How "Race Neutral" Policy Failed
Managing Inequality: Northern Racial Liberalism in Interwar Detroit
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/01/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21531
Book review ofKaren R. Miller's Managing Inequality: Northern Racial Liberalism in Interwar Detroit.
Beginning her study at the dawn of the Great Migration, Miller shifts the timeline of the origins of "colorblind racism" as white elected officials attempted to "manage" the increasing African-American population and their claims for equal citizenship. From physical examinations of southern Black migrants at the train station to employment and housing discrimination, problems highlighted by the African-American community were considered "pathologies" that plagued the race, rather than stemming from structural inequalities that needed to be confronted.
While Miller's focus is on Detroit, her study is a microcosm of myriad problems faced by political progressives as well as by those who challenged racial inequality in the North. Detroit shows us the ways in which at its core elected officials, such as Mayor Frank Murphy, desired to appear modern, moderate and champions of racial peace.
In orienting their administrations in this way as opposed to the "backward" South, managing the racial hierarchy meant maintaining the illusion of being fair, promoting gradual change and speaking for the "marginalized" while maintaining a set of policies that sustained housing and school segregation and inequitable city services.