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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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“Living Happily at the Taxpayers’ Expense”

“Living Happily at the Taxpayers’ Expense”

City Managers, African American “Freeloaders,” and White Taxpayers

(p.129) 4 “Living Happily at the Taxpayers’ Expense”
Managing Inequality

Karen R. Miller

NYU Press

This chapter looks at how the language of northern racial liberalism was implemented during the Great Depression. While implicitly agreeing that baldly racist statements were unacceptable, white city leaders linked dependence and welfare to blackness, at the same time that they tended to dismiss African Americans' concerns about discrimination. Conservatives demonized African Americans, caricaturing them as dependents and chronic freeloaders and decrying their potential to undermine the city's color line. Liberals were far less likely to use racist language in their public discourse; however, they made similar connections between African Americans, dependency, and fraud as their conservative counterparts. As relief administrators worked against the popular notion that all recipients of aid were leeching off of the system, they grafted this anxiety onto African Americans specifically.

Keywords:   Great Depression, liberals, conservatives, welfare, racist language, dependency, fraud, northern racial liberalism, African Americans, blackness

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