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Other titles in the Historical Studies of Urban America series:
Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California (Historical Studies of Urban America)by Charlotte Brooks
Synopses & Reviews
During the Sixties the nation turned its eyes to San Francisco as the cityand#39;s police force clashed with movements for free speech, civil rights, and sexual liberation.and#160;These conflicts on the street forced Americans to reconsider the role of the police officer in a democracy. In The Streets of San Francisco Christopher Lowen Agee explores the surprising and influential ways in which San Francisco liberals answered that question, ultimately turning to the police as partners, and reshaping understandings of crime, policing, and democracy.
The Streets of San Francisco uncovers the seldom-reported, street-level interactions between police officers and San Francisco residents and finds that police discretion was the defining feature of mid-century law enforcement.and#160;Postwar police officers enjoyed great autonomyand#160;when dealing with North Beach beats, African American gang leaders,and#160;gay and lesbian bar owners, Haight-Ashbury hippies, artists who created sexually explicit works, Chinese American entrepreneurs, and a wide range of other San Franciscans. Unexpectedly, this police independence grew into a source of both concern and inspiration for the thousands of young professionals streaming into the cityand#39;s growing financial district.and#160;These young professionals ultimately used the issue of police discretion to forge a new cosmopolitan liberal coalition that incorporated both marginalized San Franciscans and rank-and-file police officers. The success of this model in San Francisco resulted in the rise of cosmopolitan liberal coalitions throughout the country, and today, liberal cities across America ground themselves in similar understandings of democracy, emphasizing both broad diversity and strong policing.
During the 1950s and 1960s, San Francisco was transformed demographically, culturally, and politically. Navy shipbuilding and other waterfront work fueled the growth of many populations, including African Americans, gays, and lesbians. As a result, San Franciscoand#8217;s politics were likewise transformed. The old liberalism, grounded in notions of state welfare and business regulation, had been committed to ghettoizing black, gay, and bohemian populations; this gradually gave way to a more pluralistic form of and#147;modern liberalism,and#8221; as Agee calls it, which eventually came to define the city in the eyes of the world. In order to understand the evolving relationship between political elites and San Franciscoand#8217;s once-marginalized populations, Agee argues, we must take account of the government representatives with whom urban residents dealt the most: the police. Using oral histories and the personal papers of police officers, journalists, and everyday citizens to reveal the ways that individual personalities, values, and beliefs shaped community relations and politics, Agee explores how modern liberals and the police negotiated the concept of police discretion, developing a mutually beneficial relationship that shaped liberalism as we know it today.
For decades, the city of San Francisco has been nearly synonymous with the word and#147;liberal,and#8221; known for its diversity and acceptance, environmental activism, and thriving art scene. and#160;But this has not always been the case.and#160; Liberalism in San Francisco in the years right after World War II was mostly confined to notions of state welfare and business regulation. It wasnand#8217;t until the 1950s and 1960s, when new peoples and cultures poured into the city, that San Francisco produced a new liberal politics.
Christopher Lowen Agee details this fascinating transition inand#160;The Streets of San Francisco, focusing in particular on the crucial role the police played during this cultural and political shift.and#160; He partly attributes the creation and survival of cosmopolitan liberalism to the policeand#8217;s new authority to use their discretion when interacting with African American gang leaders, gay and lesbian bar owners, Haight-Ashbury hippies, artists who created sexually explicit works, Chinese American entrepreneurs, and a host of other postwar San Franciscans. In thus emboldening rank-and-file police officers, Agee shows, the city created partners in democratic governance. The success of this model in San Francisco resulted in the rise of cosmopolitan liberal coalitions throughout the country. Today, liberal cities across America ground themselves in similar understandings of democracy through an emphasis on both broad diversity and strong policing.
Between the early 1900s and the late 1950s, the attitudes of white Californians toward their Asian American neighbors evolved from outright hostility to relative acceptance. Charlotte Brooks examines this transformation through the lens of California’s urban housing markets, arguing that the perceived foreignness of Asian Americans, which initially stranded them in segregated areas, eventually facilitated their integration into neighborhoods that rejected other minorities.
Against the backdrop of cold war efforts to win Asian hearts and minds, whites who saw little difference between Asians and Asian Americans increasingly advocated the latter group’s access to middle-class life and the residential areas that went with it. But as they transformed Asian Americans into a “model minority,” whites purposefully ignored the long backstory of Chinese and Japanese Americans’ early and largely failed attempts to participate in public and private housing programs. As Brooks tells this multifaceted story, she draws on a broad range of sources in multiple languages, giving voice to an array of community leaders, journalists, activists, and homeowners—and insightfully conveying the complexity of racialized housing in a multiracial society.
About the Author
Charlotte Brooks is assistant professor of history at Baruch College, City University of New York.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Part I. Alien Neighbors
Chinatown, San Francisco: Americas First Segregated Neighborhood
Los Angeles: Americas “White Spot”
The New Deals Third Track: Asian American Citizenship and Public Housing in Depression-Era Los Angeles
“Housing Seems to Be the Problem”: Asian Americans and New Deal Housing Programs in San Francisco
The Subdivision and the War: From Jefferson Park to Internment
Part II. Foreign Friends
“Glorified and Mounted on a Pedestal”: San Francisco Chinatown at War
Equally Unequal: Asian Americans and the Fight for Housing Rights in Postwar California
“The Orientals Whose Friendship Is So Important”: Asian Americans and the Values of Property in Cold War California
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History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Asian American