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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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Between Ossian Sweet and the Great Depression

Between Ossian Sweet and the Great Depression

Tolerance and Northern Racial Liberal Discourse in the Late 1920s

(p.97) 3 Between Ossian Sweet and the Great Depression
Managing Inequality

Karen R. Miller

NYU Press

This chapter examines how northern racial liberals' commitment to the language of tolerance obscured their unself-conscious embrace of aspects of the racially unequal status quo that they understood to be the products of sociological and cultural truths rather than political choices. White liberals instead turned that language to their own ends, using it as an electoral strategy and as a way to signal their inherent commitment to fair-mindedness. They embraced the idea that their promotion of racially tolerant discourse, alongside the gradual integration of African Americans into city institutions, could do the work of producing a more racially egalitarian urban terrain. However, they did not reshape the stark racial imbalances that characterized either the local government or city space, even when they controlled the state.

Keywords:   racial tolerance, white liberals, tolerance, gradualism, racial imbalances, electoral strategies, sociological constructs, cultural constructs

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