Monday, October 23, 2006

Whitey McFlighty

I remember reading long ago, and I don't think it's available anywhere online, Berke Breathed's cartoon from his UTX at Austin cartooning days, a piece titled "Honky Trek: White Flight". He put Star Trek Enterprise-like wings on a big RV, with pictures surrounding that of a presumably frightened Austinite suburban-bound white family. According to Breathed, poop hit everywhere. Austinites then (and oh yes, now) had a hard time thinking that white flight could happen in their neck of the woods. Ah pleeze!

Of course, here in the desert SW of Arizona, we have the opposite situation-- here, snowbirds flock in winter for the weather, usually from some place like Minnesota or Illinois. I know there were a few from Chicagoland who went to AZ when I lived in Oak Park, IL. That town itself has a real issue or race-line segregation, pretty much demarcated by anything south of the downtown, more probably anything south of Madison not being very, um, desirable. I remember when I was a wee one in San Antonio, disliking the messy, noisy, truly clueless turistas ("Where's the Alamo?" I'm asked in Alamo Plaza. "Turn around" quoth I). I was warned in the summer I would not like the snowbirds, and I'm not sure about that yet, but traffic is slower!

I wonder how the visitors who come in winter see their particular type of "white flight". I konw they're fleeing some vicious winter weather, but at the same time, they choose a semi-volatile and aggressively (at times) non-white place. I live in a small town east of Yuma proper, and it's filling up with snow birds. All white. Are there no non-white snowbirds? Do they make a community different by being thre? Are they aware of the politics of their presence and even of the distinction they represent (money).

Now, in suburban Chicagoland, white flight has meant a huge run west, higher home prices, arrogant bastid drivers and privilege-expecting kiddos who may never actually want for anything. Many kids have multi-race friends, but none have asked themselves about their relative privilege or why to find more black people or brown people you go to certain places, very geographically distinct. When I was there it was hard to be in the suburbs, not because I grew up with all that much difference (my god, it was San Antonio, people!), but because I had grown up believing that you didn't believe the shite you saw on TV or on videos. I knew it was fake. I was ignorant, and knew I was when I left TX.

So, at the heart of this ramble is my question-- does White/Rich/ Privileged People flight arise from ignorance AND fear? And what is it people fear? If the loss of their income, they would be better off fearing their broker. If that which they do not know, then their perpetuation of ignorance in the face of overwhelming opportunities to learn about the Other so that their kids will also be ignorant, perhaps worse, is criminal.

Who do we blame for Whitey McFlighty? Catch the posting on race/ class recently at Para Justicia Y Libertad. It is still so hard to be an american when what that means is so often defined by the erasure of anything that looks--well, DIFFERENT. Oh the irony in this land of immigrants! "Who's the illegal alien now, pilgrim?"

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