Sunday, August 12, 2007

The demographics of a Westchester County village

The impression that I got from Duncan’s article is that the Bedford community were able to successfully implement segregation along economic and social lines. As Duncan states, this was done to significantly protect the social identities of the alpha and beta groups. It seems to be a pretty cut and dried case of the two groups combining to protect the aspects of their community through economic means, namely the enforcement of the local zoning code.

In the late 1930’s, when the zoning was created to protect the community from the suburbs that were starting to grow around New York City, they were clearly intended to separate the community along economic lines. It was probably also intended at the time as a means of controlling any minorities, like the Italians, Blacks, or any other deemed unworthy, since they would be unlikely to ever be able to afford real estate within either the alpha or beta group zones. And, by 1971, the date of Duncan’s study, that had remained largely true, with the white anglo-saxon majority remaining firmly in control of the economic and social aspects of the community. I find this to be extremely interesting since the community is only located 35 miles from New York City, which is considered the great melting pot of America. But, in retrospect, I shouldn’t be that surprised, since at the time, segregation had only just recently been made illegal and culturally unacceptable. But if the segregation were kept quiet and hidden behind economic driven zoning, it was still an acceptable practice. I wonder if Duncan were to do a study of the Bedford village would he find that the community is still so clearly segregated economically, socially and racially. I strongly believe the economic and social lines would still be firmly in place, after all most richer communities will tend to protect the status quo of where they live, the ‘I’ve got mine but you can’t have any’ syndrome. And, the Bedford community has shown that it is leading the way in this field. As to if it is still so clearly separated racially, it may very well be as Annie reports, that the vast majority of the citizenry are white anglo-saxons, but, I would bet that if a racial minority had the money to buy real estate in either the alpha or beta neighbor hoods, there would be nothing to stand in their way. They may not receive the warmest of welcomes socially, but if they were willing to conform with in the social norms of either group, they would most likely accepted within those circles as well since they would have demonstrated their economic qualifications and the willingness to fit in. And , if they were not to be accepted socially, than may not be such a large detriment as Duncan cites the level of neighbor to neighbor interaction amongst the alpha’s and beta’s to be relatively low.

After reading both Bickford’s article and Duncan’s, it seems to me that they show juxtaposed positions of how and why a community may exercise control of who and what is happening within it’s sphere of influence. Bickford makes the argument that a community like Bedford acts to enforce its segregation in quasi-totalitarian ways and that if democratic means were to be enforced, it could be made better. On the other hand, Duncan’s study shows a community using democratic process, has been able to maintain it’s identity.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

On constructing inequality, unconsciously.

Wow, what a long and convoluted way to go to say that any form of segregation is bad.

I think Bickford may be missing the point of the purpose of the CIDs, PUDs, (C.H.U.D.s even), and closed neighborhoods. They are congregations of individuals with similar perspectives. Some of these communities may have the purpose of segregating along, racial, religious or other lines, but the vast majority of the communities do not. If you have worked hard enough to earn a place in the community and you like the surroundings and people you will be living with, these planned communities are more than willing to take your money. They do not care if you’re white, black, yellow, purple even, so long as you are willing to conform with the consensus of the community you will become a part of. The same goes for any neighborhood and neighborhood realtor.

Typically when someone returns home, after being in “public” for a period, they are looking for a place to relax. In public, you have to be conscious of so many things, like who is around you, your actions in relation to them, what you say around them, etc… because they may not share the same perspective as you and may take offense. And, if they do take offense, they may opt for some form of censure, whether physical, social or legal. But, when you return to your home community, you are able to casually interact with your neighbors with little fear of reprisal, so long as you comfortably remain within the acceptable means of conduct professed by the community and by extension you.

When McKenzie argues that a gated community is undemocratic in how it can enforce any restrictions that it may have, I think he misses the point that you exercise the democratic right to vote to live or not live within that community. If enough home buyers vote not to live within or leave an overly restrictive community, it’s not going to be a community for long. But, if you are willing to abide by those restrictions and are comfortable with the overall community view and perspective, and can afford it, why should you have to go somewhere else.

Let’s face it, the biggest gate to any community is money, what can you afford and how hard are you willing to work to get there.

One final note, concerning Bickford’s suggestion of “democratically” forcing integration of communities and view points. How do you legislate morality? Look how well it worked during the liquor prohibition, or more recently during the burgeoning anti-drug campaign (has it really been over 25 years). If what you are fighting is rooted deep enough, it’s not going to go away, it is just going to be kept hush and on the sly.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Hello World

Hello to Doctor Childress and my fellow students.