Building Community in the Twenty-First Century: A Post-Integrationist Vision for the American Metropolis

[T]he problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line. When W.E.B. DuBois wrote this prophetic statement at the dawn of the twentieth century, the American metropolis did not yet exist. Perhaps DuBois could not have predicted the sprawled, socioeconomically fragmented landscape that is so familiar to the majority of Americans who now live and work in metropolitan regions. But his prediction of a “color line” that would sear our consciousness and present the chief social struggle for the new century proved all too correct. As we contemplate the twenty-first century, Gerald Frug’s book, City Making, makes clear that the problem of the color line continues in the form of local political borders. Local government borders define who gets what public benefits. They demarcate communities by race and income. They separate good school districts from bad. And, most importantly, they form the geographic boundary for local powers that can be wielded by those living within in ways that can harm those living without. City Making attacks this problem of borders at its roots. It is an important book that deserves serious consideration by all who care about democracy and race relations in America. Frug analyzes our system of local government law, identifying clearly how the current structure of city power has “segregated metropolitan areas into ‘two nations,’ rich and poor, white and black, expanding and contracting” (p. 4). Undoubtedly, Frog’s analysis will be familiar to those well-acquainted with the legal literature on local governance. But in the book, he offers fresh insights in a highly readable format that should be accessible to those unfamiliar with such scholarship.