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The Price of Paradise

The Price of Paradise: The Costs of Inequality and a Vision for a More Equitable America

DAVID DANTE TROUTT
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 282
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qgh10
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  • Book Info
    The Price of Paradise
    Book Description:

    Many American communities, especially the working and middle class, are facing chronic problems: fiscal stress, urban decline, environmental sprawl, failing schools, mass incarceration, political isolation, disproportionate foreclosures, and severe public health risks. InThe Price of Paradise, David Dante Troutt argues that it is a lack of what he calls regional equity in our local decision making that has led to this looming crisis now facing so many cities and local governments. Unless we adopt policies that take into consideration all class levels, he argues, the underlying inequity affecting poor and middle class communities will permanently limit opportunity for the next generations of Americans. Arguing that there are structural flaws in the American dream, Troutt explores the role that place plays in our thinking and how we have organized our communities to create or deny opportunity. Through a careful presentation of this crisis at the national level and also through on-the-ground observation in communities like Newark, Detroit, Houston, Oakland, and New York City that all face similar hardships, he makes the case that America's tendency to separate into enclaves in urban areas or to sprawl off on one's own in suburbs gravely undermines the American dream. Troutt shows that the tendency to separate also has maintained racial segregation in our cities and towns, itself cementing many barriers for advancement. A profound conversation about America at the crossroads,The Price of Paradiseis a multilayered exploration of the legal, economic, and cultural forces that contribute to the squeeze on the middle class, the hidden dangers of growing income and wealth inequality, and environmentally unsustainable growth and consumption patterns.David Dante Trouttis Professor of Law and Justice John J. Francis Scholar at the Rutgers University-Newark Law School. He also serves as Director of the Center on Law in Metropolitan Equity at Rutgers Law School.Troutt is a columnist, novelist, and the author of several works of nonfiction, most recentlyAfter the Storm: Black Intellectuals Explore the Meaning of Hurricane Katrina.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2489-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-14)

    Let’s begin with a brazen assault on paradise. On June 4, 2010, eighteen-year-old Justin Hudson was the chosen student graduation speaker at Hunter College High School, a prestigious New York City high school for “intellectually gifted” students. He was to deliver a celebratory speech to the assembled recipients of the American Dream at its meritorious best. A half-black, half-Latino young man from a low-income neighborhood, Justin began by acknowledging that he had no right to be standing there before his classmates and their families. Blacks represented only 3 percent of Hunter’s students, Latinos 1 percent. But then, Justin went on,...

  4. 1 MUTUALITY: THE THIEF, THE PREACHER, AND THE LATE-NIGHT LAWYER
    (pp. 15-40)

    When my youngest was two years old she used to point to any American flag she saw and say, “There’s that Obama thing, Dada.” That alone, I realized, is why some people fear the future. Yes, a president is often seen beside the flag, but for so many children to learn aboutthisflag besidethispresident is just a peek at how basic meanings about American life are changing. What’s new and hopeful for her generation is still fraught and contested for mine. Beneath adult differences over who represents our national symbols, however, are more broadly shared fears about...

  5. 2 ALL THIS I MADE MYSELF: ASSUMING THAT MIDDLE-CLASS LIVES ARE SELF-SUFFICIENT
    (pp. 41-61)

    The story of our assumptions about place begins in the suburbs, not our big cities, as you might think. For many of us, the city is a place to find yourself, to discover your identity like some unsolved mystery, and to prove yourself. But that quest is traditionally for the young. Soon enough those urges give way to a desire to complete yourself (or your family) in a place built for that purpose, one that provides the raw materials—privacy, safety, natural beauty, and control—with which to “settle down.” The suburbs, unlike cities, never take credit for your completion;...

  6. 3 KEEP YOUR DISTANCE: ASSUMING THAT MIDDLE-CLASS STATUS REQUIRES DISTANCE FROM THE POOR
    (pp. 62-90)

    The assumption that maintaining one’s middle-class status requires keeping distance from the poor may be the hardest one to overcome. This was explained to me in calm and thoughtful terms by a stranger with whom I argued as we rode a train from Washington DC to New York City. We had passed some of the East Coast’s most devastating ghettos in Baltimore and Philadelphia, and I had been making many of the historical and structural points you are about to read. He, a businessman in his fifties, had been dismissive and incredulous, and always responded with personal anecdotes. Just when...

  7. 4 THE PROMISE HALF EMPTY: ASSUMING THAT SEGREGATION IS A THING OF THE PAST
    (pp. 91-122)

    If you took a poll to see which of three subjects Americans would prefer to have a ninety-second discussion about, and the three choices were segregation, slavery, or irritable bowel syndrome, I’m pretty sure irritable bowels would win going away. If the mere mention of slavery elicits claims of African American whining, segregation beyond the black-and-white pictured past is more than avoided—it is flatly denied. Besides, it’s over. The increasing diversity of growing inner-ring suburbs—an argument made in this very book—is proof of positive change. The assumption, then, is that racial segregation was triumphantly overcome decades ago....

  8. 5 WE RENAMED THE PROBLEM AND IT DISAPPEARED: ASSUMING THAT RACISM NO LONGER LIMITS MINORITY CHANCES
    (pp. 123-148)

    I live in a very old house, which is a good thing (until something breaks). On the first cold days of October, when you turn on the thermostat, you must wait for the heat to slowly rise up from the basement. It seems to climb from Reconstruction through wood and coal to the Industrial Era, up past the Progressive Era to World War I, then World War II, until finally it reaches oil, gas, plastics, and perhaps one day solar. The journey of heat through my home reminds me of what happens when the word “racism” is used, how its...

  9. 6 ISLANDS WITHOUT PARADISE: ASSUMING THAT POVERTY RESULTS FROM WEAK VALUES AND POOR DECISIONS
    (pp. 149-175)

    Most Americans have ambivalent feelings about poverty in our country, their views teetering somewhere between the folkloric formative poverty of the past and the gangster-rapping underclass of the present. For policy folks this fulcrum distinguishes deserving from undeserving poor. The first is largely historical, talked about by older family members as a necessary step in their social mobility and personal maturity, stories of sacrifice, outhouses, and mile-long walks to school in deep snow. The hardship in their words is real, but what accounts for the fond remembrance is the happy middle-class ending, always made possible by hard work and disciplined...

  10. 7 RACELESS WONDERS: ASSUMING THAT RACIAL LABELS NO LONGER MATTER
    (pp. 176-200)

    Mutuality would be easier to embrace if our racial identities did not routinely separate us. The sharing and trust intrinsic to the idea of linked fates and common interests would come more readily if just our humanity mattered. Racelessness, or being undefinable by race, would seem to be a crucial step in overcoming our costly divisions. Not surprisingly, we hold the popular sixth assumption—that racial labels are no longer useful or accurate—as a practical aspiration, an opportunity to live out our ideals about opportunity. Lately, we seem to exult the assumption as a foregone conclusion. Doing so prematurely...

  11. 8 THE COSTS OF INEQUALITY AND A VISION FOR A MORE EQUITABLE AMERICA
    (pp. 201-226)

    If the last several chapters explored the imperatives for overcoming our erroneous assumptions about place, class, and race, this chapter attempts to point the way toward beloved communities of opportunity.* Books like this one must take care not to promise too much, because the great diversity of regions and circumstances can make specific proposals sound laughable. However, certain generalizations hold. They form a basis for understanding what is a growing movement among scholars, elected officials, and advocates in a field called regional or metropolitan equity.¹ That ungainly name reflects the preceding emphasis on reaching equity through more spatial equality. Rather...

  12. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 227-228)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 229-252)
  14. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 253-258)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 259-274)
  16. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    (pp. 275-275)