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Managing InequalityNorthern Racial Liberalism in Interwar Detroit$
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Karen R. Miller

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781479880096

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479880096.001.0001

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Protecting Urban Peace

Protecting Urban Peace

Northern Racial Liberalism and the Limits of Racial Equality

(p.64) 2 Protecting Urban Peace
Managing Inequality

Karen R. Miller

NYU Press

This chapter shows how white liberal leaders criticized black protest and promoted the racially unequal status quo as the most sustainable urban form when confronted with the belief that the push for racial equality would produce an intolerable or uncontainable level of conflict. Under pressure from African Americans and in response to shifting northern racial ideologies, Detroit's white business and municipal leaders increasingly expressed disdain for acts of racial discrimination and support for a northern racial system that they saw as more just than the South's. However, instead of considering strategies for alleviating the discrepancies between the lives of black and white Detroiters, white liberal leaders sought a way to manage racial conflicts. Even though they saw themselves as allies of all urban residents, including African Americans, the ideological limits of liberalism gave them the tools to oversee rather than resolve structural inequalities.

Keywords:   white liberal leaders, liberalism, structural inequalities, racial equality, racial conflicts, black protest, African Americans

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