There it was, splayed across fully half the front page of the print edition of the Sunday New York Times, and continuing onto a full interior page as well -- another one of those big feature expose Pulitzer-Prize-bait articles that the Times is so famous for. I previously covered one of these things back in May ("The Latest Scam From The New York Times"). That one involved the supposedly horrific working conditions in the New York nail salon industry. It was exposed by the Manhattan Contrarian as a total hoax. This one is titled "A Year After Ferguson, Housing Segregation Defies Tools to Erase It." Byline is John Eligon.
So is it just another scam? Absolutely.
The thesis of this article is that African Americans are prevented from achieving success in America because they lack access to "good jobs, high-performing schools, and low-crime neighborhoods." The reason for that lack of access is "barriers," including discriminatory housing and lending practices, that keep black people out of "prosperous, mostly white communities." Benevolent government programs bravely seek to break down the "barriers" but the government programs are frustrated at every turn by evil communities and landlords that use every trick and device to forcefully steer the blacks into the segregated neighborhoods:
Questions about whether minorities have access to good jobs, high-performing schools and low-crime neighborhoods have been fiercely debated. And for many, one question informs all those others: Can the barriers that keep blacks out of prosperous, mostly white communities be toppled?
This, coming from the New York Times, located at 40th Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan. Really, is it possible to believe this narrative and work in Manhattan? Only if you sit completely confined in your office blinded by your Ivy League indoctrination and willfully refuse ever to go out and walk around the streets.
So Mr. Eligon, if you were ever to leave the Times' office in Manhattan and go out and walk around, what would you observe? You would see that Manhattan is far and away the wealthiest county in the United States, with by far the highest concentration of high-paying jobs in any one small place. And you will see that the New Yorkers have gone to truly extraordinary lengths to assure that poor people, most black, have full access to living in Manhattan, including locations in or adjacent to some of the most prosperous precincts on this wealthy island. Thus low-income housing has been built on the Upper West Side (including next door to Lincoln Center), in West Midtown, in Chelsea, along miles of the Lower East Side waterfront, on Upper Broadway right next to Columbia University, along a big stretch of Park Avenue, and so forth.
Probably the most expensive and wealthy of all of Manhattan's sub-neighborhoods is the approximately 1.5 mile stretch of Park Avenue running from the East 60s to about 95th Street. Apartments in the old-line co-op buildings lining that stretch go for multiple thousands of dollars per square foot, easily $5 million for anything that could house a family. And then, at 99th Street and Park, no more than 0.2 miles away, we have the Carver Houses:
So, Mr. Eligon, is that close enough to meet your definition of "access" to prosperous communities and good jobs? If it isn't, nothing is.
But of course Manhattan's vast estates of low income projects have done nothing to transform the lives of their poor and black inhabitants. The opposite. These are poverty traps that only make it harder, if not impossible, for the poor to rise up, and it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference how close they may be located to the wealthiest sections. For our huge investment in subsidized housing immediately adjacent to the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country, what we have gotten is the highest income inequality in the country and the embarrassment of a poverty rate well above the national average in the very wealthiest county. Mr. Eligon's entire thesis is completely refuted by the evidence right under his nose, and he seems totally unaware of it.
Mr. Eligon embellishes his article with the stories of numerous struggling African Americans, each living in a segregated area around St. Louis, and each according to his account trapped in a poor existence by the "barriers" erected around them. But one after the other the stories are so full of holes that they are insulting to the intelligence of the reader. I'll consider just one, the story of one Crystal Wade:
With violent crime common in her neighborhood, Ms. Wade said she looked over her shoulder when she walked in the house. Her rambunctious and curious 2-year-old daughter, Crystian, once rambled toward the window when gunshots popped outside. Ms. Wade and her boyfriend, Bryant Goston, 26, also have a 7-month-old daughter, Ava. Mr. Goston’s 7-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, Tamia, stays with them occasionally. Five days a week, Ms. Wade takes a 30-minute drive with her best friend to their jobs at a Verizon call center in St. Charles County, where they work eight-hour shifts. She clocks 40 hours a week, but her roughly $10-an-hour salary has not been enough to afford housing in the area where she works.
Can we just parse this a bit? Ms. Wade struggles to make ends meet on her $10 per hour job, which would be about $20,000 for full time work for the entire year. Well, how about this Goston guy? He's the "boyfriend." He has at least three kids by two different women, but hasn't bothered to marry either of them. Does he recognize any responsibility for contributing to the family? Somehow Eligon doesn't even ask the question. Really? If Goston could trouble himself to get one of those $10 per hour jobs, that would make the family income $40,000. A couple of paragraphs down, Eligon reports the median family income for the St. Louis area as $35,000. So all Goston needs to do is join the family and get a job -- literally any job -- and instantly they are out of poverty and indeed above the median income. Then they can walk into any neighborhood where other people around the median income live -- and most of those people are white -- and get themselves a place. Remember, housing discrimination is illegal!
Of course, if Mr. Goston got a job and joined the family, that would undermine Ms. Wade's eligibility for her housing subsidy. A fair inference is that Goston and Wade prefer the housing subsidy, and the very inexpensive "bad" neighborhood that it comes with, to the hard work needed to move up in life. OK. That's just one more example of how segregation, like income inequality, is caused and worsened by the very well-intentioned government policies that were supposed to alleviate it. And anyway, in what sense is acceptance of a housing subsidy a "barrier" imposed on Goston/Wade by somebody else?