Chapter 4.8: The Invasion Mentality



List of Tables, Maps, Illustrations, and Figures


1. Symbolism, Self and Urban Environment
    Residential Succession: How "Losers" Win
    Negro Pioneers and White Flight
    Relative Selectability among Minority Invaders
    Symbolic History and Self
    Symbolic History: Modern and Ancient Foundations

2. Self Selection and Urban Decay
    The Social Character of the Manor

3. Woodland to City Neighborhood: 300 Years of Change
    Indians, Geology and Transportation
    Protecting the Community: Covenant and Zoning
    Increasing Community Parameters

4. Invasion and Succession

    Irish and Italian Catholics
    Veterans: Undesirable Heroes
    Blacks and the Special Problems of Nonwhite Invaders
    Back to City Brownstones: A Confused Invasion
    The Invasion Mentality

5. Micrological Aspects of Urban Problems
    Involuntary Change: Aging and Death
    Attidues of Heirs
    Apartment Houses: The Big Change
    The Life of a Tenant and a Building
    Understanding Intricate Urban Problems

6. Stigma and Self-Image in the Inner City
    Achievement and Residentia Movement
    The Moral Careers of Inner-City Residents
    The Community Paradigm
    Implications and Applications


How has the Lefferts Manor and the larger neighborhood around it responded to numerous invasions? Most of the reaction, in defense of their particular definitions of the community that of middleclass propriety has been the tendency to isolate the invaders from the established community. When they are convinced that the newcomers share the same, or similar, community values, the isolation gradually lessens. The Lefferts Manor Association, an organization of onefamily homeowners who cling to the exclusive traditions of their community, is a bureaucratic expression of these communal values. The reluctance of churches to admit newcomers is a similar phenomenon. The practice of exclusion and then reluctantly accepting invaders into churches has severely weakened the power of local religious institutions. Discrimination undermines their viability and membership rolls decline over the years, leaving many of them more architectural reminders of what were once very important local centers of social life. Only during the last decade, since 1970, have a few churches revitalized their roles in the community by involvement in nonsectarian activities such as day care, cultural and social services.

For the most part, major negative reactions to change in the neighborhood have been individual and collective and not truly associational (except for the Lefferts Manor Association's defense of the covenant). Not all of the activities of Manorites have been negative in orientation. Some, with greater economic and psychic investment in their community have made major commitments to promote their community positively by seeking publicity which highlights the positive qualities of the neighborhood and have even come together with "outsiders" in joint community ventures. These activists are attempting, in a way that is new for Manorites, to defend their community and the definitions of it which are under constant attack by people who hold biased assumptions about the possible quality of life in black and integrated areas.

Although many of the incidents depicted in the foregoing pages, and others like them which will be presented in following ones, can easily be interpreted as bigotry an d the generally negative side of human nature, they should be considered more carefully. In the case of the Lefferts Manor they should be seen as products of mechanisms for defending the viability and stability of the community. To use Gerald Suttles's terms, the Manor is a "defended" and not a "defeated" community.7 These actions demonstrate that despite the many changes in the area, Manorites continue to feel that their community is a sacred and exalted place, and that they expect others to respect that image.

The hostile reaction of Manorites to invaders may be regarded by some liberal thinkers as residues of regressive village mentalities which are out of place in the modern urban world. However, with the growing concern for neighborhood and city preservation, and rehabilitation of decayed central cities, the desire of local people to protect their homes and their ways of life should not be targeted for elimination. Even racial discrimination obscures more basic, positive feelings about community life in the city. Neighborhoods should not be destroyed either physically or symbolically. Up until this time we have paid most of our attention in the fields of urbanology to the physical aspects of cities. Perhaps we can gain some needed insight into urban problems through a new perspective which emphasizes the symbolic aspects of urban life.

It is when people react passively, or actively to destroy their homes and neighborhoods, when their communities are invaded that the city has most to fear. If valuable meanings of neighborhoods are lost or defiled, all that is left is the economic value of innercity property which is to be disposed of or exploited rather than to be treasured and passed on to deserving heirs. When the destruction of positive neighborhood images in the central cities, and in the suburbs as well, occurs, these communities are likely to become afflicted by the diseases that ultimately lead to urban decay.

Despite all the hostility vented toward invading groups, prejudice, discrimination, racism, anti-Semitism, and parochialism, the Lefferts Manor has a chance to remain a respectable, middleclass community in the middle of what might become a sea of lowincome ghettoes. There, people will sweep the sidewalks and observe the mannerisms of community togetherness. For the most part Manorites share one important thing in common they define their streets, homes, lifestyles and themselves as worth defending, not only physically but symbolically as well.

<< To Ch. 4.7 | To Ch. 5.1 >>

Notes to Chapter 4.8

7. Suttles (1972:chap. 2).

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