December 10, 2016

Nominating Ben Carson for HUD Secretary, Trump spoke of "urban renewal": Doesn't that connote something racist?

Trump's press release said, in part:
"Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities. We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up."
Campaigning in Charlotte, North Carolina, in late October he'd used the phrase once, at the beginning of a speech titled "New Deal For Black America":
It is great to be here in Charlotte to discuss an issue that means so much to me. That is the issue of urban renewal, and the rebuilding of our inner cities. Today I want to talk about how to grow the African-American middle class, and to provide a new deal for Black America. That deal is grounded in three promises: safe communities, great education, and high-paying jobs....
At the NYT, Emily Badger expresses anxiety about the phrase "urban renewal" (and she doesn't ignore that other historically resonant phrase, "New Deal"):
His language has an odd ring to it, not solely for marrying Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal with the post-World War II era of urban renewal. If Mr. Trump was reaching for a broadly uplifting concept — renewal — he landed instead on a term with very specific, and very negative, connotations for the population he says he aims to help....

The term “urban renewal” dates to the Housing Act of 1954; its 1949 predecessor called the same policy “urban redevelopment.” Under these laws, the federal government gave cities the power and money to condemn “slum” neighborhoods, clear them through eminent domain, then turn over the land to private developers at cheap rates for projects that included higher-end housing, hospitals, hotels, shopping centers and college expansions....

Urban renewal was meant to wipe clean poor, deteriorating neighborhoods, while boosting tax coffers, stimulating private investment and luring middle-class residents and shoppers back into the city.....
Did Trump mean to evoke these details when he used the old phrase? Badger says it's a "mystery" and compares it to the mystery of whether Trump knew the historical background when he had that phone conversation with the president of Taiwan.

My guess is that Trump not only knows the historical background, he intends to leave us off-balance — tangled up in the mystery of whether he knows. But I can't solve the mystery of what he intended to do by using the old phrase that James Baldwin once said was a euphemism for "Negro removal."

We know Trump has said "eminent domain is wonderful" and:
"If you have a factory, where you have thousands of jobs, you need eminent domain, it’s called economic development... Now you’re employing thousands of people and you’re able to build a factory, you’re able to build an Apple computer center, where thousands of people can work. You can do that, or you can say, ‘Let the man have his house.'"
I recommend assuming that Trump knows what he's doing. The alternative assumption — that he's a bumbling idiot — is too easy, and if you are wrong, you will be left in the dust. But to say that he knows what he's doing is not to know what he has in mind. It's easy to fall back on the old accusations of racism and to take advantage of his use of the old phrase to dangle that theory in front of NYT readers — who snap up the bait. The highest-rated comment there says:
The article makes clear "urban renewal" is code for racist policies. And the "political correctness" that clearly drove you to vote for Trump is coded language for racism.
But maybe Trump himself was baiting people like Badger and that commenter to talk about him like that and look like surly pessimists who make reckless accusations of racism over nothing. And here he has nominated that lovely man Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

36 comments:

MayBee said...

The article makes clear "urban renewal" is code for racist policies.

Eh.
The left likes to play with language too much, and then tries to declare anything not in compliance to be a dogwhistle, a code, racist, or harkening back to some other time.
There's nothing wrong with the term "Urban Renewal". It's actually clear and descriptive.
How about they- and we- wait and see what policies Donald Trump and Ben Carson come up with. Because it isn't like "Urban Status Quo" is doing so well.

HT said...

Urban status quo is doing very well now.

clint said...

Ann Althouse's blog post said, in part: "But maybe Trump himself was baiting people like Badger..."

Doesn't badger-baiting connote a horribly brutal blood sport involving the torture of animals (both badgers and dogs) for the pleasure of the crowd?

Did Ann Althouse mean to evoke these details when she used the old phrase?

I recommend assuming Althouse knows what she is doing. The alternative assumption -- that she's a bumbling idiot -- is too easy, and so on.

But what does she mean by it? Is it intended to show her support for the abuse of dogs? Or is it, perhaps, an apropos metaphor for political commentary today? Or to make us think about how easy it is to pluck out a phrase from a longer article and unfairly use it to misconstrue a fairly banal and boilerplate press release as a white supremacist screed?

But don't get me started on "reckless accusations" or "lovely man". *shudder*

Sally327 said...

I'm pretty sure that at least one one thing Donald Trump does know something about is real estate and how the system works in this country when it comes to land and money and government, how those things connect. So this is going to be one of the interesting areas in his administration.

Racism is probably the least of it but a helpful way to deflect attention from whatever's really going on. Or will be going on once he's actually President. I predict it won't have anything to do with racism but might have something to do with something else (crony capitalism possibly?).

Owen said...

Eminent Domain = ED
Economic Development = ED

We have pills for that.

Owen said...

Actually I don't get the concern over a phrase like "urban renewal." The Department is the Department of Housing and Urban Development. So "Urban" is the mission. And what is "development" in an urban context? The cityscape is by definition not wilderness; it has already been developed, what HUD does is develop it some more or in a different direction. So its mission is REdevelopment.

Getting from the Department of Housing and Urban Redevelopment to "urban renewal" is trivial.

Rather than play word games why don't we see what Carson and Trump outline as actual pilot projects or strategic directions?

exhelodrvr1 said...

Keep misunderestimating him, liberals.

Go Navy!

Tank said...

Nice job Clint.

Sean Gleeson said...

I do not think Donald Trump is an assiduous student of the historical connotations of two-word phrases. I seem to recall his campaign rolling out “America First” as a slogan, without any concern for what that meant to the electorate of 1938.

Anyway, I agree with Owen. There is nothing at all objectionable about the phrase “urban renewal.” The objections are about how it was attempted in the past. But if Trump makes clear that he means to “urban renewal the right way” or something, the objections disappear, and in fact anyone who keeps trying to raise them would just help Trump spread his message.

But major props to that liberal commenter, for flat-out admitting that “‘political correctness‘ ... is coded language for racism.” Such refreshing honesty. Or is this one of those times liberals tell the truth accidentally?

Wilbur said...

"... he intends to leave us off-balance — tangled up in the mystery of whether he knows"

Tangled up in blue. States.

William said...

Hard to believe, but it's possible a billionaire real estate developer might know more about the intricacies of urban renewal than a NYT reporter. I thought urban renewal was some kind of liberal, progressive program. When did it morph into this racist thing? Must have been when the conservatives gained political control of all our urban centers.......Off topic: If Putin interfered in this election, is it also possible that Stalin did what he could to advance the cause of Henry Wallace and can we now say that aloud?

David Begley said...

One slight problem to Trump's idea of eminent domain for factories and such. After the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo, many states enacted new laws to stop such things.

The Merck headquarters in CT was never built after Kelo was decided.

traditionalguy said...

The gist of the complaints is that Trump is not being sufficiently racist. And denying racism is racist.

FDR called it Public Housing. The first Federal big project was built in 1935 between Georgia Tech and the Coca Cola Company and Frank Gordy's Varsity drive-in. It was for the out of work, poor homeless whites. The architects were the founders of Stevens Wilkenson, that have been successful since, including designing the ATL Airport.

And Techwood Homes is still there.

Amadeus 48 said...

Trump is obviously using words in their natural meaning--when the man means to renew urban areas with safe communities, great education, and high-paying jobs, he calls it "urban renewal". What could be more direct?

But does the man who has dotted America and the world with high-end developments and golf courses, who left the outer boroughs for the hothouse of Manhattan, have it in him to shift the giant federal housing establishment to do something that might actually result in safe communities, great education, and high-paying jobs? Does he have something in his head that will undo 75 years of disastrous urban policy led from Washington and imposed by city hall on the residents of our cities great and small? The cheap answer is, that is what Ben Carson is for. But Carson has his own ideas and experience, and he came from a very unpromising start in life. Maybe something good will come out of this instead of more failure.

As a now-great man once said, "What have you got to lose?"

Michael McClain said...

I might question his apparent lack of administrative experience, but give the guy a chance. If he's successful, fine. If unsuccessful, replace him with someone else. Perhaps he'll bring a different approach to solving on-going problems.

alan markus said...

I googled Emily Badger to see what else she has written about. In the past I find numerous articles on "gentrification" - I suspect what was once "gentrification" will now be rebranded as Trump/"urban renewal"/racism to explain lower and middle class displacement from urban areas. The next Oakland disaster can then be linked to that, instead of gentrification caused by high tech industries taking over the area.

Matthew Sablan said...

The hidden racism of the WaPo.

rhhardin said...

Carson doesn't count as black because he shows good character.

Any black showing good character is reviled, the lesson being that chip on the shoulder is the only honest and honorable stance for a black person.

There's something to change for urban renewal.

alan markus said...

Michael McClain said...
I might question his apparent lack of administrative experience, but give the guy a chance.


I worked with some HUD funded programs for 20 years (a long time ago). Still follow some of the trade association sites - not seeing a lot of anxiety about Carson - the HUD Secretary is more of a figurehead, "cheerleader" type of position.

Here's the shortlist for the real power position at HUD: deputy secretary
Three names that should reassure those unsure of Carson's credentials

Amadeus 48 said...

Matthew Sablan--Good one, Matt!

My experience with stimulus program urban renewal is watching the city of Chicago spend millions on green transportation infrastructure (i.e., bike lanes and traffic jams everywhere) and improvements to already gentrified areas (that new entrance to Lake Shore Drive from La Salle Drive in Lincoln Park is great, and it only took three years to build).

In terms of cynicism and fecklessness, Trump can only equal or be better than Team Obama. He can't do worse.

Anglelyne said...

I do not think Donald Trump is an assiduous student of the historical connotations of two-word phrases. I seem to recall his campaign rolling out “America First” as a slogan, without any concern for what that meant to the electorate of 1938.

In 1938 the phrase "America First" didn't have any historical connotations for the electorate.

You could correctly say that his campaign rolled out the slogan without any apparent concern for the sensitivities of that subset of the present electorate that takes the retrospectively godwinized view of the America First movement.

Sebastian said...

"The article makes clear "urban renewal" is code for racist policies." I know it would spoil the fun of prog PC linguistic badgering, but it would be nice if lefties would get together and make a list of approved terms so the rest of us can avoid the sins of doubleplusungood racist rhetoric. Not that DJT cares in the least, of course.

eddie willers said...

And Techwood Homes is still there.

Torn down for the 1996 Olympics.

Unknown said...

Hopefully trump was saying, "everyone not worried about pc stupidity knows that urban renewal is....urban renewal. I don't have time to dance around all of the PC crap out there. Normal people understand exactly what I am talking about. I DO NOT care what the PC crowd understand, they are not normal."

JAORE said...

The article makes clear "urban renewal" is code for racist policies.


Damn it, I've been hunting my lost secret decoder ring for WEEKS now. How am I ever to keep up?

Bad Lieutenant said...

The exact recipe for slum clearance is to evacuate the blighted blocks or developments, demolish them, and rebuild. All else is commentary, as Hillel said. Right-of-ways for transit, telecom, etc., can be intelligently considered at the same time. The tough part is the swing space.

Big Mike said...

In a speech in Charlotte, NC, Donald Trump defined precisely what he meant by "urban renewal." He has asked Ben Carson to help realize that vision, and I while I'd rather Ben Carson was involved more with healthcare, he may very well be the right person to implement the "New Deal for Black America" that Donald Trump promised.

Jupiter said...

"It's easy to fall back on the old accusations of racism ..."

Maybe not quite as easy as it was a year ago....

n.n said...

So, the Democrats equate urban with class diversity, specifically black diversity. Millions of white, brown, yellow... clumps of cells excluded. Class diversity industry forward earnings are predicted to remain progressive with fresh capital infusions.

n.n said...

While urban renewal has a connotation, [class] diversity denotes prejudice. Then there is reproductive rites, "=", redistributive change, "peace", change, progress, etc.

Unknown said...

Www.greatagain.gov
You have to love it.

rcocean said...

So it didn't matter what Trump actually said, the fact that he used the words "urban renewal" as opposed to "urban re-building" means he's a member of the KKK.

Okey-dokey.

Life would be easier if the NYT or NPR would publish a list of verboten words that indicate racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. so we could all have the same "code book".

rcocean said...

Or alternatively, we could just not care. I'm for that.

SukieTawdry said...

Are we not using the term "urban renewal" anymore?

tim maguire said...

Trump got Democrats to accuse him of racism for nominating a black man to head HUD. Well played sir.

gbarto said...

It sounds like the author is afraid that Trump would bulldoze the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland to make way for the the gentrified.