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July 27, 2012

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anon

Al: I always find your posts interesting, and, most importantly, measured and civil.
But, the quotes above are not.
"Arrogant whites and their negro appeasers who hate their neighbors and welcome the "new settlers" in with open arms."?
Really? This sounds like the West Bank.
"ethnic cleansing"?
Really?
As a historian, Al, you must know the history of Harlem.
"Harlem has been home to a variety of ethnic groups, black and white, since the turn of the twentieth century."
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/iraas/harlem/
Harlem is not now and hasn't been for a long time predominantly black. The proportion of the black population in Harlem peaked in 1950. Moreover,
See, e.g., http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/nyregion/06harlem.html?pagewanted=all
From the NYT:
"Harlem is hardly the only ethnic neighborhood to have metamorphosed because of inroads by housing pioneers seeking bargains and more space — Little Italy, for instance, has been largely gobbled up by immigrants expanding the boundaries of Chinatown and by creeping gentrification from SoHo. But Harlem has evolved uniquely.

Because so much of the community was devastated by demolition for urban renewal, arson and abandonment beginning in the 1960s, many newcomers have not so much dislodged existing residents as succeeded them. In the 1970s alone, the black population of central Harlem declined by more than 30 percent."

So, what to make of you posting that racist drivel about "ethnic cleansing" coming from someone who just can't stand living near "arrogant whites" and their "negro appeasers"?

Al, would you post racist comments, riddled with false premises, that blame "arrogant blacks and their white appeasers" for a particular claimed condition? I think not.

We can't get past racist language if we tolerate any of it, in my view.

Alfred Brophy

Hi Anon,

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your taking the time to comment so extensively and to talk about Harlem's history.

I was posting that comment to show the attitudes of some people (or at least one person) talking about the drummers. I study radicals of the left and right (or whatever political orientation one uses to describe these comments). Obviously, just because I quote someone doesn't mean I subscribe to their ideas -- or even find them minimally acceptable or accurate. I think we ought to know about the ideas that are out there.

Though I left this out of the post, lest one think all the inflammatory rhetoric is on one side, there were some outrageous ideas expressed by someone, perhaps a resident of the co-op, about lynching the drummers. The Times article quotes the email; those interested in following this further should look there.

Also, don't want to seem too much like I'm promoting my other scholarship here, but here's an article that deals with some of the extreme proslavery ideas of one college professor I study:

http://blurblawg.typepad.com/files/dewwm.pdf

Alfred Brophy

One other thought here, Anon, I can understand the perspective of the author who feels like his (I'm guessing) community is changing because people with lots of money are coming in and displacing poorer residents. Also, I think the comment meant to say: "There is no reason why projects, low income housing and luxury housing can NOT exist in Harlem."

anon

Al:
Thank you for your response: thoughtful, as always!
Yes, it is important to know about and condemn the extreme views that feed the racial divisions in this country.
You wisely left out that comment about "lynching" : that comment was posted by someone who likely intended to stir up and incite racist sentiments.
Your instincts told you: that kind of comment can't be repeated without at least labeling it as "outrageous"!
And, so, my point.
I don't think we can simply repeat the words of those who hate members of other "races" without proper labeling and context.

anon

Al:
With regard to your postscript: I hope that you are not defending these statements:
"Arrogant whites and their negro appeasers who hate their neighbors and welcome the "new settlers" in with open arms. The wholesale of Harlem and the ethnic cleansing of long time harlem residents is happening now."
As the NYT rightly noted, Harlem "mostly [has been] devastated by demolition for urban renewal, arson and abandonment beginning in the 1960s, [and] many newcomers [there] have not so much dislodged existing residents as succeeded them."
The comment that you posted was, in my view, quite obviously based on the race of the newcomers. Otherwise, why label the "new settlers" "arrogant Whites"?
I find such language disgusting, Al; just as disgusting as I would find a white person labeling "black newcomers" in the same fashion.

Alfred Brophy

Hi Anon,

I left the email about lynching out for two reasons. Primarily, it wasn't all that related to the issue of nuisance. Second, it's inflammatory (and I'd say more inflammatory than the anonymous comments I quote above, but that's aside from our issue). Maybe I should have put in more about the email, but I wanted to focus on the issue of nuisance. I hope Carol Brown and I will write something more about this -- we both enjoy using it in property class. And I might add that the new edition of the Hovenkamp property casebook, which Carol has joined, uses this as a problem in the nuisance section. The email would probably occupy a place in a larger piece that tried to get at the attitudes around the drummers and see if they're really just stand-ins for other longer-running disputes.

The reason I used the comment was largely because I wanted to make the point about park naming. And -- again not saying I share this attitude -- I can understand how people might feel that their community is being taken over by people with amounts of wealth they couldn't even begin to comprehend. Whether that's what's actually happening -- or whether, as you point out, the community was displaced before the new and expensive co-ops starting coming into Harlem -- is a separate issue from how people there perceive the situation.

If I'm right that there was a "NOT" missing from the comment's sentence, I think he was saying he thought there could be low income housing and high-end housing. I can see that perspective, even though I don't share the stark racial vision of the comment.

Make sense?

anon

Al:
The attempt by some is to turn the nuisance issue into a race issue. THe story you quoted noted that the New Black Panther Party was involved. But:
"Mount Morris Park is a tight-knit Harlem neighborhood where brownstones dating from the Gilded Age have been lovingly restored. It is also a place where black and white residents have lived harmoniously for years."
The comment you quoted (without any labeling as "outrageous" or "inflammatory") was attempting to turn a nuisance issue into a race issue. It was attempting to create a new "cultural nuisance" meme, wherein the "arrogant whites" object to the drumming because they are "white" and "rich", and their "negro appeasers" are in part to blame, because "negro appeasers" allowed these "whites" to move into Harlem. (there are many other areas of the world where the arguments are identical: this is classic ethnic hatred).
There is no "ethnic cleansing" going on in Harlem: the trends have been in one direction since the 1970s. That language in teh comment was ignorant and inflammatory.
The choice we have is to agree (expressly or implicitly) that this as a race issue, and quote racists who clearly hate the idea of white people "invading" Harlem, or keep to the subject of the noise nuisance, which appears to interest you (and me) more.
I don't ask you to ignore the voices of racial hatred. But, I advocate a stern rebuke of racism of all sorts. Just as the "lynching" comment could not be repeated without rebuke (you labled it "inflammatory" and "outrageous") so too the racist comment you quoted could not, in my view, be simply presented as a legitimate pov.

anon

One postscript of my own:
Al, as an expert: are there instances where a court has recognized that cultural practices in public spaces (as distinguished from objective conditions that invade one's own property, such as the volume of noise making) have been recognized as a "nuisance"?
For example, Group X wears black robes and makes our neighborhood seem like a creepy place.
I know that in France there has been a lot of argument about veils, but that is not labeled as a "nuisance" issue, as far as I know.

Alfred Brophy

Hi Anon,

Thanks for your comments. On your postscript: not that I know of, but I'd be interested in hearing from others on this. I teach a case of an African American church (United House of Prayer) whose services involve loud music and lots of it that was found to be a nuisance in Columbia, South Carolina, back in the early 1940s. Rachel Godsil wrote a very good article in Michigan a few years back on race nuisance cases -- that is, cases where race and nuisance intersected. She discusses a few cases where the mere presence of African Americans was claimed to be a nuisance. Those were uniformly rejected, as far back as the nineteenth century.

As to your 4:19 comment. You say, "The attempt by some is to turn the nuisance issue into a race issue." From my perspective, race and nuisance are intertwined in this case. I don't see this as "it was nuisance, then malicious people turned this into race." There's an issue of race in Harlem and urban renewal and limited opportunities for African Americans that pre-dates this controversy, obviously.

Anyway, what I like about this problem is that it gives a lot to talk about in property class -- like coming to the nuisance, long-time use, the possibility of crafting an injunction that limits the time for music; the utility of the conduct (perhaps making the park and surrounding area safer) and also the harm to the neighbors. (How much does this decrease the FMV of their property?)

anon

Al:
Yes, that is the type of case I was wondering about: claiming that the presence of another group is, per se, a nuisance.
As for the aspects of this situation that you discuss in class [like coming to the nuisance, long-time use, the possibility of crafting an injunction that limits the time for music; the utility of the conduct (perhaps making the park and surrounding area safer) and also the harm to the neighbors. (How much does this decrease the FMV of their property?] I would simply say that I think you are making my point.
Not one of these interesting aspects of the case has anything to do with race. So, I would say, yes, I think malicious haters try to inject racial conflict into every situation, whether it is warranted or not. Where the New Black Panther Party is involved, I would say (with some humility) q.e.d.

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