Implicit Whiteness #4- The Suburbs

What do we think of when we think of the suburbs? Simple houses, green lawns, minivans, dads mowing, kids playing ball in the streets…… And white people. The suburbs aren’t as white as they used to be- some suburbs have been minority from the beginning- Howard Stern used to talk about getting hassled by blacks in Roosevelt, Long Island when he was a kid- and the “Black Undertow” process has made many close-in suburbs minority dominated places like the cities they adjoin. But the suburban lifestyle is fundamentally white. The original suburbs were linked to the city center by train or trolley, and middle-class officer workers or affluent businessmen commuted on them. Later the suburbs became more aspirational places, where the lower middle-class or working class people lived and commuted by car. These post-World War II suburbs provided a less crowded and more pleasant environment for family live than the crowded central city apartments or tenements where they might have lived before. The first sort of suburbs can be elite- the Philadelphia Main Line or parts of Westchester and Nassau Counties in New York- but the second are not, because they are inhabited by the wrong kind of people. A more important reason is that they are often inhabited by people trying to get away from minorities, the sinister “white flight”. Think of that term. It’s the flight that is bad, because white people are doing it. What they are flying from is not bad. White people are supposed to stay next to minorities and take their punishment. The suburbs have as part of the lifestyle created a sort of culture that is derided by urbanites, hipsters, and minorities as “suburban” or “white”. It is kind of assumed the bulk of non-elite white people live in the suburbs. Things we think of as “suburban” are sedans or minivans- for carrying children- windbreakers, T-shirts or polo shirts, khakis, blue jeans, tennis shoes, other loose, comfortable, cheap clothing worn when not working- team ball sports when played by white children, malls and big box stores. To live in the suburbs means you are comfortable, and safe, but not able to afford or easily enjoy the amenities of elite urban life. The elite have more comfort and safety than anyone, yet they despise the desire for it in those lower. The desire for these things is “narrow-minded” and “fascist”. The people the elite care for- the pseudo elite, gays, and NAMs- live in the city, trading varying degrees of comfort and safety to be close to an urban lifestyle. The suburbs are Asian now, too- some modest LA suburbs were taken over by Asians, and now some very tony ones- San Marino, Arcadia, and Walnut. Asians have followed the pattern of earlier immigrants, going from urban neighborhoods to the suburbs when they got more money. Where there are lots of Latinos, there are Latino suburbs- some normal suburbs, some probably undertow suburbs or on the way to being that. Suburban implicit whiteness is not actually negative, but it is suspicious. Suburbanites might not like living among minorities. They may dislike paying taxes to support services for minorities living in the cities. They may lack an interest in cultural status signifiers that are so important to elite city dwellers. Suburban whites are not in open rebellion against the system, but their cooperation is tentative and dubious.


About thrasymachus33308

I like fast cars, fast women and southern-fried rock. I have an ongoing beef with George Orwell. I take my name from a character in Plato's "Republic" who was exasperated with the kind of turgid BS that passed for deep thought and political discourse in that time and place, just as I am today. The character, whose name means "fierce fighter" was based on a real person but nobody knows for sure what his actual political beliefs were. I take my pseudonym from a character in an Adam Sandler song who was a obnoxious jerk who pissed off everybody.
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One Response to Implicit Whiteness #4- The Suburbs

  1. Pingback: Linkage is Good for You: Merry Christmas Edition

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