Ethnic Conflict: Them

My reading is full of racial/ethnic conflict these days.  Audible.com was featuring Nathan McCall’s Them: A Novel , which caught my eye as my mind was sensitized to issues of gentrification by David Wilson’s Cities and Race: America’s New Black Ghetto.   The story is told from the point of view of Barlowe Reed, a Black printer who lives with his ex-con pigeon-raising nephew in a rented house in Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward, home of Martin Luther King.  The story follows the area as it is settled or invaded (depending on your viewpoint) by the so-called “urban pioneers” – that is, White yuppies searching for in-city housing bargains.  I could imagine teaching about the sociology of racial/ethnic conflict using this book.  And as many of Amazon’s reader comments say, it would make a great book club discussion book.  It is about the conflicts arising from wildly different backgrounds and experiences and the very real difficulties in bridging these differences.  The conflict is very much two-sided.  The Black residents don’t want the Whites there and try to get them to go away, with tactics ranging from a general refusal to speak to the Whites to muggings and thefts.   For their part, the Whites see themselves as racial liberals and integrationists, but enact largely-unconscious White racial supremacy as they take over the neighborhood, replacing local institutions with their own, and destroying people’s lives in the process. Continue reading “Ethnic Conflict: Them”

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