From Montana to Jacksonville

Peter DeWitt, American Renaissance, February 1, 2018

My move from homogeneity to diversity.

In 2011, I wrote about living in the largely homogeneous state of Montana. Since then, I moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where I have lived for nearly four years. The transition from a rural, largely white state, to a very diverse one was challenging, but it gave me much to observe.

Like cities in many southern states, Jacksonville is far more integrated than large cities of the north. If you look at crime statistics for Chicago, you might conclude that the city is a violent wasteland, awash in drugs and gun violence. On closer inspection, you find that nearly all violent crime is in the nearly entirely black South Side, only occasionally spilling into other areas. My experience confirms this. Once a year I visit a lifelong friend and his family. I meet him in the lobby of his employer, a large bank, we have drinks near the river, and end the evening in his neighborhood of Lincoln Park. I rarely, if ever, feel in danger, and nearly all the faces I see are white.

Jacksonville is much more integrated, and my first impression was of subsumed racial tension. I noticed that whites were always overly friendly to blacks, yet at the same time they seemed guarded. I mentioned this to a co-worker and lifelong Jacksonville resident; he told me that around blacks there was always an “uneasiness,” as he put it. This is not simple “racism.” Whites are right to feel uneasy around blacks because of their crime rates, anger towards whites, and impulse to blame any disagreement on racism.

This co-worker felt little animosity towards blacks, even though he had reasons to. He grew up in a nearly all-black part of town, and paid for his “white privilege” with repeated physical assaults. He was even being jumped and beaten by his own football teammates. His grandmother was a victim of home invasion in which she was assaulted and robbed. After she died, the house, still owned by the family, sits vacant, stripped of copper wiring. Criminals even stole the chain link fence around the house. Although this man felt little ill will towards blacks, he had no tolerance for the Left, with its contempt for straight white Christians.

One of the most notable differences between Montana and Jacksonville are the people who work in entry-level or service jobs. Montana is perhaps one of the few places where event staff and fast-food employees are nearly all white. In Jacksonville, I have attended concerts, fundraisers and festivals, where nearly all the customers were white and nearly all the staff were black. The result is the usual, subsumed racial tension.

Most events I’ve attended cost upwards of $60 with expensive drink prices to follow—prices that almost seem guaranteed to keep out most blacks. The blacks who do attend often don’t seem to fit culturally. For example, at one event—a drink sampling at the zoo—several blacks blocked a foot path, unaware of the congestion they were causing on either side of them. As the white people passed slowly around them, we just rolled our eyes to each other. Any criticism of the obstruction was unlikely to be well received.

Another difference between social events in Montana and Jacksonville is security. Montana essentially has none while there are many hurdles to gain entry to an event in Jacksonville. Even at events at Jacksonville Beach in the summer, when people wear scant clothes, there are metal detectors and pat downs.

I have had two jobs in Jacksonville. My first employer held to what seemed to be strict affirmative action, hiring non-whites to maintain a racial balance. The director, for fear of lawsuits, would almost never fire black employees, but quickly got rid of incompetent whites. This led to a stratified workforce, with most whites in mid- to upper-level positions, and most blacks at the bottom. There were a few qualified blacks in important roles, but they were exceptions. Affirmative action had a predictable effect on employee race relations. Blacks assumed they were at the bottom because of racism; whites saw blacks doing little or nothing without being fired, while they had to work hard. Naturally, there was resentment on both sides.

At my second job, nearly every employee was white. In a large meeting of 40 people, maybe one was black. But he was competent because the company hired on the basis of merit. You can imagine which company had better racial harmony.

I live in a recently gentrified neighborhood, which is about 85 percent white. There are excellent restaurants, beautiful early-20th century buildings, and home values are rising. It is also surrounded by the ghetto, so there is vagrancy and violent crime. Nearly all the incidents since I moved here have been interracial. Here is a sample: A black man raped a white woman outside a bar, a black man assaulted the white female clerk of a bicycle shop, two black men killed a kitchen hand outside of a swanky restaurant as he took out the trash. None of these crimes was reported outside of Jacksonville, and every neighborhood in the city has the same problem, even the small beach towns. As a friend of my parents who lives in the city noted, “no neighborhood is safe in Jacksonville.”

There are many things I like about Jacksonville: climate, nightlife, a growing economy. But diversity has brought what it always brings: crime, violence, tension, and lack of trust.

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Peter DeWitt
Mr. DeWitt is an analyst for a major corporation in Jacksonville, Florida.
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