The Authoritarian State

Without commenting on the value of this (I haven’t read it), I think we should discuss this.

Here’s the background. If you go to the first link, there is an article, published by Philadelphia Magazine, called: Being White In Philly. It consists of interviews with various white people who are apparently unhappy with race relations in their city. I’ve only read the first page, but this is how it starts out:

My younger son goes to Temple, where he’s a sophomore. This year he’s living in an apartment with two friends at 19th and Diamond, just a few blocks from campus. It’s a dangerous neighborhood. Whenever I go see Nick, I get antsy and wonder what I was thinking, allowing him to rent there.

One day, before I pick him up for lunch, I stop to talk to a cop who’s parked a block away from Nick’s apartment.

“Is he already enrolled for classes?” the cop says when I point out where my son lives.

Well, given that it’s December, I think so. But his message is clear: Bad idea, this neighborhood. A lot of burglaries and robberies. Temple students are prime prey, the cop says.

Later, driving up Broad Street as I head home to Mount Airy, I stop at a light just north of Lycoming and look over at some rowhouses. One has a padlocked front door. A torn sheet covering the window in that door looks like it might be stained with sewage. I imagine not a crackhouse, but a child, maybe several children, living on the other side of that stained sheet. Plenty of children in Philadelphia live in places like that. Plenty live on Diamond, where my son rents, where there always seem to be a lot of men milling around doing absolutely nothing, where it’s clearly not a safe place to be.

I’ve shared my view of North Broad Street with people—white friends and colleagues—who see something else there: New buildings. Progress. Gentrification. They’re sunny about the area around Temple. I think they’re blind, that they’ve stopped looking. Indeed, I’ve begun to think that most white people stopped looking around at large segments of our city, at our poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods, a long time ago. One of the reasons, plainly put, is queasiness over race. Many of those neighborhoods are predominantly African-American. And if you’re white, you don’t merely avoid them—you do your best to erase them from your thoughts.

At the same time, white Philadelphians think a great deal about race. Begin to talk to people, and it’s clear it’s a dominant motif in and around our city. Everyone seems to have a story, often an uncomfortable story, about how white and black people relate.

As you can imagine, this caused an uproar. The Mayor (go to the second link above) is calling for an investigation.

The mayor of Philadelphia has called for an investigation into a controversial article recently published in a local magazine titled ‘Being White in Philly.’
The story that appeared in Philadelphia Magazine this month features a series of interviews with unnamed white residents living in different parts of Philadelphia who talk about their dealings with African-Americans.
Calling the article’s tone ‘disgusting,’ Mayor Michael Nutter has asked the Human Relations Commission to look into some of the race-related concerns raised by the article.

Philadelphia Magazine has been accused of race-baiting after publishing an article titled ‘Being White in Philly’ featuring interviews with unnamed Caucasian residents who talk about their interactions with African-Americans
‘I think he feels that there are enough problems in this article that it warrants a closer look,’ Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald told CBS Philadelphia.
The commission responded to the mayor s request by saying that it already has been looking at relations between different groups living in the city.
In a statement, Philadelphia Magazine editor Tom McGrath said the mayor, like any reader, is entitled to think and say anything he wants about the article and that the need to have a deeper discussion about race in Philadelphia is exactly why they ran the story in the first place.
However, McGrath goes on to state that Nutter’s ‘sophomoric’ statements about the publication lead him to believe that the mayor is more interested in scoring ‘political points than having a serious conversation about the issues.’
‘In short, the mayor loves the First Amendment–as long as he and the government can control what gets said,’ McGrath said in his statement.
The Philadelphia Magazine article, written in the first person by reporter Robert Huber, begins with him expressing concerns for the safety of his younger son, who attends Temple University and rents an apartment with two roommates in a ‘bad’ part of town near the school.

So here’s my question: What does the Mayor want to investigate? He is perfectly free to criticize both the writer and the magazine, and he has. But what, exactly, does he want investigated? That sounds like a crime has been committed here, doesn’t it? Unless the laws have completely broken down, the writer has the right to be an idiot (or not), and the magazine has the right to publish offensive material, without threat. I thought. Maybe not?

- Aggie


  1. DavidD said,

    March 17, 2013 @ 12:39 pm


  2. Buck O'Fama said,

    March 17, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

    A good question. Don’t expect a good answer.

  3. David Yotham said,

    March 17, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

    OK, I’ll pump in my opinion. The Mayor of Philly is either in denial or a black racist – those are the only two alternatives. My money is on the racist mutt in that dog race – you don’t get to be Mayor of a major metropolitan city without being clever, with lot’s of insight.

    I’ve traveled all around America, and have had the pleasure of encountering black-on-white racism in almost every East Coast city I visited. It doesn’t stop there however. Northern California, Portland Oregon, Seattle, etc. The list is pretty long, and eye opening for a man who left the farms of Southern Ohio.

    Actually, I’m kind of shocked that America hasn’t had an open race war yet. Between Farrakhan and the redneck KKKluckers (found in the most unlikeliest of places) it’s surprising we’re still a country. Grace of God? Probably – it’s certainly not due to any great intellect on our part.

  4. Kimmi said,

    March 18, 2013 @ 12:00 am

    Sounds like Mayor Nutter is appropriately named. He certainly is a nutter.

  5. Bloodthirsty Liberal said,

    March 18, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

    That’s funny, Kimmi. :)

    - Aggie

  6. David Yotham said,

    March 18, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

    Yup, Philly’s fine Mayor is a racist just seeking to be clever:

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