Hate Thy Neighbor

Hate Thy Neighbor: Move-In Violence and the Persistence of Racial Segregation in American Housing

Jeannine Bell
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 259
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfhbx
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  • Book Info
    Hate Thy Neighbor
    Book Description:

    Hate They Neighbor shows in devastating detail the rise and persistence of tactics for preventing residential racial integration, starting in the 20th century and continuing into the present. Although many minorities can find good housing in areas they can afford, just enough of their neighbors still greet them with cross-burnings, firebombs, and violence to send an ongoing warning: integrate at your own risk." - Amanda I. Seligman, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Despite increasing racial tolerance and national diversity, neighborhood segregation remains a very real problem in cities across America. Scholars, government officials, and the general public have long attempted to understand why segregation persists despite efforts to combat it, traditionally focusing on the issue of white flight, or the idea that white residents will move to other areas if their neighborhood becomes integrated. In Hate Thy Neighbor, Jeannine Bell expands upon these understandings by investigating a little-examined but surprisingly prevalent problem of move-in violence: the anti-integration violence directed by white residents at minorities who move into their neighborhoods. Apprehensive about their new neighbors and worried about declining property values, these residents resort to extra-legal violence and intimidation tactics, often using vandalism and verbal harassment to combat what they view as a violation of their territory. Hate Thy Neighbor is the first work to seriously examine the role violence plays in maintaining housing segregation, illustrating how intimidation and fear are employed to force minorities back into separate neighborhoods and prevent meaningful integration. Drawing on evidence that includes in-depth interviews with ordinary citizens and analysis of Fair Housing Act cases, Bell provides a moving examination of how neighborhood racial violence is enabled today and how it harms not only the victims, but entire communities. By finally shedding light on this disturbing phenomenon, Hate Thy Neighbor not only enhances our understanding of how prevalent segregation and this type of hate-crime remain, but also offers insightful analysis of a complex mix of remedies that can work to address this difficult problem. Jeannine Bell is Professor of Law at IU Maurer School of Law-Bloomington. She is the author of Policing Hatred: Law Enforcement, Civil Rights, and Hate Crime; Police and Policing Law; and Gaining Access to Research Sites: A Practical and Theoretical Guide for Qualitative Researchers (with Martha Feldman and Michele Berger).

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6022-2
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Violence and the Neighborhood Color Line
    (pp. 1-10)

    How can we make sense of these two incidents? Though they are similar in that they both involve blacks who have moved into all-white neighborhoods, what is perhaps most interesting is that more than fifty years separate these events. The first occurred in the late 1950s, the second in 2002. Though many assume that violence directed at racial and ethnic minorities who have moved to white neighborhoods is a relic of this country’s long-dead history, such behavior is not uncommon. In fact, scenarios like the ones described above, targeting racial and ethnic minorities who integrate white neighborhoods, are so common...

  5. 1 The Roots of Contemporary Move-In Violence
    (pp. 11-52)

    Though many Americans may imagine that racially segregated housing in the United States is a direct descendent of slavery, in actuality the history of the integration of housing by race is more complicated. Blacks and whites were much more likely to be housed in the same neighborhood in the nineteenth century than they are in the twenty-first century.

    Starkly racially segregated neighborhoods are a relatively recent phenomenon. Until the twentieth century, the vast majority of blacks living in the North lived in close proximity to whites in “racially-mixed neighborhoods, usually on blocks with many white neighbors.”¹ Prior to 1915, “Negro...

  6. 2 The Contemporary Dynamics of Move-In Violence
    (pp. 53-85)

    The Fair Housing Act, passed in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, attempted to address the discrimination in housing that had created the white neighborhoods in which anti-integrationist violence occurred. Though the act was an important step and eventually became a significant vehicle for the prosecution of acts of violence directed at minorities moving to white neighborhoods, by 1968, when the Fair Housing Act was passed, the geography of residential racial segregation had changed. “White flight”—a phenomenon in which whites abandoned neighborhoods after minorities moved in—had rearranged the racial distribution of urban centers. By the late...

  7. 3 Anti-Integrationist Violence and the Tolerance-Violence Paradox
    (pp. 86-116)

    The popular stereotype of American racial violence is captured by the movieMississippi Burning. This 1988 Oscar-winning movie starred Willem Dafoe and Gene Hackman in a fictionalized account of the FBI investigation into the real-life murders of three civil rights workers killed in Mississippi in 1964. The picture thatMississippi Burningpresents of racial violence is fairly distinct. If the movie can be said to create an archetype, racial incidents (1) are serious, violent crimes—murders; (2) occur in the Deep South; and (3) involve the Klan or some other extremist group. Highly publicized dramatic incidents of racial violence, like...

  8. 4 Racism or Power? Explaining Perpetrator Motivation in Interethnic Cases
    (pp. 117-135)

    When Channise Davy first laid eyes on the cream-colored, three-bedroom bungalow on a peaceful street in Duarte, a small town in Los Angeles County, California, she thought she had found the perfect place to call home. The charming little house was accented by red and yellow roses in the front yard, with a nectarine tree, a red swing set, and a small gazebo in the backyard. In April 2009, the thirty-one-year-old black beauty salon owner moved her four children from North Hollywood into the lovely house in Duarte. Davy did not think much about the fact that her family would...

  9. 5 When Class Trumps Race: Explaining Perpetrator Motivation in Interclass Cases
    (pp. 136-163)

    Scholars discussing behavior that fits the anti-integrationist violence mold have focused closely on offenders’ racial attitudes. It makes intuitive sense to assume that offenders would single out minorities for attack because they dislike them. In this chapter, I turn the lens to another defining characteristic of many acts of anti-integrationist violence that may offer clues to perpetrator motivation—socioeconomic class. Many incidents of anti-integrationist violence have occurred in working-class white neighborhoods, such as Canarsie and Bensonhurst in Brooklyn, and in South Boston. Highly publicized incidents occurring in these neighborhoods raise the specter that working-class whites may be more likely to...

  10. 6 Responding to Neighborhood Hate Crimes
    (pp. 164-190)

    Many perpetrators of anti-integrationist violence, like those who commit other types of hate crimes, are never caught. If the perpetrators are caught, the government’s response to anti-integrationist violence may involve a variety of actors, ranging from police officers investigating the crime to judges involved in sentencing. This chapter explores the challenges of a viable legal response to anti-integrationist violence. The mechanics of responding to anti-integrationist violence can be read through the story of one black family, the Joneses, who moved to a working-class white neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the spring of 1990. The Joneses’ experience is unusual only...

  11. Conclusion: The Reality of Anti-Integrationist Violence and Prospects for Integration
    (pp. 191-208)

    Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, and other ethnic minorities choose to move to white neighborhoods for many of the same reasons that whites do: attractive houses, good schools for their children, better proximity to employment, and access to services. As previous chapters have shown, however, some minorities’ dreams of a better life quickly turn to a nightmare of racial epithets, vandalism, cross burnings, and even arson and firebombing. The harrowing nature of contemporary anti-integrationist violence and the promise of integration are captured by two stories, both of which occurred in Vidor, Texas.

    As chapter 2 describes, in the early 1990s Vidor,...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 209-242)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 243-248)
  14. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    (pp. 249-249)