How our white flight cause anger and violence in our outcasts

Chapter 42




But Harlem is far from being the worst ghetto in New York. In the South Bronx, where European movie companies now shoot their footage on the destruction of Germany after WW II, there are districts where nine out of ten people die an unnatural death - from murder, hunger, overdose, rat bites, etc.



In the Brownsville ghetto I saw two murders and heard of four others the same day. As a matter of fact I haven't been back there since.



Most whites have difficulty understanding what a ghetto is. There are, for instance, no walls around a ghetto, and its existence is not necessarily a result of bad housing. It is not only the underclass we ghettoize.



In Detroit, housing is far better than in Harlem. That the ghetto is not anything physically concrete like broken bottles and litter I experienced very strongly in Detroit where I was fortunate enough to get to live on both sides of the dividing line between the ghetto and the white areas - right out there where every white house is up for sale.

Many things I can understand about white racism, but to this day it is for me an absolute mystery why we whites are moving away from everything we have built up and come to love just because a black - or in Europe a Muslim - family moves into the neighborhood.



For these better off blacks in every single respect live up to the square white middle-class demands of a well-cut lawn, a hedge, and rhododendrons. And this is what the neighborhood would continue to look like if the whites didn't flee. At the same time these blacks have a culture far more American than that of the European immigrants whom the whites immediately allow access to their so-called melting pot.

When I lived on the white side of the embarrassing ghetto fence of For Sale signs they could usually not offer any logical arguments for moving except for the totally unacceptable one about "declining property values" which naturally only happens because they all sell out at once.



Thus I experienced it as one great white American conspiracy to prevent blacks from getting access to the melting pot, with millions of petty governor Wallaces blocking every doorway, masterminded by the National Association of Real Estate Boards (a subversive organization which ought to be closed down by Civil Rights laws).

For every white who moved I experienced on the other side of the fence a stab in the heart of the blacks. The older ones would do everything to please the whites, but the young ones were far more sensitive.



The sudden sense that one is about to be forever isolated and shut off from the mainstream of society just when one is closer than ever before stirred up resentment, and the aching stab in the heart would change a few of these otherwise well-behaved young, into mischief-makers churning up hate for the remaining whites on the ghetto fringe, who then in turn would blame the victim and move.



I am not dealing in this presentation with the problems of the black middle class but I couldn't help seeing a direct link between the violence committed against the dignity and self-worth of these frontier people out on the edges of the ghetto and the violence I later experienced in the inner ghettos; between the white all-American stab in the heart of the black middle class and the frightening backstabbing in the underclass. Thus I understood that the ghetto is a white socially enforced continuation of chattel slavery's violent milieu.



When this internalized white violence comes under direct pressure from societal violence such as unemployment, which is especially severe in Detroit, it explodes in physical violence. Just as the number of black divorces goes up and down with fluctuating unemployment, so do murder and violence against family members. 



Almost every time I came back to Detroit more of my black friends had been killed.

Interview in my show with my former girlfriend, Denise:

- Is that the only one of my friends who has been killed?

- Yes, but one of my brother's friends got killed too...



The letter on the next page to my parents, written during my first few months in America, shows how it was possible to sense immediately the knife-hand of white racism behind the bleeding of a people on the cross: