illustrates what happens without the aggressive pursuit of housing integration.

The Supreme Court’s decision by itself was by no means a mandate for an aggressively integrationist low-income housing policy. Anthony Kennedy’s opinion suggested that “redevelopment” was a goal equal in merit to “integration,” and that local housing authorities could satisfy the requirements of FHA by revitalization projects that set aside a number of affordable housing units in projects that otherwise gentrify and displace existing low-income populations (where the displaced are to live is unanswered). But by upholding the disparate impact standard, the decision did send the message that the practices favored by local and state governments with regard to distributing low-income housing can no longer expect to concentrate the poor and minorities in ways that protect property value, “character,” and emotional investments in affluent and mostly white communities with complete impunity.

What may potentially give the Supreme Court’s decision teeth was a subsequent policy directive from HUD that the department would require communities receiving HUD funds to “affirmatively further fair housing.” This language has been part of the legislation creating HUD from the beginning, though it’s been mostly ignored until now. It should be noted that HUD’s plan to promote an AFFH agenda is not unduly radical, requiring the creation of a central database of community-level socioeconomic and racial and ethnic data, which will be used by communities receiving HUD funds to set targets for reducing segregation. In extreme cases, HUD could withhold funding from communities that don’t participate or don’t succeed in reaching desegregation targets. Which, technically, the department has always had the authority to do.

So, while AFFH is hardly the fulfillment of the Black Panther Party’s Ten Point Program demands for “Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice And Peace,” Kevin Drum notes that the rather clunky acronym of AFFH has begun to catch on as a boogeyman.

Mostly I just wanted to let everyone know that this thing called AFFH is the latest outrage among the conservative base. It fits in perfectly with their hysteria over Agenda 21 and their general belief that Obama wants to round up every well-off white person in the country and pack them like sardines into high-rise buildings in big cities. Now you know.

Drum’s not exaggerating much here. Kurtz, perhaps eager to have his book receive the attention it missed three years ago, writes at the National Review’s “The Corner” that

the regulation amounts to back-door annexation, a way of turning America’s suburbs into tributaries of nearby cities.

I wouldn’t otherwise link to the article on general principle, but you might otherwise think I’m making this up.

For Kurtz, there are two types of people: urbanites and suburbanites. Many of the latter used to be the former, the window of legitimacy for city-to-suburb migration has closed; indeed, while past migration was apparently democratic and free, any movement of current “urbanites” to the suburbs could only occur through the dread Government Social Engineering.

If you press suburbanites into cities, transfer urbanites to the suburbs, and redistribute suburban tax money to cities, you have effectively abolished the suburbs.

Revenue sharing, public or non-highway transportation infrastructure, and particularly dispersed affordable housing programs are, of course, not really tantamount to “abolishing the suburbs.” There have always been many kinds of suburbs, and different kinds of public policies, hand in hand with the market, have made some kinds of suburbs predominant at different times–the affluent enclaves enabled by road-building and the validation of exclusionary zoning at the turn of the twentieth century, the industrial suburbs enabled by municipal utility building and lax zoning outside the city limits, black and latino suburbs shaped by racial segregation and community-building efforts (by the way, read here for a story about how Hamilton County, Ohio essentially stole the wealth of a black suburb by annexation), and today’s inner-ring suburbs bypassed by successive waves of highway development, for example.

It’s more accurate to say that AFFH represents a threat to the particular sort of suburbs that Kurtz values: those in which the cost of housing ensures social homogeneity and protects privileged access to the networks of educational opportunity and social capital that develop there. Of course, it’s no longer entirely acceptable to declare one’s preference to exclude. Ideals like local control, harnessed to the slippery-slope fallacy, become useful:

It will take time for the truth to emerge. Just by issuing AFFH, the Obama administration has effectively annexed America’s suburbs to its cities. The old American practice of local self-rule is gone. We’ve switched over to a federally controlled regionalist system.

Michael Barone contributes an obtuse effort at defining “segregation” as complete exclusion, which would virtually define segregation out of existence while labeling actually-existing segregation through the market and “color-blind” institutional practices as something else entirely.

An approach more appropriate for a society where there is no significant forcible resistance to desegregation was advanced by Justice Clarence Thomas in his dissent. “We should not automatically presume that any institution with a neutral practice that happens to produce a racial disparity is guilty of discrimination until proven innocent,” he wrote. “The absence of racial disparities in multi-ethnic societies has been the exception, not the rule.”

Keep in mind, Thomas’s opinion in dissent from the Inclusive Communities decision included the rhetorical gem that, since the majority of NBA players are black, disproportions in other industries must be above suspicion.

Nolan Finley uses his Detroit News column to rail against the specter of quotas and forced integration.

The intent here is to make every neighborhood “look like America,” the popular buzz phrase for arranging society by racial percentages.

More likely, the rule will make every neighborhood look like Detroit.

The Motor City should have settled the question of whether forced integration works. Its abandonment was accelerated by court-ordered school busing and government efforts to reorder neighborhoods.

These objections to AFFH are based in a highly selective and ahistorical interpretation of the development and settlement of metropolitan America: white and affluent suburbanites are innocent players in the market who have secured valuable property through their own efforts, property that would be unjustly devalued by government mandates for inclusive housing (as it was by the prior bogeyman of “forced busing”). My own work on the blog and in published work has touched on the ways in which this innocence narrative is bunk. But I’m certainly not the only scholar on that beat.

One of the most relevant recent books for illuminating this issue is UC-Irvine Assistant Professor of History Andrew Highsmith’s Demolition Means Progress: Flint, Michigan and the Fate of the American Metropolis (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Highsmith’s thesis is that while Flint is often understood as a cautionary example of what happens when industrial elites and white workers abandon a city, the reality is more complex and both more hopeful and more frustrating. Rather than a product of abandonment and indifference, Flint’s current struggles are products of a series of efforts to improve the city and the metropolitan area. The problem of course being that the discourse of progress and improvement is fragmented; victorious plans for progress did not reconcile, but only temporarily concealed deep structural conflicts among metropolitan constituencies. The results of improvement initiatives have institutionalized the faults and omissions inherent of different actors’ vision of progress.

If we take Highsmith’s argument seriously (and we should), the fatal moment for metropolitan Flint was not when General Motors undertook workforce cutbacks in response to oil shock and recession in the 1970s, but when a plan for large-scale metropolitan government consolidation in the late 1950s was defeated by suburban voters. When General Motors lost faith in its ability to organize and order metropolitan government according to its understanding of progress, its commitment to keeping metro Flint as its center of production also waned (although dispersal to the Sun Belt and conflicts with the UAW contributed, Highsmith makes clear that the effects of the failed consolidation were more immediate). While one group of “suburban capitalist” property owners protected their immediate interests by preventing the central city from annexing their suburban neighborhoods (and consolidating school districts), they ultimately lost the war because the region’s truculent localism proved to be economically dysfunctional in the long run. This is an argument made by many New Regionalist social scientists, and Highsmith puts some historical meat on those conceptual bones.

I can’t do full justice to Highsmith’s argument here, but his book is a great achievement. It’s truly metropolitan in scope, linking the actions of Flint, Genesee County, and suburban politicians, the spatial practices of General Motors executives who distributed production around the metro area in the hopes of leveraging their economic power to consolidate metropolitan government, and the regional effects of federal housing policies on the distribution of property wealth in the region. Highsmith also draws connections between institutions that are frequently studied in isolation (schools, industry, lending, urban renewal) to construct a complex narrative of how and why a relatively small metropolitan area dominated by one employer still developed deep sociospatial divisions. The effects of GM’s contraction of its Flint workforce are only the final act of this story, and Highsmith never lets the dramatic end of industrial prosperity in the Vehicle City obscure the very serious problems that that prosperity helped create.

Notably, and quite relevant to the AFFH controversy, Highsmith argues that segregation in Flint was not just tolerated as a de facto consequence of the market, nor was it an unfortunate consequence of communities falling through the cracks of prosperity. Rather, segregation was encouraged as a development strategy and adopted as an administrative priority by government, philanthropy, and capital, both before and after the passage of the Civil Rights and Fair Housing Acts. Indeed, political leaders both in the city of Flint and in surrounding Genesee County worked actively to preserve white neighborhoods, even after Flint voters became the first electorate in the country to support open housing in a referendum. Sadly, fair housing law in Flint did little to change what Highsmith terms “popular” segregation–the preferences of white individuals, families, and neighbors to maintain homogeneity–or “administrative” segregation–the enforcement, implementation, and crafting of policies that may be race-neutral, but work to expand and protect segregation–including the location of public housing, urban renewal, and the actions of organized real estate boards. Highsmith describes decisions about the construction, form, and location of public housing, urban renewal, and highway construction as examples of administrative segregation that shaped Flint’s segregated housing market. At the federal level, the decision not to enforce the AFFH mandate of fair housing laws is an excellent example of administrative segregation. And, in particular, the application of affordable housing policies in the 1970s through administrative decisions that concentrated low-income housing in a small number of inner suburbs and offered ostensibly “subsidized” mortgages that turned into predatory debt traps for lower-middle class black buyers in Flint predicted the effects of the 2000s subprime lending bubble in combination with the distribution of low-income housing tax credits in conformity with “popular” segregation mandates to preserve affluent and majority-white communities across the US. Although Kurtz or Finley might look to Beecher or any number of similar “suburban ghettoes” and conclude that forced desegregation was the cause of decline, Highsmith shows how deeply both federal and local policies were implicated in the extension of segregation beyond the city limits.

In Highsmith’s account, these two modes of segregation worked alongside “legal” segregation in the city until judicial decisions outlawed public segregation or segregation by private contract, but also continued well afterward. Highsmith relies on the interplay of administrative and popular segregation to demolish (pardon the pun) a false binary between “de facto” and “de jure” segregation. This binary is precisely the false dichotomy that Kurtz, Barone, and Finley apply to attach the AFFH initiative–if there is no explicit law requiring segregation, or no declared intention to discriminate, then patterns in the housing market, whether they be the architectural style of a neighborhood or the wealth or complexion of the people in it, are innocent and legitimate.

Highsmith offers a compelling historical account of why this isn’t so. Read the whole book.

Stadium Financing Skewered by John Oliver

Since I will otherwise come off as a John Oliver fanboy, I will point out that he misuses the term “begs the question” twice in this clip.

Otherwise, it’s brilliant, and even features John’s best Coach Eric Taylor impersonation.

Some more serious stuff by me on stadiums and cities here and here, and of course the blog Field of Schemes is the leading source.

New Article: “Race, Republicans, and Real Estate: The 1991 Fulton County Tax Revolt”

I’m happy to share the news that this article has just been accepted for publication in the Journal of Urban History.

Here’s the abstract:

A 1991 reappraisal of property in Atlanta and Fulton County, Georgia corrected systemic inequalities in property taxation that had subsidized affluent whites during a boom period. Many of those homeowners responded to reassessment by initiating a major tax revolt. The tax revolt failed to stop reassessment, but won lasting victory in the political arena. Tax revolt politicians successfully linked the economic grievances of taxpayers to resentments against black political leaders and the poor, replaced older, moderate suburban politics with confrontation, and sped partisan realignment and Republican ascendancy in the state. Historical perspective on the politics of the Fulton County tax revolt supports the conclusion that metropolitics were essential to the development of “color-blind” or “laissez-faire” forms of racial ideology that became dominant mode of American racial discourse in the post-civil rights era.

You can link to a .pdf of the submitted version here.