Race and the Politics of Deception

The Making of an American City

208 pages

4 maps, 15 b/w photos, and 2 figures

January, 2017

ISBN: 9781479880430



Add to Cart Available: 12/9/2016

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Christopher Mele is an urban sociologist at the University at Buffalo. He is the author or editor of several books, including Selling the Lower East Side: Culture, Real Estate, and Resistance in New York City.

All books by Christopher Mele

What is the relationship between race and space, and how do racial politics inform the organization and development of urban locales?
In Race and the Politics of Deception, Christopher Mele unpacks America’s history of dealing with racial problems through the inequitable use of public space.  Mele focuses on Chester, Pennsylvania—a small city comprised of primarily low-income, black residents, roughly twenty miles south of Philadelphia.  Like many cities throughout the United States, Chester is experiencing post-industrial decline.  A development plan touted as a way to “save” the city, proposes to turn one section into a desirable waterfront destination, while leaving the rest of the struggling residents in fractured communities.  Dividing the city into spaces of tourism and consumption versus the everyday spaces of low-income residents, Mele argues, segregates the community by creating a racialized divide.  While these development plans are described as socially inclusive and economically revitalizing, Mele asserts that political leaders and real estate developers intentionally exclude certain types of people—most often, low-income people of color.
Race and the Politics of Deception provides a revealing look at how our ever-changing landscape is being strategically divided along lines of class and race.


  • "A strength of the book is a good number of concrete accounts of how the local politics of urban development is consistently and strategically anchored in the ideologies and rhetoric of race."


  • "Race and the Politics of Deception is a classic study which painstakingly details cities development and demise alongside their being inextricably tied to race and space. Mele's relational approach outlining contemporary urban social life--deindustrialization, globalization, and continued structural inequality--adds to the social history of cities and the structural inequality plaguing American cities and their residents. A great read!"

    —Marlese Durr, co-editor of Race, Work, and Family in the Lives of African Americans

  • “A warning to all who think they fully understand the forces that created white suburbs and poor inner cities – you do not, and you need to read this book! It makes a compelling argument, backed up with detailed data, on how the politicians, business leaders, and developers in a typical American city manipulated race to their own ends—namely profit, not redevelopment. This book is a fascinating and often disturbing look at how racial inequality shapes urban America.”

    —Nancy Denton, co-author of American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass