John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Mapping the Melting Pot

Posted on July 24, 2013

The Federal government is going to do a deep dive into your neighborhood.

America is a melting pot.

Successive waves of immigrants crashed up America’s shores and then scattered in different conclaves.

Germans went to cities like Milwaukee, Cincinnati and St. Louis, the Irish went to Boston, New York and Chicago, the Scotch-Irish went Appalachia, Kentucky and Tennessee, the Italians went to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, the Swedes went to Minnesota, the Dutch went Michigan and Pennsylvania, Africans were forcibly moved to the Deep South.

Later waves went to many of the same cities, but in different neighborhoods.  The Jews went to New York, the Poles moved en masse to Chicago, Hispanics flooded Los Angeles, etc.

The melting pot shouldn’t imply a monochromatic broth.

Chunks of people moved together and stayed together in neighborhoods and many of those same neighborhoods have stayed intact.  Boston’s North End is still predominantly Italian while Southie is still mostly Irish.   Blacks who migrated from the South to the North in the 1940s and 1950’s still largely live together in their neighborhoods in the South and West Sides of Chicago, Hispanics still dominate the Pilsen neighborhood and so on and so forth.

There is no scientific way to make the best neighborhoods.  There is no sociologist who can design the perfect place to live.  Some people want to move to the suburbs to get more space in their lives.  Some people move back to the city because they are tired of their commutes and they want to feel a connection to a real neighborhood.  Some people are afraid of city crime, while others are bored with suburban life.  Some people want to live among their own kind, where they can speak their native language, worship at a church from their homeland.

That is the true nature of America.  A collection of cultures in one big melting pot, organic, always changing, with bits of old world tradition that cling together in a vast array of neighborhoods, some of which get along and others that don’t get along at all.

There is always a temptation, especially with this Administration, to see everything through black and white lens.  Blacks are the ones being discriminated against, while whites are the one doing the discriminating.

It has always been more complicated than that, and to this day, we are seeing the ramifications of federal policies that tried to use the bludgeon of laws and Washington D.C. pronouncements to achieve outcomes that seemed fair to the solons of the intelligentsia.

For example, mandatory busing policies in many major urban areas, helped to destroy public education in those cities and helped to precipitate white flight, leading to economic collapse.  Exhibit A is Detroit.

The complicated nature of America’s neighborhoods must drive the Obama Administration crazy.  Perhaps that is why the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development is proposing a new, fairly expensive rule that could give the government a powerful weapon to break up America’s oldest neighborhoods.

According to one news story, here is what Shawn Donovan proposes:  “The U.S. government is going to log the diversity of every neighborhood in the U.S.

As part of a proposed rule, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), would provide detailed demographic information on every single neighborhood in the country in an attempt to get a better understanding of segregation, integration and poverty,” the agency said.

At a cost of at least 100 million dollars, the Federal government is going to do a deep dive into your neighborhood to see if you are living in a place that achieves precisely the demographic balance desired to Washington policy makers.

And if you live in a place that doesn’t live up to those exacting standards, the Federal government will now have a powerful tool to compel you to change your neighborhood.

I find this to be a little scary.

The Federal government has enough on its plate.  It shouldn’t be wasting money on a mapping program that could be used to enforce a Washington centric view of what the perfect little neighborhood is.