Birds of a Feather

Thursday, May 29, 2008

In The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), journalist Bill Bishop argues that for all the diversity we have in America, our communities are more polarized than ever.

Did you move to your current neighborhood to join a certain group? Comment below!


Bill Bishop

Comments [108]

David! from NYC


where have you been?!

May. 30 2008 08:41 AM

so mga, would it be wrong for liberals to concede that conservatives may have a few good points, and that social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, can be determined by the state?
Is it wrong for liberals to concede that women can empower themselves enough to take responsibility for the prevention of pregnancy? And thus make abortion a moot point?

May. 29 2008 08:28 PM

I agree with you, and that's why I brought up Naipaul's "A Bend in the River." But I screwed up, it's not Ralph Singh (the protagonist in "The Mimic Men") who expresses admiration for the white man, but the narrator in "A Bend in the River".
It's simultaneously an argument against colonialism, and against revolution, and against Joan Baez records.
I'm completely serious. It's also a Nobel Prize winning book, and totally engrossing. And short.
I think you'd like it.

May. 29 2008 08:26 PM
hjs from 11211

very true all human's can do bad things BUT europeans killed on an industrial scale. and europeans (including north Americans) still run the world so it's all your fault mga.

May. 29 2008 08:16 PM
mga from secaucus

Just a minute folks. Sure, European colonists & armies did a lot of damage everywhere they went. But are you saying there were no native bad guys in the pre-colonial Americas, pre-colonial Africa, and elsewhere? There have been wars and slavery and exploitation of the poor in almost every culture around the world. The urge to do evil to others either from spite or to gain an advantage is not the sole province of a color or culture or region of people. It's human. Twas ever thus, and will always be a part of us.

I've always identified as a liberal, but today I am nearly as sick of rigid, dogmatic and self-righteous liberals as I have always been of rigid, self-righteous and dogmatic conservatives.

Let's quit pointing the finger and instead devote ourselves to carrying on the hard work of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Gandhi, MLK Jr. and the nameless millions who try hard every day to be a little kinder to one another, the millions who have contributed in some small way to fighting injustice, preventing further harm and isolating those who can't seem to stop being so hurtful.

CS Lewis had us pegged in the Screwtape Letters. It's the thousand tiny, thoughtless crimes we do to one another every day that impoverish our souls, not the big colorful sins. And one's value at the end of the day as a human being has nothing to do with what religion or political ideas you believe, and everything to do with how you practice kindness.

May. 29 2008 07:32 PM

alas, for what it's worth, I respectfully submit that "Rule Brittania" and "The Star Spangled Banner" are both pure propaganda, and I rightfully feel conflicted about feeling anything but gratitude for my US citizenship when I hear either of them.
Rule Brittania, specifically, is, I think, what the colonial subject Ralph Singh, in Naipaul's "A Bend in the River" means when he marvels at the ability of white people to say one thing and do another. But the Japanese claiming "Asia for Asians back in WWII is another excellent example, and they're not white...

May. 29 2008 05:16 PM
hjs from 11211

like i said eye of the beholder


May. 29 2008 04:08 PM

abortion is not the only option for that teenager...
I agree they need a re-education campaign in the red states, I just think we could also use a re-education campaign.
Obama is a risky move, I'll admit. But as you know, a large number of people felt that Hillary would be even more alienating.

May. 29 2008 04:03 PM
hjs from 11211

what about "alienating more conservative voters" by say nominating a liberal biracial blue state senator?
essential is in the idea is the be holder i guess. abortion might be essential to a teenager who doesn't want to live a life of poverty. and i agree about bringing them along. but red states need a reeducation campain. i have some idea but no money and the fed doesn't seem to want to educate our youth. why? that would be off topic....

May. 29 2008 03:59 PM

hjs, point taken, and David, thank you for accepting my apology. I will work on being nicer. I agree with you, David, that everyone should learn English who is here, I even I wrote that earlier. My concern is that in saying that, we are ignoring vital opportunities we have to make use of immigrant language skills to build our own. Yes, the French language tapes will be useful in the long run, at least in terms of cognitive development. At the same time, I'm convinced that if you want to impress the Europeans, you need to learn... Mandarin. I know that sounds crazy. But that's where the money is going. I have a prejudice against learning Mandarin as a first language, but for some people that's unavoidable. But as an unbelievably easy-to-learn second language, I think it's a MUST for every American kid. I know black kids in the immersion school who already speak fluent Cantonese (impossibly difficlt language) AND Mandarin. And yet, let's face it, our sentimental attachment to European languages leads us somewhere else...

May. 29 2008 03:57 PM
David! from NYC

Well, I simply must finish some reports. Until next time…

Eh bien, je doit simplement terminer certains rapports. Jusqu'à la prochaine fois…

Nun, ich muss einfach Schluss einige Berichte. Bis zum nächsten Mal…

Bueno, yo simplemente debe terminar algunos informes. Hasta la próxima…

Ebbene, io semplicemente deve terminare alcune relazioni. Fino a quando la prossima volta…


May. 29 2008 03:51 PM
hjs from 11211

maybe could be kinder to others in ur posts?

May. 29 2008 03:44 PM
David! from NYC


Apology accepted--and thank you.

The limitation of this wonderful forum is that we can't hear the tone of voice. Sometimes it is difficult to tell when one is joking and when one is serious.

I agree that America's position in the world is changing. I agree that we as a nation should have many languages taught in elementary school. My French is rusty, and it's not as practical a language to speak as it once was.

My support of an English-speaking America is not based on a prejudice of other languages; it is grounded in the example of my wife's ancestors. (Mine were Brits, so we already spoke English.) Whether right or not, the reality of the situation when my wife's family came from Italy, was that English was the language of the land. Without foresaking their love of their Italian heritage, they took it upon themselves to adopt as many of the customs of their new home as possible. A big part of that was learning English.

I want people who choose to move to America to learn English not because I think their native tongue is inferior, but because I think language unites us--or divides us. If I were to move to a nation where English weren't the official language, not simply spoken, I'd bust my arse to learn that language.

Even simple answers aren't always simple.

May. 29 2008 03:42 PM
hjs from 11211

DAVid! eva
known fact children learn languages with easy
maybe the little princess can learn french and chinese. it's a marketing skill. all kids should learn several. i wish i had :(
also english is the new lingua franca in europe but that doesn't mean we shouldn't expand our minds.

May. 29 2008 03:42 PM

a good point about where the money is going. When it comes to the bible belt, as you referred to it, there's a snobbery "our side" has about Kentuckians and other states that are poorer and more conservative. I think the idea is more that we should be bringing less-educated rural white voters along - it's part of the tradition of our party. And by continually riling them with issues that aren't essential (abortion, gay marriage, the flag) or by insulting them by saying they're not "evolved", we risk losing them forever. To be honest, some of their values are very good values that we've simply tossed aside.
I agree that losing elections doesn't mean you're wrong, but... we need to win. And I don't see the need to alienate more conservative voters by pulling away from the core issues that Democrats have traditionally been concerned with: the economy, the environment, and education.

May. 29 2008 03:41 PM
hjs from 11211

David! Eva

as always fun!

May. 29 2008 03:36 PM

Please accept my apologies for writing in a barbed fashion. No one is challenging your parenting skills. But sometimes I think it's easier to feign insult than to look at the issues brought up.
The world is changing. The power is shifting out of this country. And frightened Americans smugly cling to their English language skills, instead of realizing that the tectonic plates have already shifted.
Rule Brittania? Not even.

May. 29 2008 03:32 PM
hjs from 11211

tony 72
you're right but i won't use the word 'evolve' more of a motivation issue. also note most red states receive subsidies (welfare) from blue states, that's how nice (advanced) we are. I blame lincoln, he should have let the south secede when they asked to. maybe we would have a better education system, modern healthcare system, better foreign policy, etc. hey without the war on science I'd be living on mars by now.

eva 81
we can have an "aggressively funded, ass-kicking K-12 educational system" for all americans (staters) but we choose instead to have an empire so the masses can drive SUV's and buy cheap oil based plastic (read: goods or credit) from the han chinese. tony is right but so are u we can't convince the bible belt that they are pulling us down. that's why we keep losing elections. losing elections by the way doesn't mean you're wrong.

May. 29 2008 03:29 PM

David? a 3-part, multi-paragraph background (posts 6, 7, 8) on what a hardworking white American you are might constitute a certain amount of "taking yourself so seriously"?

May. 29 2008 03:27 PM
David! from NYC

well, you're not me, and when i want your advice on parenting skills, i'll ask you for them.

rant away. feel good about yourself. feel superior. this is my final acknowledgement to you. i've seen how you trade barbs with mc and others, and i won't engage further.

May. 29 2008 03:25 PM

Another American who insists on everyone speaking English, but whose own language skills are limited.
If I were you, I'd been instructing the baby to learn Japanese and Chinese, as China and Japan own a disproportionate amount of the $9.5 trillion federal deficit. Or even Arabic, given the amount of debt the Saudis buy. But of course it's easier to pat ourselves on the backs for speaking English, and learn a language with little practical use, than, as Aesop said, to acknowledge what's right in front of your nose.

May. 29 2008 03:23 PM
David! from NYC

eva, the references to moving to europe were my droll response to hjs' droll challenge.

stop taking yourself so seriously.

May. 29 2008 03:21 PM

David, it's "LA MarsEillaise" no "lE marsAillaise" and knowing the lyrics to it won't help you in modern France, sorry.
Reality check: you would perish in France, have you ever worked for the French or tried to find employment in Europe as an American citizen not already working for a European company? As for Italy, that would be even more difficult. But... you'd finally be surrounded by people who speak English! The fact that they'd discriminate against you because you're neither Italian nor French might be a wee small problem.

May. 29 2008 03:18 PM
David! from NYC

i also think that the proximity of european nations adds incentive to becoming a polyglot. from a linguistic perspective, i think it's interesting that the languages have remained distinct instead of melding into a creole euro-tongue.

May. 29 2008 03:17 PM
David! from NYC

eva 82--i inadvertently answered that question. i have an infant daughter, and my wife and i are playing french cd's and using some of the language ourselves around her.

May. 29 2008 03:15 PM
David! from NYC

80--hjs, i'd be willing. and while the lyrics are "uber-pompous", i still like "rule, britannia!" of course, the missus would want to return to her roots in italy. maybe we should split the difference and try france. i do speak some french and know the words to "le marsaillaise," which has lyrics and imagery that are much bloodier and violent than the "star-spangled banner."

81 eva, i haven't mentioned reparations all day. you need to address that issue with someone else.

May. 29 2008 03:13 PM

I agree that people should learn English, but to be honest, what foreign languages do you speak?
When I lived in Europe, all the French and Germans and Italians spoke English. They also spoke about three to four other languages. Not rocket science. If Americans who insisted that other people learn English ALSO spoke a variety of languages, it would be reasonable. But we're laggards in this department.
Take Mandarin, for example. One of the simplest languages on earth to learn (no conjugations, no subjonctif, no infinite masc/fem articles, no nuttin'!) And China is our biggest trading partner. It's also a 1.3 billion person market. But how many of us speak Mandarin? Why not? Probably because we're too busy patting ourselves on the back for how much better we are for speaking... English.

May. 29 2008 03:10 PM

Why did we provide reparations to the Japanese internment camp survivors and their children? I think it was a about $250K per person incarcerated, but I could be off in the number. The reason we kicked back the money, in the 1980's, was because Japan was then so powerful economically, and we looked so damn stupid for having done it. It wasn't "oh-my-god, let's help these people we jerked around." It was more like: okay, we are obliged to throw the dogs a bone. Meanwhile, we said: black folk, back of the bus with you!
Seriously, I think the reparations for slavery should be an aggressively funded, ass-kicking K-12 educational system in every black neighborhood. But we can't even provide that to white folk, so if I were black, I wouldn't be holding my breath waiting for it, and I don't think any black people are that naive to think we'd do what we should. We don't even acknowledge our debt to the Native Americans, whose land we stole.

May. 29 2008 03:04 PM
hjs from 11211

not talking about one historical event. but as i said telling the truth in the history books or maybe just teaching history would help. or maybe a serious attempt to end global poverty. our nations (EU & NA) did benefit from stealing x% of Africa's population

what about restoring native americans to north america and we all go back to europe

May. 29 2008 03:01 PM

#72, Tony:
Congratulations! the sort of arrogance you display in your post is how we lost the last two elections. I don't even know where to start. Your economic/political darwinism is astounding - and self-deluding.
On a happier note, someone posted the intro part of Bakshi's "Coonskin" (a political, satirical urban take-off on Disney's "Song of the South") on google video, check Scatman Crothers' singing at 00:30. After having been met with protests, the film was later embraced by Spike Lee, and you can see its influence in his film "Bamboozled". I haven't heard the Bakshi interview on Lopate, but apparently the retrospective sold out last month.

May. 29 2008 02:57 PM
David! from NYC

hjs, did whites ever confront their atrocities? i think that, in ways, yes; but if you're looking for one historical event that is the cumulative acknowledgment / apology / confronting, then no.

a white president through the actions of a white senate and a white house of reps passed civil rights and voting rights legislation. that is but a step, but that step acknowledged the need and there wouldn't have been a need were it not for injustices and atrocities.

another white president laid out plans for the league of nations, which, unfortunately, the legislative branch of this nation did not go along with. wilson's goals included avoiding further war and atrocities. by citing that need, he acknowledged and confronted them.

these are just two examples, american examples, but i trust you see where i'm going with this.

May. 29 2008 02:46 PM
hjs from 11211

I was gone for a bit now I've read all the posts
ok I get where you're going BUT did whites ever confront their "atrocities"? doesn't iraq and the US most recent invasion of Haiti show whites are still treating the world as theirs? manifest destiny started in 1492 has it ended yet? and you're not talking about the 16- & 1700's but the actions of the 1960's( ) and today's support of dictators in the 3rd world.
also there's no reason to feel guilty but most people don't even know the history. history should not be white washed, so let the truth be spoken and let each person reflect.
as for reparations why not end poverty for everyone, we can afford it but we are too greedy?

May. 29 2008 02:11 PM
hjs from 11211

comments 7/8 are hard for me to swallow.
why shouldn't the government print documents in the languages of the tax payers or hire people who speak more than one language?
non-english speakers do pay taxes also and they are doing the type of labor you got an education to avoid (I'm assuming.) foreign born labor, i'm sure you know, are subsidization your lifestyle. ie lettuce would sure get very expensive if you were had to pay the picker a living wage (and anyone who speaks english would get a better job than picking lettuce or empting your garabage can.) this craziness over people not speaking english always confused me. (most unitedstaters only speak one language, badly.) no one lives here for more than 1 generation without learning english, everybody wants to be more marketable.
as for 8 I think europeans (and I include all the white people in n. america and australia ) have done more than enough damage to the world in the last 500 years I hope we can agree on that.

May. 29 2008 01:28 PM
Trevor from LIC

Ethnogenesis is a process, not an event.

May. 29 2008 01:01 PM
mc from Brooklyn

AWM #54, interesting idea, to have the corporations who historically profited from slavery to make the reparations. Of course, that would still affect more people than just the power structure, since many employee benefit funds hold stocks from those companies.

Re #73, I think it is far more useful for each of us to examine our behavior and expectations now. Many people are ready to jump to conclusions about something they think someone is saying or thinking without actually listening. It is as if anything that conflicts with the narrative they already have they are deaf to it.

May. 29 2008 12:52 PM
AWM from UWS

Paulo #68,

Of course someone should consider oppression, past amd present, wrong.

My point is that to say "My ancestors did bad things but I'm tired of being made to feel guilty about it" is, among other things, useless and the opposite of constructive.

For someone to apologize for the misdeeds of people of the same race, color, creed, past and present is also useless.

Guilt for the evil deeds of others, whether it is self imposed or imagined or denied is useless.

May. 29 2008 11:59 AM
Tony from Brooklyn

This is an evolutionary split. People who are able to evolve move to areas where more modern thinking, industries, and politics are found. People who aren't able to evolve move to places where primitive superstitions(primarily religion) play a larger part in the daily lives of the inhabitants. There they complain about the loss of their entitlement as hard working white Americans. They await the return of highly paid unskilled manufacturing. They take comfort in the absence of homosexuals from their landscape. These people are paralyzed by fear of the unknown, and what is known to them doesn't really exist anymore. So the "known" is very limited.
Similarly the evolved eat better(that arugula is great for you). They're healthier. They have better paying jobs because they acquired skills that apply to the current economy. They've traveled and pursued a higher education so they generally have a more informed view of the world. They know when politicians are lying to them. They send their children to schools where Darwin isn't a dirty word. It just so happens that the vast majority of evolved people are democrats. Many live in coastal urban areas. This isn't very different than the evolutionary splits we saw in pre homo sapiens(unless you believe god created the world early in the old testament of course).

May. 29 2008 11:50 AM
Jay Feld from Flushing, NY

The church I attend, New Life Fellowship, in Elmhurst (Queens), is a church of approx. 800 people, composed of equal numbers (approx.) of Asians, Hispanics, African- and Caribbean-Americans, and whites. This is true because the pastor (a white Italian-American male) is so zealous about promoting reconciliation across racial, socio-economic and gender lines. His efforts involve his preaching, the composition of the church's leadership, and even the styles of worship the church uses.

May. 29 2008 11:48 AM
AWM from UWS

#58 David!

I wasn't telling you to feel guilty. I was pointing out the futility of SAYING that you refuse to feel guilty.

May. 29 2008 11:46 AM
Monroe from Greenwich Village

Went from then rural Lewisville, Texas to the most politically liberal precinct in Austin. When it came time to move (during the Texas economic collapse of 1985-86-oil at $3. a barrel) the only options in my mind were Manhattan and San Francisco. Once I got to Manhattan, I moved to the most politically politically liberal precinct I could find-in Greenwich Village.

I promptly enrolled to vote as a Republican so I could vote against Al D'Amato as often as possible.

May. 29 2008 11:46 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

AWM: I have to agree with David! on this point. No one should have to feel guilty for something they themselves didn't do. If you're arguing over whether one should consider it wrong, that's an entirely different matter. But, for example, my family owned slaves in Brazil. I think it was terrible, but I didn't own any slaves. That I happened to be born to that family was an accident of birth and in no way my fault. So why should I have to accept their guilt as my own?

What does that do except perpetuate the tribalism by treating everyone in a group responsible for a past grievance? People have been slaughtered for thousands of years on this attitude. How many Jews died in the Middle Ages and oneward because they supposedly "killed Jesus"?

May. 29 2008 11:44 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Poulo #15 re: political discourse with people you know: that is why a forum like this is so useful Most of us don't know each other and so are free to disagree vigorously without losing anything.

Gene #32 Beware. This is not a documentary and so there may be inaccuracies. See Oliver Stone's "JFK."

hjs #37, big problem, especially when the big whigs in the party and their satellites are saying that half the Democratic voters are somehow deficient.

Amy #41, I think that strategy actually started with Goldwater in '64.

May. 29 2008 11:44 AM
mike gilles from Pawling, NY

I see this as a function of epistemological style and/or adult cognitive development. Studies show that about 50% of college graduates are still concrete operational thinkers...meaning these individuals have not moved up to Piaget's Formal Abstract Reasoning...meaing they do not make a habit of 'metacognition', i.e., thinking about their thinking. This Concrete thinking, and the 'either or thinking' of dicotomous reasoners tends to eliminate and/or limit the individual from the important 'Both and Thinking' of advanced cognitive styles. I think there is a qualitative epistemological and cognitive differences between Republical and Democrats cognitive and epistemological styles. Mike from Pawling, NY

May. 29 2008 11:44 AM
AWM from UWS

A big step would be for everyone to shun these labels that put us in a box.

Liberal, conservative, left of center, right wing, yada, yada, yada.

"Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative."

Kurt Vonnegut

We're all people!

(Don't lable me a hippie)

May. 29 2008 11:43 AM
Chris O from New York City

Marry your enemies? I like Doris Kearns Goodwin's quote of Lincoln regarding political enemies: "It's better to have them inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in."

May. 29 2008 11:40 AM
ee from Union Square

I can't relocate anywhere else. I'm single male Asian (hispanic looking) and tried to relocate upstate, mid-west, and south, and I always get stared at or harassed. (I had to say hispanic looking because if you just have your typical Asian features, people tend to just ignore you). Also, a couple or one who has a family has easier time of relocating than one who is single (regardless where). Anyway., I love U.S.A. (and hoping to be able to relocate somewhere else regardless of their political or social views)but unfortunately the feeling is not reciprocal. I am therefore stuck in the city, and even here I am now being marginalized because of all the influx of most (if not all) of these yunnies (young urban narcissists) gentrifying and vongerichtifying (i.e. the condofication of NYC at the expense of the mom and pop shops) NYC.

May. 29 2008 11:40 AM
hjs from 11211

John Celardo
there's always 3rd parties

May. 29 2008 11:40 AM
Nick from Austin

I completely agree with the author here. I'm originally from a red county in tennessee and have since moved to a blue county in austin. Ever since I have moved, I still talk to my old friends and have been enriched by it since. I really think the solution here is to talk. Just talk.

May. 29 2008 11:40 AM
Pat from Bushwick

In response to the caller from Brooklyn Heights: I think we must remember that Christian conservatives have moved toward environmentalism, and health care reform, while liberals like us would never dream of compromising on women's rights, gay rights, etc. Of course, I don't think we should, so maybe all I'm saying is a cast the first stone sort of thing.

May. 29 2008 11:40 AM
Laura from UWS

The guest just blew it.
It is NOT political or hostile when Democrats say Bush needs to be impeached and Republicans need to be investigated. They committed serious crimes. Bush admitted in public that he was conducting warantless eavesdropping on Americans.

To ascribe the motivation of anything but Constitutional Law in this instance is a political tactic in itself, a standard public relations ploy.

May. 29 2008 11:38 AM
David! from NYC

46 AWM, where have I refused? Besides, aren't you contradicting your post 22, in which you wrote "No one wants you to feel guilty, it's useless."

May. 29 2008 11:38 AM
Repub101 from Manhattan

I'm one of those folks who lives in New York, and works at arguably one of the most liberal companies in the world. I'm also a young minority female, and most of my friends are in academia and work at Non-profits, and such. I'm a registered Republican. It's always funny to see the reactions when people around me find out this fact because nothing in my surroundings, demographic, or profession would suggest this.

May. 29 2008 11:38 AM
Priscila from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

wouldn't live on the upper east side even if it were free...

May. 29 2008 11:37 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

Actually, I find that I like to be the most conservative person in a group... but since I'm not very conservative, it means I generally like to hang out with liberals!

May. 29 2008 11:37 AM
AWM from UWS

mc #38,

I don't believe in reparations, (it would divide the country even more) but if you were to institute them corporations like Aetna, Philip Morris, etc. that had a hand in slavery would pay them.

May. 29 2008 11:36 AM
Michael Whalen from Crown Heights

A enthusiastic liberal & Bush hater myself, I have recently begun spending time with a man who believes Bush has been far too soft on the Arabs. His views are as Mike Savage conservative as they come.

It has been a very challenging and at times depressing experience, but also nice to have a friend totally outside my previously liberal circle.

May. 29 2008 11:35 AM
John Celardo from Fanwood, NJ

Having differences of opinion is good. My County and local governments are all one party, and there’s no descent. The problem over the last 20 years has been that statesmanship seems to have disappeared. I’m right and you’re wrong has taken the place of real debate. I was not a Reagan fan, but his late-night scotches with Tip O’Neil probably got a lot done back then. We need to start talking to each other again.

May. 29 2008 11:35 AM
Carole Ferleger from Manhattan

I have always lived in the Metro NY area. What always surprises me is that our friends and neighbors are more shockingly more conservative than one would think.
I just wondering whether Barak is electable. What happened to John Edwards?

May. 29 2008 11:35 AM
jon from brooklyn

I think someone mentioned this above, but the polarization in national politics has a lot to do with the re-districting that's gone on since the early 1990's that's resulted in gerrymandered Congressional districts solidly Republican or Democratic.

May. 29 2008 11:35 AM
David! from NYC

45--Mary, I hear you!

May. 29 2008 11:34 AM
Abby from Columbus, Ohio

I think that we do choose to live within "like-minded" areas. The unfortunate part is that we might find more bias within our own choices than we want to acknowledge. I voted for Hillary, and I consider myself a progressive conservative. I also moved out of the Republican suburbs to live in the city proper.

May. 29 2008 11:33 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Isn't the question of choosing where to settle a matter of wealth or familial ties over true choice. People may live where they do either because career, family, or affordability…

May. 29 2008 11:33 AM
AWM from UWS


Evil comes in all shapes, sizes and shades.

We must acknowledge it all because, unfortunately, it is a relentless trait of all types of humans.

To say that you refuse to feel guilty about the complicity of "your people" in any form of oppression, past or present, is self-serving, self-stunting and is a rationalization of the oppression itself.

May. 29 2008 11:33 AM
Mary from Hell's Kitchen, NYC

I moved to New York from a conservative region down South, and while there were many reasons for my relocation, the chance to live near people who shared my more progressive values was a big one.

There weren't enough people back home who voted like I would for my vote to make a difference, so it's nice to be part of the majority crowd.

Three cheers for gay marriage in New York, BTW.

May. 29 2008 11:32 AM
Chris O from New York City

I do think this theory is bunk. It is akin to the sigh, "What happened to the good old days?" Or other woeful claims about the new generation.

May. 29 2008 11:32 AM
Jane from East Village, Manhattan

I absolutely live here to be among like-minded people. I grew up on an upstate farm surrounded by Republicans. NYC is a luxury I can't really afford but refuse to live without.

May. 29 2008 11:32 AM
David! from NYC

Paulo, again, I'm saying that when one criticizes, to be fair, one must take many things into consideration, including the mores of the culture--time, place, etc. Those mores are what people know, including us. Those mores drive people's actions, including us. In my opinion, informed judgment/criticism is better than uninformed judgment/criticism.

May. 29 2008 11:32 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I would have thought it had a lot to do w/Nixon's "Southern strategy."

May. 29 2008 11:30 AM
Laura from UWS

As Molly Ivins said, it's not about Left and's about Up and Down...Who is being screwwed and who is doing the screwing.

Smokescreen. That's what all the talk about 'Red vs. Blue' has been. What a great way to divide people who were formerly joined together during The New Deal to defend their economic rights against who FDR called the 'economic royalists'.......

It reminds me of how anti-black racist propaganda was spread after the Civil War when working class blacks and whites were organizing together in the labor movement.

P.S. In the good old days, if the author thinks we were less divided....perhaps it is because most voices were silenced then. It was considered wildly radical and daring the first time a mainstream magazine included an article on cosmetics--how to do your make-up, showing three faces: white, black, and Asian.

May. 29 2008 11:29 AM
David! from NYC

Chris, please tell me how it's possible to completely divorce oneself from the standard of living of the society in which one lives.

May. 29 2008 11:28 AM
mc from Brooklyn

Poulo #28,
I am conflicted on reparations. On the one hand, it seems unfair to place the sins of those who are dead and gone on present-day taxpayers. On the other hand, what better way to collectively acknowledge the gravity of what happened? After all, we are reaping the rewards of the economy that was built then - especially if we live in NY City.

May. 29 2008 11:27 AM
hjs from 11211

the country might be split 50-50 (not counting the 50 that don't vote) but within both parties there is a left right split.

May. 29 2008 11:25 AM
mc from Brooklyn

I think that this guy has hit on something when he talks about people making voting choices based on life styles. That is how we got the stereotypes "latte liberals," "bubbas," "soccer moms." As with most stereotypes, there is a grain of truth. And because we do this over and over without examining candidates' actual positions, we get the government we deserve over and over.

May. 29 2008 11:25 AM
Chris O from New York City

David believes the colonial atrocities were worth it because they helped bring him and others a good quality of life today. That is my honest reading of his statement in post #8. It is a very reprehensible, selfish position, a position for permanent war and conquest and plunder, but only if it helps improve the quality of life of the citizens of the plundering nation.

May. 29 2008 11:24 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

David! yes, people in the future will probably villify things we consider to be acceptable now. But your argument is essentially the same as someone who says that because it's part of their culture, we can't really criticize Muslim countries for repressing their women. Stoning adulterers, honor killings, and all the rest become things we can't readily condemn in that case. Yes, you're talking about things that happened a long time ago, but those uncomfortable about condemning barbaric practices today are talking about distance. You're essentially just trading one dimension (space) for another (time). It's a different culture's values, so therefore we can't really criticize.

May. 29 2008 11:23 AM
Suzanne from Plainfield NJ

My husband and I chose Plainfield, NJ after looking at the election maps for 2000, and 2004 - we ruled out any county or city that went for Gore and Kerry by less than 65%. We are happy to not have to be reminded every day of what they have done to our country. The problem with this country is not partisanship, the problem is that the WRONG people have been in power. Its OK to be a Republican, but the right wingers in power don't represent anyone - even Republicans. Hopefully Obama can be a real leader, and get us to agree on something (global warming, constitutional rights)other than war, and to be afraid to question authority. The last time that happened was in the 50s - no great time for this country.

May. 29 2008 11:21 AM

And these Southern conservative whites tell each other these Limbaugh semi-lies. "Just tell me one thing Clinton ever did about Osama Bin Laden!" I was asked.

"He sent in a missle to his camp trying to kill him. He was semi-obsessed with Bin Laden."

"HUH??" Who, in his social setting, knew? No one.

And the person who thinks Lieberman only got pro-republican after his official switch should see how much damage he did to the 2000 FL Gore v. Bush battle in "Recount."

May. 29 2008 11:20 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

This doesn’t appear to be anything new… States were once segregated by religion, and to some degree national origin of its immigrants. Cities of America are segregated by race/ethnic/ or national origin on top of being stratified by class. I could go on… We’re not on the brink of civil war, so we are not more divided than ever.
People self segregate for two basic reason. Safety and reinforcement. People want to feel safe – free from persecution/judgment and free from crime—and people want to be with people who think like them, be it religiously politically or what have you.
I guess this talk is all about politics and a divided electorate?
I havent read all comments, so sorry if I'm repeating.

May. 29 2008 11:19 AM
David! from NYC

AWM, thank you for your comments. Let me say this, just for me. When I weary of "blaming the white man", it is accompanied by my perception that the blamers don't see some of the same flaws within themselves.

Isn't there some adage of Christ that says, "Why do you criticize the speck in my eye without seeing the plank in your own?" That's what I'm trying to convey. I'll admit my own shortcomings, and those of my ancestors. I just want others to do the same.

May. 29 2008 11:19 AM

I was excited to go to NC for a wedding. I had seen tv and articles that the South had changed since I lived in Memphis 67-68(!) And I'm sure in many places it has. And there were some nice things about the South (outside of the horrible racism) I looked forward to.

I was shocked--it seemed very much the same. Not as insane, not nearly as violent, but the rich white areas amidst enforced poverty in the black areas, along with the corresponding heavy police presence brought back into my mouth that bitter, bitter taste of institutional racism, a taste I'd nearly forgotten.

May. 29 2008 11:18 AM
Robert from NYC

And concentrating in less hands because of the fully free market and control of government by corporations. This is a sick society in that way for sure. A fully free market is as much or more a problem as is a fully controlled market.

May. 29 2008 11:17 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

mc, IF that's the argument being made, then I agree with it. I don't think individuals should have to feel guilty of crimes committed by other members of their group. That's one of the reasons I don't support reparations. It doesn't make sense to have people who never owned slaves to pay money to people who never were slaves. Maybe there was a time for it right after abolition, but that opportunity has past.

May. 29 2008 11:17 AM

Bill Bishop (paraphrased): "There's no Democrat more conservative than the most liberal Republican?"

Zell Miller
Joe Lieberman (before he switched)

May. 29 2008 11:16 AM
br from nyc

Does the increase in 'landslide areas' have to do with people segregating themselves or with the massive shift in voting districts in the last twenty years to minimize most real contests between the parties?
Is this study asking the wrong question?

May. 29 2008 11:14 AM
David! from NYC

Paulo, I think what they did was wrong. I used the word "atrocities." I also think that many fall into a trap of holding people from the past to standards that have evolved from that time. Values evolve, and when making value-based judgments on actions, I think one needs to be very aware of what one is doing.

We don't permit--at least willingly--actions that were sanctioned in the past. Don't you think it's likely that actions we sanction will be villified in the future?

May. 29 2008 11:14 AM
Robert from NYC

Listening to what he has to say it does sound right on first thought. I'd have to think about it more to tell if I fully agree. There has definitely been a change in our culture/society since the 60s. But maybe we should look more to the earlier part of the 20th century and see if there were similar changes, after all we went thru two world wars and a really bad depression.

May. 29 2008 11:14 AM
AWM from UWS


The fact that white men get tired of being blamed for the world's ills is a big part of the problem. Rather than be introspective, rather than admit and accept history and travel through and perceive the world according to that history you are adopting a defensive postion which is not constructive.

It's funny that you somehow feel that you have to admit that you're proud of in spite of having ancestors who have oppressed others. Many others feel proud of who they are without having to refer to the past injustices of their ancestors to justify their pride.

No one wants you to feel guilty, it's useless.

May. 29 2008 11:13 AM
Jamal from New York, NY

Is it a coincidence that 1965 is the year of the Voting Rights Act and one year after the Civil Rights Act? I wonder how much of the cleavages the guest talks about are connected to white flight, fear of "culture mixing," and, frankly, racism.

May. 29 2008 11:12 AM
mc from Brooklyn

I think that what David! might be trying to say (correct me if I'm wrong) is that we can acknowledge the crimes of our forebears without having to take personal responsibility for them. This does not just apply to Europeans. I think that Americans largely have yet to acknowledge the fact that the foundation of this mighty economy we have (well not so mighty now), was built on the backs of slaves. We have yet to fully absorb the implications of that.

May. 29 2008 11:11 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

David!, you're argument is that condemning Europeans for their brutal suppression of other people is "revisionist". So what are you saying then? You just don't have an opinion on it?

May. 29 2008 11:09 AM

i dunno, park slope has retained its economic diversity and neighborhood feel

May. 29 2008 11:08 AM
mc from Brooklyn

A second thing to consider: I think many of us also a doubly repelled or hold a double standard for an unpleasant member of our own group. Examples are people being accused of not being "black enough" or "too black" or "too gay." Women are just as capable of being misogynist as men. Here is another thing to question when you find yourself harboring feelings that may seem more intense than they normally would.

A Jewish friend of mine while describing her wedding asked me if I thought it was "too Jewish." I told her that the fact that she thought she had to ask me that made me sad.

May. 29 2008 11:08 AM
hjs from 11211

isn't living in the suburbs/sprawl all about segregating oneself from "the other"

May. 29 2008 11:06 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

mc, I think your "canary in the mine shaft" test is prett apt. The level of hypocrisy some organizations and individuals show at times is staggering. Most of our arguments ultimately boil down not to a question of right and wrong but "us" and "them". When we do it, it's right. When they do it, it's wrong. Whether the "us/them" comparison falls along political, racial, ethnic, or any other lines.

Personally, I do find it difficult to interact with people who I know think completely differently from me. For the most part, I'd rather not discuss politics with people I know or suspect of being different from me because I don't want it to negatively impact the way I think about them. I don't really feel that way on a racial level, but I do on a political one. For me, a person's polticial views taints how much I may like or dislike them as a person. It shouldn't, but... we're all human.

May. 29 2008 11:05 AM
David! from NYC

Paulo, please re-read the comment. I'm not naive about the atrocities of colonization, but I'm not going to view 16- and 1700's actions through 2000's lenses, especially while enjoying a standard of living that is largely the result.

May. 29 2008 11:01 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

David!, I think sticking up for European colonialism in Africa (considering that Europeans themselves overwhelmingly condemn the crimes of their own countries during that period) is perhaps one of the most ignorant statements I've heard in a quite a long time. Justifying one country invading another to exploit its people and natural resources, establishing racially-stratified socieites, and in the long term providing weapons and support to regimes that killed vastly more people than anything the continent had seen previously seems extremely backward-thinking.

Your argument is that we should disregard the atrocities in the assessment of European colonialism, but by that logic, any government or policy at any time is justifiable. Nazi Germany's domination of Europe would've provided many useful benefits. It would've led to tremendous loss of life, but that should apparently not be factored into the rightness of it. Therefore, we should've let Hitler take the continent.

Your view on this doesn't necessarily make you a racist, but touting the "White Man's Burden" as your primary argument for this doesn't do much for your claim that you aren't racist.

May. 29 2008 10:57 AM
David! from NYC

mc, you've nailed it. We're working on it. We're trying. And denying it sends us backwards.

May. 29 2008 10:56 AM
mc from Brooklyn

David! #10
I think you are being more honest than most people would. I think most people would protest that they never do that, while all the time doing it.

I do it too. I'm working on it.

May. 29 2008 10:52 AM
David! from NYC

mc, that's a good test, and the answer for me is situational. For the most part, I succeed in disassociating behavior from the physical traits; however, there are times when the behavior frustrates me to the point that I mix it with the group.

I know that's wrong, but I'm being honest.

May. 29 2008 10:35 AM
mc from Brooklyn

I think a good test of whether you are racist/sexist etc. is this: When confronted by a member of a group different from yours whom you find unpleasant, is the unpleasantness magnified by the difference? Do you apply a double standard and excuse yourself for doing that because you think the other person somehow deserves it? I think most of us if we are honest are probably racist/sexist etc. if subject ourselves to that standard. But I think an unpleasant person can be a good canary in the mine.

May. 29 2008 10:27 AM
David! from NYC


I feel a swell of pride when I hear or sing “Rule Britannia”, and I choose not to be subjected to revisionist history that damns England and other European nations for their past colonization. That doesn’t mean that I am naïve about some of the atrocities committed by European powers; however, neither am I naïve about the standard of living I enjoy here in the US and many others enjoy across this globe because of those Europeans.

Now, if that makes me racist, then I plea “Guilty.” But if anyone tries to claim that these feelings make me a “discriminationist”, you’d better bring some hard proof.

May. 29 2008 10:02 AM
David! from NYC

PT 2

I earned my undergraduate degree with help from my parents and by working. I earned my first master’s by taking classes at night and working during the day. I earned my second through a fellows program that allowed me to take leave of absence from my job. I won a scholarship toward my doctorate, which I did not complete because I lost my drive to finish that dissertation.

My wife and infant daughter and I attend church in Manhattan that has a black pastor, a Latin assistant, and has a congregation of people descendant from Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. Our congregation welcomes people from all walks, and we really don’t care whether someone is straight or gay or somewhere in between. We’re awaiting the day that our denomination catches up with us.

Okay, so there’s my background. With that said, I grow weary of constantly being blamed for the world’s ills because I’m a white man. And while I’m not wearing any “public mask”, I also think that people who choose to come to America should learn to speak English. I feel irritation when I think about public funds being used to print documents in languages other than English, and I really get hacked when I see job descriptions, especially for public sector jobs, that require applicants to speak languages other than English.

May. 29 2008 10:02 AM
David! from NYC

#3 mc, that is a keen observation, and I agree with you whole-heartedly.

Anti-southern bias is almost palpable in some places. When I relocated to NYC from NC, it was partly because I wanted to come to a “progressive” place, and while that motivation has been fulfilled, it has been fulfilled but partially. The stereotypes of the South may be wrapped around grains of truth, but the exaggeration would be laughable were it not regarded by many as true.

I attended integrated public schools from the 1st grade and had no idea what “all the fuss” in Boston was about when the schools there were forcefully integrated. Southerners simply created white flight schools, most of which closed within a few years. Of those that are still open, at least in the part of NC with which I’m familiar, only a couple are held in any esteem for their academics.

My parents were children in farming families. They were babes during the Great Depression, but they grew up under the guidance of parents who knew tough times. My parents were thrifty and hard working. My dad saw the military as his ticket out, served in the USMC, and retired after he was informed that he would have to go back to Nam for a 4th tour of duty. My mother held a number of jobs, mostly clerical, until she took the initiative to open a florist in our small town. They taught my siblings and me that hard work and determination are prerequisite for success.

May. 29 2008 10:02 AM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

Gee, what a profound observation: individuals tend to associate with those they feel a common bond with. These common bonds will usually take the form of cultural history, politics, religion, generational age, etc. And these forms themselves tend to make themselves superficially apparent through racial and ethnic classes.
But this doesn't necessarily mean that some repressed bigotry still lurks in the back of each person's mind. Or that we would do anything not to meet with others that we don't seem to have anything in common with.
After all, for most people, the most comfortable company is with members of our own immediate family. Does this mean that our mothers, fathers, siblings and spouses act as some act of polarizing force?

May. 29 2008 10:02 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

I don't know that we're more polarized than ever. I think the politicians in Washington are probably more polarized than ever, but the society doesn't seem to be. As eva mentioned, the 1960s and early 1970s were polarized to the point that civil war was a much more realistic possibility than we can say it is in 2008.

Racially and ethnically speaking, things are getting better. They have always been getting better, but we're still a long way off from where we should be, and the influx of new immigrants with their own prejudices and old hatreds sometimes makes it seem like we're fighting an uphill battle.

But the truth is that we are all still fundamentally tribalized. You have lots of community action groups, charities, scholarship organizations that rope off their support to one group or another. When there's an instance of police brutality, the victim's ethnic group responds and everyone else remains silent. You find some combining of efforts and showing of solidarity, but it seems to be less than what it could be. When we get people who start standing up for IDEAS and start thinking about ALL people instead of "OUR" people, that will be when we can truly reach the next level.

May. 29 2008 09:47 AM
mc from Brooklyn

I heard an interesting commentary recently on NPR by a student from Mississippi. She spoke about her experiences in northern states and how people that she met assumed she must be racist when they heard her accent. She went to school in western Mass. where there was a noose found on campus.

Th omnipresent media feeds on the mega-narrative (there it is again) that we must have absolute winners and the losers must be absolutely humiliated. In this scenario someone always feels marginalized. I think this corrosive atmosphere not only contributes to polarization but also to suicidal and homocidal behavior on campuses.

May. 29 2008 09:15 AM
David! from NYC

Which mask is Bishop studying, the one we wear in public, or the one--as one poster alluded to yesterday--the one we save for behind closed doors?

Eva, you have made some interesting points, but does that omni-present media force the wearing of a mask that belies the true feelings held by some? By most? By a few? By all?

And, since you brought politics into this, although I really wish you hadn't, how many 51-49, 52-48 elections does it take to show a divided electorate?

May. 29 2008 08:58 AM

Are we more polarized now than we were in 1975 when the screening of Ralph Bakshi's epic "Coonskin" was picketed by C.O.R.E. at the MOMA?
Are we more polarized now than we were in 1970, when the Kent State shootings occurred?
More polarized than October 1967 when Norman Mailer faced down a neo-nazi after the march on the Pentagon, or during the '68 Dem convention?
Seems like the country has never been so much in agreement as it is right now - that's what the majority of Americans being against the war and Bush's 29 percent approval rating is about, right? That's what the weird, tingly possibility of an Obama presidency is about? Maybe we're not more polarized, we just have a more omnipresent media. And the silent majority is just going on about it's own sweet business, swinging first right, then left.

May. 29 2008 01:48 AM

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