Rod Dreher has stumbled upon the startling realization that old, failing malls usually become the “black mall” before going totally defunct. And it’s a phenomenon, to his credit, he’s interested in exploring. Decidedly not to his credit, he doesn’t really want to know the actual reasons, but instead something else entirely:
Here in Dallas, I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon. I’m thinking of a particular mall that has become known as the kind of mall where poor and working-class Mexicans shop, and is on the glide path to defunctitude. If a mall gets known among white people as “the black mall” — or, I suppose, in a regional variation, as “the Mexican mall” — they just won’t go to it. Stuff White People Hate? Right-minded white people will deplore the trend, but the kind of liberal, educated white people who deplore this kind of thing aren’t the kind of white people who would be caught dead actually shopping in the black mall. They’re embarrassed by other white people who won’t shop there, and who don’t feel bad about it.
I wonder if this is a spiral: does a mall start to falter economically, making it accessible to minorities with less money to spend, who frighten middle class white people (and middle class folks of other races) away? If not “frighten,” then serve as a subconscious sign that this mall is in decline, and not where the cool people shop? I know, I know, racism and classism, let us all deplore it and move on. I’m interested in this cultural and economic dynamic. (emphasis added)
Seriously? I understand that the revelation of race and class’s impact on society can be a wake-up call, but it’s rare that someone walks right up to it and then scampers away like a scared kitten who got too close to the vacuum cleaner when it came on.
The issue, of course, is that race and class cut the wrong way when it comes to political ideology, and it doesn’t really make sense that liberal white people would be embarrassed by the lack of other melanin-lacking people around them (in fact, according to the normal conservative shibboleth, liberal whites actually hate and deplore other white people, for a variety of reasons usually related to the fact that they’re always reading Shakespeare instead of Toni Morrison and watching Judge Judy rather than Judge Mathis). So, what’s going on here? As racism becomes less acceptable as a societal force, there arises a tendency to play Pass the Shitball – it’s really, really bad to be racist, and as evidenced by the fact that black malls pop up every so often, racism still exists…so how do you embrace reality for a brief second, then shake it off and get back to lamenting the fact that we almost had Pleasantville, but for the dirty hippies who insisted on introducing tongue kissing and park levies? You blame the hippies for everything!
You see, the “cultural and economic dynamic” here is that there are three functional cultural groups in American society:
1.) Regular white people.
2.) Liberals (who are only white and who are brutally and terribly shallow).
3.) Minorities, who are fooled by liberals’ bling and their patronizing fascination with Kwanzaa, quincineras and The Wire.
Dreher’s assumption is that Group 1 couldn’t care less about Group 2, and would gladly welcome Group 3 in if it would just stop associating with…those people in Group 2. These “right-minded white people” who “deplore” this trend have made a perfectly rational, non-racist choice to get the fuck out once the line for new Air Jordans passes the line for the new Eragon book, but the real responsibility for their decision falls on the liberals who don’t civilize the savages, restoring Sbarro’s and Chick-Fil-A to their rightful place and making the faux-cobblestone paths of our local retail mega-establishment safe to once again shop without fear of gang violence or hearing Luther Vandross over the sound system in months other than February.
We’re asked to avoid race and class because they’re secondary to the real “cultural and social issue” of liberals ruining everything. In turn, this transference and denial is perhaps the most important reason why race and class are such deterministic issues: even in an attempt to shift the scope from the interaction of whites and non-whites at the intersection of commerce, Dreher still fundamentally assumes that it’s all about whitey, and proceeds from his given assumption to a society that’s about little more than what white people decide it’ll be.
Why do I get the feeling that Dreher’s always first in line at the new white mall? You know, what with the liberals making him go and all.