The Politics of Racism and Urban Decline in the American Rust Belt
Jason Hackworth, Professor, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto
Despite the considerable overlap between the presence of non-white people and generalized population (and capital) flight in a variety of national contexts, the urban decline literature almost entirely ignores race and racism as active causes of urban shrinkage. Most literature focuses on conventional economic explanations (e.g. levels of deindustrialization) and solutions (e.g. reinvention of the economy around a creative class paradigm). This presentation, which is based on material from the book Manufacturing Decline: How Racism and the Conservative Movement Crush the American Rust Belt (2019, Columbia University Press), explores the role of racism as an active cause of urban decline. More than simply being the cause of economic distress, declining cities and their often non-white citizens are actively constructed as virtual bêtes noires to advance conservative political interventions.