A Modest Proposal

Reading this...


Overshadowed by Harlem's racial metamorphosis since 2000, an even more striking evolution has occurred in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Over all, the neighborhood is now barely 60 percent black -- down from 75 percent a decade ago. But in the older Bedford section west of Throop Avenue, according to the 2010 census, blacks have recently become a minority of the population for the first time in 50 years.

And thinking back on this, by the same writer...

In greater Harlem, which runs river to river, and from East 96th Street and West 106th Street to West 155th Street, blacks are no longer a majority of the population -- a shift that actually occurred a decade ago, but was largely overlooked. 

By 2008, their share had declined to 4 in 10 residents. Since 2000, central Harlem's population has grown more than in any other decade since the 1940s, to 126,000 from 109,000, but its black population -- about 77,000 in central Harlem and about twice that in greater Harlem -- is smaller than at any time since the 1920s.

It occurs to me that we really need a world with more murders, more failing schools, more grocery stores with rotting vegetables, more bodegas with old milk, more teen-pregnancy, more homeless, more crack, more heroin, more fathers on the lam, more disease, more joblessness, and generally, more death. And we need to concentrate every one of those those ills in black neighborhoods.

We have seen the enemy, and it is change. Clearly the only way to preserve black neighborhoods from the scourge of white people is to render them as post-Apocalyptic as possible. It's not even enough to roll them back to the days of Jim Crow--that would mean an actual black middle class in Bed-Stuy and Columbia Heights, and great jazz clubs in Harlem. 

No. We need complete cultural and social depredation, a total breakdown of black humanity until our neighborhoods resemble something out of 28 Days Later. I am calling for the Superpredators of Bill Bennett's negrophobic dreams to make themselves known. I am calling for the thugs of Katrina who raped and murdered babies in the Superdome into being. I am calling for Saturday Night Specials, Starter Jackets and Lottos--the 80s on steroids, but without the great hip-hop. 

I want laws against Negroes who decide to act like citizens and better themselves. I want it mandated that all black people with college degrees live adjacent to drug dealers and sex-offenders. I want all black kids coming from two-parent homes forced into schools where they have given up reading and math, in favor of gang-fairs and all-day basketball. I want to outlaw the suburbs and the South. For black people. 

Only when black folks are reduced to human rubble, can we properly pay homage to the ruins of the ghetto. Only when property values have plummeted to hell, and died there, can we be safe from the scourge of the white interloper, who would add our cultural distinctiveness to their own, and then subjugate us under the tyranny of Urban Outfitters and Coldplay.

We must make ourselves into something so horrid that they dare not come near us. We must be monsters reveling in a universe of pathology. We must always be acted upon, must be what whips, chains, signs, rape and red-lining have made us. And most of all we must never change.

To do so, might mean we were Americans; might mean we were human.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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