“The recessions of the 1970’s hit New York particularly hard, with the local unemployment rate hitting 12 percent in 1975. As jobs and city services disappeared and crime increased, many city residents, particularly whites, found the suburbs or other parts of the country more attractive.” (Pg 304)
The 1970’s was the dark, distressful and hopeless era in not only the U.S but also the world. Americans lost their confidences as the world leader because of the defeat in the Vietnam war, started distrusting the government due to the Watergate scandal, and the oil crisis hit their life. These downturns changed their lifestyle and the social geographic in the United States, especially the Northeast and Midwest. Many states lost jobs and populations that Cleveland lost 46 percent of manufacturing jobs between 1948 and 1977, and the population in Washington, D.C., decreased from 892,178 in 1950 to 638,333 in 1980. New York was not exception that its unemployment swelled up. It wouldn’t have affected the life so badly if economical and political downturn hadn’t occurred at the same time.
“..Coppola’s 1979 Academy Award-winning Apocalypse Now, rendered a sprawling vision of an American army that had lost all moral bearings, a drugged, disintegrating arm of a failing empire.” p. 310-11
The author mentions Coppola’s movie as an analogy for socio-economic environment of United States in the 1970s. He characterizes American society as “dystopian,” pointing to the downturn of the economy, as well as feelings of uncertainty and pessimism to politics and culture. The defeat in Vietnam caused most of the negative sentiments, which is why Apocalypse Now became such a hit. People’s worst suspicions were “confirmed” upon the release of the film. They were relating all their problems to the over-dramatized vision of Francis Ford Coppola. Other forms of art had adopted a similarly dark tone, contributing to the theme of decline that had become synonymous with the 70s.
Newark, …, once had been a thriving industry city. But after World War II, it bled industry, middle class residents, and retailing to its suburbs, leaving behind a majority black population, much of it poor. The 1967 riot devastated a city already in crisis. – Pg. 304
As the population of many cities declined after the Second World War, Newark presented the struggles that black citizens in such cities faced. With much of the city’s business infrastructure gone leaving little funding for the city, and riots such as those in 1967 degrading the state of the city, the black population was left with little support from their local government. This is unlike its neighbor New York City, where there was local support such as housing for the lower class black community. The city simply turns into a region for organized crime, run down infrastructure, and in general a place that cannot sustain civility within the community. Freeman likely thought it to be important to show his readers how the mass loss of business and population in a city can have a huge impact on its residents.
WIN or “Whip Stagflation Now” was a program that was introduced by President Ford in order to battle “stagflation.” Stagflation was a very new challenge imposed on the policy makers of Ford’s administration. The problem did not fit any of the Keynesian solutions that helped to stabilize the economy in the past. Both unemployment and inflation were on the rise. The reason that policy makers had a great problem with this is that in the past unemployment and inflation seemed to be reciprocal to each other. As one rose the other one dropped.
President Ford believed that inflation was the main reason for economic decay. He wanted to cut spending on federal programs. he wanted the public to cut spending as well. More precisely he wanted the public to spend 5% less on food and 5% less on driving expenditures. Ford tried to institute the WIN program. He tried to mimic it after Roosevelt’s New Deal Program. In 1974, after his address to the Congress, he pinned a WIN pin to his lapel. Through this program, Ford wanted to “decrease federal regulation of the economy and use public mobilization as a substitute for state intervention”. Although mimicking the New Deal Program, this WIN program was completely opposite. Ford put to much trust into the hands of the public and their ability to help the spiraling economy. The result was a complete failure.
The Congress rejected all of Ford’s proposals and instead went a different route. Members of the Congress had very strong ties to the labor unions and their constituents than to a healthy economic system. That is why in 1974 they went with another program that was aimed at combatting unemployment instead of inflation.
“From Fort Greene, a filmmaker named Spike Lee crashed through the gates of the movie industry with independently produced box-office hits, She’s Gottta Have It and Skool Daze, unapologetic slices of black life that refused to cater to Superfly blaxsportation cliches or Eddie Murphy crossover expectations.” p. 249
Spike Lee, among other independent filmmakers broke the barrier of film-making which was produced by blacks that specifically catered to blacks. There was an insensitivity within Hollywood against blacks and the cultural differences. As a result, many black communities decided to boycott the industry. Spike Lee and the others we able to capitalize on this and in doing so, captivated their black audiences with stories and topics geared toward their struggles and general representation of their communities.
“Campus life did not return to pre-1960s norms. Sex, drug use, and, increasingly, heavy drinking pervaded many campuses. By the end of the 1970s, the typical college campus was a very different place than it had been at the start of the decade.”
During the 1960’s was a period of radical social change throughout younger generations and it is exemplified on college campuses. However, after the social revolution and the 1970s began, college campuses did not return to the traditional way they were before the 1960s. A new radical social change in the 1970s was college coeducation became universal and this even included the United States Military Service Academies. College Campuses were a new level of freedom high school students experienced after they graduated high school and moved onto their college campus. Today, college campuses are heavily regulated and administrators try to prevent alcohol and drug use from occurring.
“The pattern of wealth and economic dominance, though, was shifting. With companies and people moving out of the cities of the Northeast and Midwest to suburbs and other parts of the country, many of the traditional centers of national power grew shabby. A train trip in the mid-1970’s from New York to Washington would have given a sense of their decay.” (303)
In Chapter 12, Freeman discusses the effects of the industrial decline in northeastern and midwestern parts of the U.S, also known as the Rust Belt. He utilizes the word “decay” often to describe what was happening to American society and government and uses the example of what was occurring in New York City to demonstrate this. Unlike its dwindling neighbor states, New York still managed to hold a steady population after World War II. The decade between 1970 and 198o proved to be unfortunate, when over ten percent of the population flocked to the suburbs and other areas of the country. The recessions that occurred during the 1970s raised the unemployment level to 12 percent causing this massive migration. In reaction to this, crime among the streets increased and institutions that endorsed apartment building owners terminated their investments for fear of financial loss. Low-income areas of the city, especially the South Bronx were hit the hardest by this desertion of economic reinforcement. The dark and hell-like atmosphere of New York City in this era was especially reflected in the cinematography of the 1970s, in movies such as Taxi Driver, illustrating the instability and bloodshed of Vietnam returning to the streets of New York by an eccentric war veteran. Escape from New York, a film directed in the early 80’s, takes place in the then-near future (1997), in which the country is laden with crime and the state has turned into a maximum security prison, displaying the city as a devastated version of itself. These films were important in communicating the feelings of chaos and insecurity of the decade. Americans during this era were left hungry for the government to to make changes to provide economic stability, but the glory days of the New Deal were over, recruiting the growing role of corporations in the economy.
“Starting in the late 1960s and accelerating in the 1970s, many descendants of European immigrants, particularly Italians, Jews, Poles, and other Eastern Europeans, began more strongly and openly identifying with their ethnic background, after decades when assimilation had been the largely unquestioned expectation. ” (p. 315)
Freeman argues that the Black Power that resulted in the Civil Rights movement inspired spark in ethnic revival. Ethnic festivals began to take place in many cities with emphasis on food and international cuisine. New York was very diverse already at that time and it became even more diverse today. The result of that ethnic spark was development of taste for international food. The restaurants with cuisines from countries like Japan, Thailand, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Russia and many others are easy to find anywhere in New York City today.
Freeman tells that the reason that spurred New Ethnicity was that whites started feeling increased competition in the work force and school combined with declining economy. So it was easier to navigate the social roads by belonging to some organized society.