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Class War For Idiots / November 17, 2009
By Yasha Levine


How about this for a plan for sprucing up our nation’s crumbling housing projects: ship lazy black folks out to the subprime suburbs, privatize their apartment buildings and hand them over to real estate developers. That’s what T.A. Frank, a New America Foundation think tank shill, thinks Los Angeles needs to do with Jordan Downs, a notoriously dilapidated and crime-wracked project in Watts:

He lays out his idea in a recent LA Times op-ed:

Not that Jordan Downs and its inhabitants should be left behind. Here’s a better way to spend $1 billion in Watts: Have the agency buy every family in Jordan Downs a $300,000 renovated house nearby, and you’ve spent $210 million. That leaves a clean $790 million for more law enforcement, new and improved schools and so much more.

As for Jordan Downs itself, the city could help plug its deficit and get additional residential units into Watts by selling the complex to a builder who comes up with a blueprint for pleasant, affordable, market-rate housing.

Jordan Downs sounds like a nightmare. It is mostly occupied by single women and their children and isn’t safe in just about every way. Life here seems like its been lifted from The Wire:

For years, the Grape Street Crips claimed the project as their turf. The gang’s hold was so pernicious — and the housing authority’s management so bad — that until a few years ago, gang members had seized some apartments and used them for drug dealing, prostitution and even dog fighting.

Sounds bleak, but not as bleak as what T.A. Frank and his corporate “free market with a smile” overlords want to unleash on LA’s urban poor, if given the chance. See, Frank may seem like he’s a nice fella—he’s played in an indie band, according to his profile, wears ironic Elvis Costello glasses and probably has a quirky sense of humor—but it does not change the fact that he’s a mean, free market segregationist. Just like that comb-over-in-training does not change the fact that he’s got one hell of a mean receding hairline.

Moving the poor out of the inner-city to enjoy an idyllic suburban existence may sound all cozy and wholesome like, but only if you’ve never set foot in one of these “nearby” exurb cities T.A. talks about. I’ve been living in one for the past 8 months, and let me tell you that it ain’t no fun, just ghetto.

My adopted home of Victorville, California, a McTractHome paradise on the edge of the Mojave Desert 100 miles east of LA, has a buttload of crime, non-existent employment options, racial isolation and a gestapo police presence—just like the real ghetto. True, people here have bigger houses, but they trade them for 50 miles of desert and a 6,000 ft. mountain buffering them from civilization. If all poor people lived this far away, Americans would really stop giving a shit about what happens to them. Outta sight, outta mind.

Not that this segregation by exile to Buttfuckville isn’t happening already. I’ve been watching this population transfer ever since I moved out to Victorville last spring. A lot of it has to do with Section 8 vouchers, a rent subsidy program that allows low-income families to rent on the open market rather than stay in public housing projects. Section 8 vouchers act as replacements for those grey government-owned apartment blocks for the poor, which are being torn down by the tens of thousands every year all over the country and replaced with new, non-public housing developments.

Here’s a NY Times article from last summer explaining our country’s public housing demolition craze :

[C]ritics of the demolitions worry about the toll on residents, who must qualify for vouchers, struggle to find affordable housing and often move to only slightly less impoverished neighborhoods. Especially in a troubled economy, civil rights groups say, uprooting can lead to homelessness if more low-income housing is not made available. Lawsuits have been filed in many other cities, generally without success, that claim that similar relocations violate residents’ civil rights and resegregate the poor.

The federal government has advocated variations of this approach for several decades, particularly since President Bill Clinton began the Hope VI program in the 1990s to disperse residents from centralized projects. Atlanta may be the furthest along, but its plans to demolish buildings, relocate residents and work with private developers to gentrify destitute neighborhoods are being mirrored across the country in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Miami and New Orleans.

Over all, 195,000 public housing units have met the wrecking ball across the country since 2006, and over 230,000 more units are scheduled for demolition, according to the Housing and Urban Development Department.

It seems that the segregation process has been speeding up, with Section 8 voucher holders fanning out across Southern California looking for the cheapest housing markets. That’s where Victorville and cities like it on the periphery of suburbia come in. They are the only places Section 8 families kicked out of the projects can afford.

I’m still trying to understand the political/business forces driving suburban segregation, but I have hunch that we’ll be hearing more people coming out with Frank’s message. After all, pushing the poor out into the exurbs would solve a lot of problems with one simple action: you’d get rid of the housing surplus (by unloading houses that no one wants anyway onto the government) and privatize valuable public land—and you’d do it all for the “benefit” of the poor and disenfranchised. Now that’s free market efficiency at its best.

I’ll have some more updates on this. Meanwhile, you can read my 21st century ghetto article from back in July:

Victorille: Prison City of Tomorrow

It’s 5 AM in Victorville, California, and I haven’t slept in 48 hours. Outside my second-story window, the sun is rising up over the jagged mountains across the desert. In the three months I’ve lived here, I’ve seen more sunrises than I have in my 28 years. There is something about living in a barren house in a half-empty suburb out in the middle of a sun-baked nowhere that brings out the tweaker in me—and judging by daily news reports, most of my neighbors, too.

It’s a perfect lifestyle for a subprime city. Located on the edge of the Mojave Desert 100 miles east of LA, Victorville got higher and crashed harder, in terms of real estate, than almost any other place in California. In less than ten years, this place grew from an isolated hick outpost into a booming commuter suburb filled with the cheapest McMansions south of Fresno. It doubled its size to 100,000 in just eight short years.

But the boom is gone. A quarter of the houses on my street stand empty and most strip malls around me are vacant, too. I can go for weeks without saying more than, “Hey, how are you,” “Paper, please,” “No cash back,” and “Thanks,” to the fat kid with the greasy face who mans the check-out machine at my local megamarket during the late-night shift. Sometimes the isolation gets too strong, though, and I start craving human contact. When that happens, a bout of public drunkenness at some grimy local dive is sure to follow. And so is some sinister realization. This is Victorville, after all, the taint of the High Desert.

That’s exactly what happened tonight. About five hours ago, I decided to meet up with CJ, a Victorville native I sorta know, at a seedy lounge located in a motel lobby a few miles from my house. I was expecting it to be the same depressing redneck dive bar atmosphere I saw not too long ago: shriveled old men in trucker hats and saggy white women nursing gin and tonics praying for a lay. But I walked into a scene straight outta Hustle and Flow. As it turned out, Sunday nights at the lounge were “old-skool hip-hop dance party nights,” featuring two dance-floors, two DJs mixing rap and R&B classics, and a mini swap meet.

We paid the $15 entrance fee, got patted down by a security guard dressed in all-black full-combat fatigues, and started making our way over to the bar. We shouldered our way through a hot, dark, sweaty room filled with ass-jiggling and grinding, past a hallway where vendors had set up an upscale and scaled-down version of a flea market with assorted bags, shoes, shirts, skirts, canes, jewelry, and other assorted shit for sale, all laid out on tables and squeezed in at the bar right next to a guy in a pimp-white three-piece suit, white shirt, white tie, and thick gold chain who was leaning on his cane and hitting on a chick.

The bar was packed. Two old barmaids struggled to keep up with demand. The DJ was playing some soulful slow-grind tune I couldn’t place. To my left, two beautiful black girls in short summer dresses were ignoring my underdressed white ass. Behind me, the dance floor was filled with couples getting their freak on. Looking around, I suddenly realized I was the only white patron in the place.

“What, you scared, white boy?” CJ said, laughing at me when he saw me swiveling my head to take in the room.

“No, not scared,” I replied. “Just fucking shocked.” A hick bar filled with black folk—it’s not a scene I expected to find out in an isolated desert city historically known for its military bases, angry white people, and meth labs. But there it was anyway, a reminder that there are two sides to Victorville: the old and the new.

Before its stint as a dirt-cheap suburban paradise, Victorville was a tiny God-fearing community populated by white conservatives living an isolated frontier lifestyle. But these days, Victorville is more ethnically diverse than nearby Los Angeles. In 2008, African Americans made up about 12% of Victorville’s population compared to LA’s 9%. The racial mix has been growing every year, and that has not been going over too well with local old-timers who bitch and moan about the “race problem” any chance they get. They restrict their hatred for their new, non-white residents on Internet forums and comment sections—for now.

But I couldn’t be happier. There are three outside-the-house activities I have quickly come to enjoy here: shooting my gun, sucking down Vietnamese Pho soup, and eating amazingly authentic 99-cent tacos from the 24-hour drive thru. And now I could add a fourth: getting plastered at the Sunday night R&B party.


Yasha Levine is a mobile home inhabitin’ editor of The eXiled. He is currently stationed in Victorville, CA. You can reach him at levine [at]

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Add your own

  • 1. Fissile  |  November 17th, 2009 at 5:51 am

    As usual, you people on the Left Coast, and Flyoverville, are way behind us New Yorkers. This is exactly what has been happening in the New York metro area for 20 years now. Entire sections of NYC, and nearby areas, that were hopeless slums back in the 1970’s, have now been gentrified(made majority white). So what happened to the rent controlled, Section 8, communities of color that previously occupied these areas? A very large percentage have been moved to the Poconos in Northeast Pennsylvania. 20 years ago, the Poconos was a Northeast redneck redoubt, full of gun rack equipped F150’s driven by NASCAR watching Jesus jokers and all that goes with it. Think icy Arkansas and you’ll get the picture. Today the Poconos is a frozen bantustan with all the pathologies that plagued the inner city ‘hoods from which the current inhabitants originated, only without the level of policing that was present in the city. As goes New York, so goes the rest of the coutry.

  • 2. Justin Orser  |  November 17th, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Here’s a pretty good article on the same thing:
    Though it does bother me they mention “cheese”. Ok so heroin’s scarier when it’s heavily cut?

  • 3. mikey  |  November 17th, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Here in Chicago, many of the “projects” were on very valuable property and the residents were shipped out of the city and the properties converted to mixed-income (one token poor person to 100 yuppies.) Money talks loud when prime real estate is being wasted on the poor. There’s plenty of money yet to be made from the dismantling of segregated housing projects.

  • 4. Antonio B.  |  November 17th, 2009 at 8:45 am

    I have to agree with you that New York City is the paramount example of gentrification and marginalization, but Im not sure I would be so smug that the “left coast” is behind you in this. You kind of proud of that? Or that you got to point it out? I love hearing that Guilianni and Bloomberg made that city safe! Its so funny because what they actually did was make it so expensive to live there that the poor had to move to the outer burrows. The poorer neighborhoods are carbon copies of themselves without the real danger. These white college kids get to play inner urban life without the risks. Its fun, risky.. Think of the play Rent in real life.

  • 5. Mark  |  November 17th, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Hrm. What does Frank mean by “nearby” houses for Jordan Downs residents? Will single mothers have to ride the bus for four hours every day to work minimum-wage jobs?

  • 6. Rumpelstiltskin  |  November 17th, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    “Frank . . . wears ironic [sic] Elvis Costello glasses.”


  • 7. badnewswade  |  November 17th, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    So you’re finally getting banluies and Council Estates of your very own, huh?

    Well, you Yanks are about 40 years behind us Euro-peons. We’ve been dumping our poor in the middle of nowhere since the sixties!

  • 8. baal  |  November 17th, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    i thought prison was the right place for poor folk ?

    including former members of the middle class that can’t afford to pay for health insurance.

    good bless america.

  • 9. gatorade  |  November 17th, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    what’s ya got against peoples with receding hairlines, ya newbred racist southern neck?

  • 10. Stalin  |  November 17th, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    To make it more like real gulag poor people should make bricks out of desert sand wearing ‘vatniks’ , ’cause section 8 vouchers are kinda nice, doubt your’s truly was handing those out for Siberian exurbs

    Anyways, Victoryville is getting old.

  • 11. internal exile  |  November 17th, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    Hey Yasha, how’s the crank out there, percentage wise? The worse the nasal burn, the better the go-fast. Does it feel like someone just shot a nail gun up your nose? That would be very good crank indeed. Anything less, well, it’s been stepped on.

  • 12. John Davis  |  November 18th, 2009 at 7:34 am

    To the author, is there such a thing as a “white loser” to you? Because I nominate myself as this “white loser.” In case you have not seen Phillip Seymour Hoffman in “Happiness,” that’s me–pretending to be a fascist while I masturbate alone in my bedroom. Will someone please put me out of my misery?

  • 13. breli  |  November 18th, 2009 at 7:51 am

    yes, fresh new material please. can you switch cities? 😛

    sf, oakland, tijuana, mexico city, OKC, portland…

    check out ‘club orlov’ too

  • 14. Tommy Jefferson  |  November 18th, 2009 at 10:24 am

    > “ship lazy black folks out to the subprime suburbs, privatize their apartment buildings and hand them over to real estate developers.”

    Um. So you never heard about HUD and New Urbanism?

    In Austin Texas poor blacks run the suburbs via Section 8 government rental subsidies. The white hippies moved downtown to privately developed eco-housing on the land where black people lived in the 1980’s.

    There must be societal churn for politically connected businesses to fleece the taxpayer livestock. No churn = no racket.

  • 15. reckoner  |  November 18th, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    So the poor are being displaced from their urban ghettos — what’s the big deal?? Are you upset that we are inconveniencing these people by moving them?

    They are clearly not doing that well currently. Maybe a move to some fringe suburb could be a change for the better??

  • 16. RecoverylessRecovery  |  November 18th, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Anyone who equates or compares NYC to Victorville, CA (..for GOD’S sake!) in any way, shape or form -outside perhaps mentioning the fact that both are located within the continental USA- is a dimwit.


  • 17. az  |  November 18th, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Yeah, I agree with the other people – you and Mark are getting too acclimated to America. I mean, now it’s all glazed-eyes and taking stuff too seriously. Take teabaggers for example – if you were in Russia covering the bydlo in the DPNI/Movement Against Illegal Immigration, you wouldn’t really care what they think, because it’s the same old bullshit. Same thing here. And sometimes the gopnik and gastarbeiter underclasses is just the gopnik and gastarbeiter underclasses, just like we see here. It’s just this American leftist mentality that makes you care about them more than looking at the big picture. I mean that’s what was making it so entertaining and interesting to read before, it was like that Trading Places issue, but now it’s just a lefty blog full of purely American rage and anguish. 🙁

  • 18. Metallica  |  November 19th, 2009 at 8:19 am

    “They are clearly not doing that well currently. Maybe a move to some fringe suburb could be a change for the better??”


    Those Indian tribes were not doing too well against the white men either, but moving to the desert was not a change for the better.

  • 19. John Davis  |  November 19th, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    Yasha, I would expect you to cite a movie, rather than display any personal/creative insight to your sad life, since you don’t know who you are, citing the creative work of others to validate yourself is par for your neurotic course.
    You didn’t print the letter, because you’re ashamed of some of it being right. The charade must go on, or you cease to exist, right Yasha?
    It must be quite and experience to be alone in the desert with no sense of who you are. Your audience is already starting to mock you, Yasha. Or that is, the facade you’re trying to maintain. That anxiety you feel right now is real, Yasha. Your deepest personal fears are trying to tell you something. Good luck with that.

  • 20. internal exile  |  November 20th, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Fuck all the whiners in here Yasha. These losers can’t hold a candle to your writings and so they screech and moan about how accurate you are. There is no more American place than Victorville and you have your finger on the pulse. Keep it coming!

  • 21. J.L.  |  November 20th, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    I can’t deal with this stuff so I like to pretend that it’s really the other guy who can’t deal with it. My head is stuck in the 13th century.
    Note to Self: Until I can understand why I have the lowest IQ in the white race race, I will produce unintended comic results.

    Face it, IQ matters. Don’t I sound tough “able to face the harsh truth”?

  • 22. liberalMentald1s0rder  |  November 21st, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Down with the paper machey subdivision communities where nobody talks to each other and where the place is lifeless. Arise inner cities communities with the cool 1930’s Eepression Era Bungalows with brick motoring that makes the place look way cooler than the paper machey suburbs.

  • 23. Andy Kale  |  November 22nd, 2009 at 12:37 am

    Documentary of HUD and Victorville gone horribly wrong:

  • 24. thuggin  |  November 29th, 2009 at 12:15 am

    … are we all gonna become black too?

  • 25. Jeff  |  July 12th, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Back in the early 1970’s NYC Queen of Mean Leona Helmsley remarked that “Manahattan will one day be a private community, only for the rich” well I think that day is upon the island and it will soon be true from Battery Park to the most northern streets of Harlem. Personally I think the Section 8 voucher program is a huge taxpayer ripoff and is fundamentally unfair to those who work hard and pay their own way. I know that my HOA and neighborhood works very hard to limit the number of Section 8 renters. Currently we are working with property managers at one complex to evict a sleeze bag section 8 mom who lets her teenage boys have wild parties where underage drinking and drug taking happens right in the parking lot. Our local police have also been very helpful in beefing up patrols and putting the pressure on these losers. Once these people are out, the apartment will be completely renovated and rented to a police officer and his family. We hope to have 5 to 6 police officers living in that complex, this should weed out the bad seeds and keep the neighborhood nice. Thank God the sequester has put a perm hold on wait lists and in some instances vouchers will be reduced, limiting the number of people who can move into our neighorhoods and destroy them with their ghetto attitude.

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