Racist Roads, Explained

28 11 2021

South Bend, Indiana; Washington, D.C.

Evidently, Pete Buttigieg felt the need to ‘Splain himself, as Ricky Ricardo might have said, about his “racist roads” remarks of earlier this month. Looking at how he defended himself, he shouldn’t have bothered.

But, speaking of ‘Splaining, it gives me a Voxsplaining opportunity. Which means, if you have any anti-annoyance pills left in your stash, swallow one before you continue reading.

There seems to be this notion running around the American lamercon/normiecon sector that Buttigieg just very recently made this all up out of thin air, just to be woke for woke’s sake.

I don’t agree.

In reality, Buttigieg is merely bouncing off what has been an American left wing trope that has existed for at least as long as I can remember. The trope is that there is, in some way, some sort of causative correlation between urban freeways and interstate highways and rapid automobile infrastructure on the one hand, and urban black decay and dysfunction on the other hand. Whether the designers and planners deliberately intended it, or whether it happened accidentally in a “falling out of the design” (pun intended) disparate impact sort of way without any actual intent, depends on which left winger you’re talking to and on which day.

Late edit: Just to make sure nobody misunderstands, as I see in the comments that some of you do, the trope goes way beyond the accusation that urban freeways were cynically routed through low income black areas. Yes, that particular accusation has been around for a long time, and in fact, it still is oft spouted. But the trope I’m talking about here goes deeper than that. The gist of it is that blacks were all Ward and June Cleaver, until one day someone put an interstate highway through their high melanin version of White Bread and Mayo Ville. Then, boom, instant ghetto. That the freeways and highways actually caused black urban poverty and decay when there was either none or not as much before.

Either way, that trope is so easy to refute. You can point to urban areas that are good on both sides of an interstate highway, and urban areas that are bad on both sides, and urban areas that are bad on one side and good on the other, and urban areas that are bad in spite of no interstate highway ever being anywhere nearby. You can point to urban areas that have shifted back and forth between good and bad and vice versa in the entire history of an interstate highway going through them.

In my native St. Louis, rapid gentrification has taken place in neighborhoods close and very close to the interstates. For instance, both Soulard and Benton Park are right up against I-55. When 55 was built, mid-’60s, both neighborhoods had a bad but well deserved reputation for being full of hoosiers, and they had been that way for many years before then. But, starting with Soulard around the mid-1980s and then Benton Park about ten to fifteen years later, they started gentrifying. In spite of 55 being in/near them and in fact serving as the modern dividing line between one and the other. Today, both are so expensive that even the houses right up against 55 are expensive, in spite of all highway noise and unsightliness. Which means that, far from 55 causing them to devolve into black ghettos, they went the other way. Not that 55 caused them to become gentrified and more expensive, because that happened for other reasons. But, by the same token, it didn’t cause a disaster in the long run. Likewise, I-44 goes right by Lafayette Square — That neighborhood was St. Louis’s truly elite neighborhood from when it was first built up just after the War Between the States until the 1896 Tornado ran right through it, and from that point in time it slowly decayed into hoosier-y slums until it started its serious gentrification starting around 1980, into what it is today, St. Louis’s toniest neighborhood that had to be gentrified to get that way. During its late hoosier-y years, circa 1970, I-44 was built right at its southern edge, and don’t forget that 40 (now also I-64) and 55 aren’t that far away. I will say that LS getting gentrified is what created the political headwinds against what would have been I-755, as part of the Freeway Revolt years all across America.

Sometimes, the left uses the trope in the sense that urban freeways that connected to suburban and exurban freeways made white flight easier, and we know that had something to do with white people shoveling all the magic dirt, bagging it up, and packing it in the trunks of their cars, then high tailing it out to the suburbs on the interstates. Or something like that.

I think it’s easy to see by now that the trope was developed to serve as a crutch for people not to have to think about black dysfunction.

But I don’t think this trope is meant to be taken literally, especially now. I think there’s a reason why Buttigieg specifically said this, beyond the mere fact that Ron Klain appointed him Transportation Secretary. And I think that relates to the reason why Klain made Buttigieg TransSec to begin with, in spite of his otherwise thin gruel of actual competency and qualifications. And that in turn gets down to the subversive point of this missive. It really has nothing to do with black people, as such.

Modern day white liberal urban gentrifiers love this trope, even though the trope far predates and presupposes them. Because it gives them a woke rationale and excuse for their pure NIMBY desires to dismantle unsightly urban freeways in and close to neighborhoods they have or want to gentrify. Just as these same people have been using a coordinated combination of woke bafflegab (AFFH) to get rid of all the black people in the urban areas they want to gentrify and unloading them on cookie cutter suburbs and even some rural areas, all while convincing black people that they’re actually doing them a favor and that it’s in their best interests.

“Black” is to today what “national defense” was in the second half of the 1940s on through the entirety of the 1950s, the talisman of national public obsession, and therefore something you attach to something if you want to grease the political skids. Coming full circle with a tight turning radius, (sorry, couldn’t resist), the American interstate highway system’s official name coming from the actual legislation in 1956 has National Defense in it, because having I-70 between St. Louis and Kansas City would make the military’s work easier if the Soviets nuked Washington, because reasons. Even the National School Lunch Act of 1946 had as part of its public debate and rhetoric implications of national defense and military readiness. Because research completed in 1946 proved that eating sloppy joes every noon on most weekdays between September and May as a nine-year old made you all the more effective in killing Nazis as a 19-year old, trust the science.

Likewise, today, if you want to get anything done in the political realm, find a case that whatever it is will help Black people, and don’t you dare forget to capitalize the B.

Bringing back the conversation to white liberal urban genrtifiers, that class of people demographically comprise as a disproportionately high percentage of themselves a certain domestic lifestyle choice that they just so happen to share with Pete Buttigieg. Jerry Seinfeld has entered the comment section.

Pete Buttigeg yelling about “racist bridges and highways” earlier this month and then doubling down in it later in the month, as well as his being TransSec to begin with, is designed to dog whistle to gay white urban liberal gentrifiers that his boss’s infrastructure bill (and any subsequent infrastructure policies) isn’t going to mean new eyesore freeways in their newly gentrified urban backyards.

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13 responses

28 11 2021
David In TN

I recall complaining circa 1970 about I-65 going through (black) North Nashville instead of Bell Meade (the rich white section).

It was, “They sent the interstate through us because we are poor and black.”

Well, I-65 goes right over the middle of Nashville. Bell Meade is to the West. I-40 West goes through (actually over) the affluent Western part of Nashville. And to get to North Nashville I-65 had to go through white neighborhoods.

But you know how this “thinking” goes.

28 11 2021
Alex the Goon

Sometimes roads get built through shit neighborhoods because the property is cheaper to eminent-domain. Those people should complain more about why Whitey makes them get on Whitey’s bus to go shopplifting at Whitey’s shopping malls, when Whitey could have easily built Whitey’s malls in the black hoods.

29 11 2021
countenance

I think both of you miss the point. Yes, there have been the complaints that highways were routed through low income black neighborhoods. But that’s not the complaint I’m talking about, the trope. The trope is that the highways somehow cause poverty, decay and dysfunction where there was either none or not as much before (i.e. among blacks and only blacks).

10 12 2021
Sebastian Hawks

They have a whole series of these silly causes of black dysfunction. The guns germs and steel crap. The expressway did it, the design of the building did it, lead paint did it, etc. They even made a whole episode of Star Trek back in the 60s transposing the “lead paint in the hood” trope onto an alien planet in outer space.

29 11 2021
Hard Right

They can always put on their work boots and jog to Whitey’s neighborhood.

29 11 2021
countenance

Realized I bought up the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 and made a Ricky Ricardo reference in the same post. Is that boy good or is that boy good?

29 11 2021
countenance

I also remember that military readiness and road improvement wasn’t just a ’50s thing. I know that in both 1919 and 1920, right after the end of the First World War, the War Department implicitly organized cross country automobile caravans to show people that it was close to totally impossible to go from one side of the country to the other in an automobile.

Also, jumping continents, and this always comes up, because the Autobahnen here inspired Dwight Eisenhower to push for interstate highways. No, Hitler didn’t personally invent the Autobahnen, and neither did anyone in the NSDAP. The fundamental ideas were conceputalized in 1914, very late in the Imperial years, and just before the outbreak of the First World War, and, as I understand, had military readiness implications. Turns out that those implications happened much sooner than later. What the Nazi regime did do was build a lot of them, and since the Nazi regime had purview over a temporarily super-sized German state, and its footprint was far reduced after the war, (can’t imagine why), it means that a lot of the freeway/motorway grade roads in modern day countries that surround today’s Germany were originally Nazi-built.

29 11 2021
David In TN

I had read that seeing the Autobahns caused Dwight Eisenhower to push for the Interstate Highway system.

Also, the Weimar Government had authorized them, but Hitler took all the credit. Long after WW II older Germans would supposedly say “He built the Autobahnen.”

You inform us that the Imperial government had originally planned them.

29 11 2021
Alright Dan

They can’t meme.

29 11 2021
Hard Right

Are they texting each other from their pods?

29 11 2021
12 12 2021
9 02 2022
Crack Pipes, Explained | Countenance Blog

[…] It’s as easy as reminding you of my advice a few months ago about a similar but different matter. […]

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