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  1. #1
    Registered User JTouhey's Avatar
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    How Urban Ghettos Became A Modern American Reality (long read)

    Below is a research paper I wrote because I've always wondered how the hell we let inner city ghettos develop as a society. Here are my findings, feel free to read and critique, I hope you enjoy.

    Also, yes it's a long read. But I think it's interesting.

    By: JTouhey
    Part I

    Housing Segregation in America:
    The Creation and Perpetuation of the Urban Ghetto

    Please take a few seconds to think about the word ‘segregation’. If the word ‘segregation’ for you, once like me, and like most Americans today, conjures up memories of a bygone era of tumultuous race riots, high powered water canons, back alley entrances, and blatant discrimination you wouldn’t be wrong. But where you would be misinformed is having the belief that the word ‘segregation’ is a term that can no longer be associated with modern American society; but perhaps, maybe just it’s lexicon. Sure, the country we live in today is without a doubt the most racially integrated and the most open to equal access than it has ever been; but nonetheless, it would still be inaccurate to say that we are totally integrated and that the opportunity to succeed is now evenly leveled. The problem is that the inequality that surrounds us is still very much segregated in the cities, towns, and neighborhoods that we all call home. Government no longer plays the central role it once had in keeping us separated via Jim Crow Laws and promoting the moral hazard of ‘separate but equal’. But to see the segregation all around us you need only look toward a neighboring city and for those urbanites amongst us, you need only look a few blocks down the street.

    Without a doubt there is an open disparity by race and income in where people live in America today. Characterized by the majority of minority populations living within urban areas and within those urban areas, certain neighborhoods. By looking at maps color-coded according to race it was shocking to discover that races within cities were segregated down to the very block (Iceland and Weinburg 2002). Upon further investigation I found that it was a common factor in all cities when normalized by region, population, size, proximity to water, and economic class (Iceland and Weinburg 2002). I found it so interesting it had me begin to ask certain questions. Such as: have we always been such a segregated society? If not, what factors lead to its development? Why is race such a polarizing factor in residency within neighborhoods? Why do whites dominate the area surrounding cities and while minority populations are left to tiny condensed pockets? If the races were segregated why didn’t African American businesses thrive? After extensive research I have come to believe that the creation of modern urban ghettos did not happened by chance, but was the unintended consequence resulting from the deliberate discriminatory housing policies of the federal, state, and local governments and the intentional discrimination of individual American citizens and corporations to segregate people based on race. I will justify this assertion by outlining the history of residential segregation beginning in the early 20th century, how discriminatory policies destroyed early African American business in cities, how city governments used egalitarian public works projects to pack black neighborhoods together, how federal public policies such as red lining and FHA home loans that were enacted under the guise of helping Americans were used to discriminate against African Americans, how private practices today still serve to segregate urbanites from relocating into more diverse neighborhoods, and how the vestiges of past discrimination manifest themselves and continue to haunt American urban centers today.

    At the dawn of the twentieth century, the idea of racial segregation in the United States was not at all commonplace. African Americans lived widely throughout what we would consider today as white cities, towns, and neighborhoods. In fact, African Americans more often than not lived side by side with their white employers. In New England cities for instance, there was "an unprecedented period of racial amity and integration" (Wilson 1978, 62) that was marked by "integrated living and widespread interracial contact" (Wilson 1978, 64). Even more so, African American entrepreneurs had an especially high amount of contact with whites. This was because these blacks served wealthy whites as barbers, caterers, tailors, and merchants, which bolstered an urban black middle class (Wilson 1978, 72).

    However, it wasn’t until the advent of the industrial revolution, with the emigration of African Americans from the southern states to the northern cities, and the first great influxes of European immigrants that we first began to see the development of the urban ghetto. This was because before the great influx of southern African Americans the black population was never a large enough percentage of any given area to stand out as a threat. As a result, the African Americans there were "relatively invisible" to whites and because of this, central planners did not regard African Americans as a political or economic threat (Wilson 1978, 86). According to Wilson, this low distribution of the black populace was a crucial factor in the polite race relations and integration that prevailed in the urban north before the 20th century. Which in the wake of the massive emigration of blacks from the South at the beginning of the 20th century caused things to change drastically. This was because as the black population of New England cities swelled, blacks were increasingly perceived by whites as competitors for resources and power, which created hostility and discrimination against blacks. The policies that resulted from this tension were the beginnings of discrimination and more specifically residential segregation (Lieberson 1980, 258-260).

    The development of the urban ghetto first began as an unintended consequence of city central planners that sought to further segregate the African American and immigrant neighborhoods from their own. According to Mark Seitles, the manifestation of these intentions were in the implementation of public improvement projects, redevelopment projects, public housing programs, and urban renewal policies that were used by government officials to confine black neighborhoods. Although not necessarily ghetto in their nature these neighborhoods would eventually fall victim to urban decay as manufacturing jobs were coerced away from the inner city with cheap land and low taxes located out in the suburbs. But just as catastrophic to the African American community was the segregation of their neighborhoods that caused the end of interracial commerce. Even more so, black businesses often faced many other harsh and discriminatory obstacles.

    As the redlining tightened in New England cities, African Americans began to find it nearly impossible to obtain capital from white-owned banks and credit from white suppliers and wholesalers (Higgs 1976, 133). Further restricting African Americans were ever tightening racial barriers in education, which deliberately excluded many African American merchants from formal business training and licensing (Higgs 1976, 136). According to Robert Boyd, another frequent complaint of Black merchants in the northern cities was inadequate patronage by black consumers. Apparently, black leaders vigorously urged one another to "buy black," arguing that money spent in black-owned businesses ultimately would create jobs in black neighborhoods (Boyd 1998, 598). But apparently, these calls were never answered, as the African American businesses were often beat out by lower pricing by competitors who did not face discrimination, as well as the competitive advantages of foreigners. (Boyd 1998, 599) This was because the immigrant businesses did not face the same amount of discrimination and could use ethnic solidarity to mobilize scarce resources because they could provide for special consumer demands. These special consumer demands were essentially abnormal products specifically from foreign lands that by the time immigrant communities were organizing the African American communities simply did not have (Boyd 1998, 602). To further exemplify this point, some of the most thriving African American businesses we still see today are black barbershops and hairdressers. Simply because they were in such close contact with the community at large they were the only ones able to meet the special demand of black consumers because they were the only ones who knew how to cut or style African American hair.

    However, with the advent of the automobile, suburban sprawl, and the large amount of well paying jobs moving from the city to the suburbs –of which resulted in the creation of all white suburban towns- urban decay was inevitable (Kushner 1995, 550). Segregationist zoning ordinances, which divided city streets by race, coupled with racially restrictive contracts between private sellers became the common process of legally enforcing racial segregation. (Kushner 1995, 552) Racial segregation soon became the go to policy of local governments and the standard procedure for individual citizens. The systemic discrimination was so bad that conduct included direct violence, discrimination by real estate brokers, lending and insurance companies, and routine discrimination by local politicians, including those at the federal level (Kushner 1995, 555). Heck, the ‘urban renewal’ policy became a method by city governments to simply eliminate black neighborhoods by labeling those neighborhoods close to urban business centers as ‘slums’ and effectively giving them just cause to bulldoze the entire neighborhood! As a result, the creation of the urban ghetto has had a lasting impact on American culture. In fact, W.E.B. DuBois (1903), one of the original founders of the NAACP, recognized the importance of neighborhoods as the "physical proximity of home and dwelling places, the way in which neighborhoods group themselves, as their primary locations for social interaction”. He believed that "separating black and white neighborhoods caused each to see the worst in the other”. In my opinion, his words have never rung truer than in the polarized urban neighborhoods that still exist today. Sadly this blatant discrimination and other types of policies that uniformly segregated Americans based on race would have never been possible if it were not for the federal government’s broader and in many cases pinpointed support.

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  2. #2
    Registered User JTouhey's Avatar
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    Part II

    In short, the federal government has been the most influential force in creating and maintaining residential segregation in our society. So much so that it’s polices, that have long since been reformed, are still having a deep effect on our society today. For instance, on the federal level, the United States government reinforced discriminatory norms through various public policies. The Federal Housing Administration adopted the practice of "red-lining," a discriminatory four category rating system that was used by the Federal Housing Authority to evaluate the ‘risks’ associated with loans made to borrowers in specific urban neighborhoods. Red-lining essentially worked liked this; the vast majority of the loans went to the two top categories of the rating system, the highest of which included areas that were ‘new, homogenous, and in demand in good times and bad’ this can generally be identified as the suburbs (Squires 2003, 393). The second highest category was comprised of mostly stable areas that were still ‘desirable’ these areas can generally be identified as the greater urban areas within 15 miles of city limits. The third category, and the level at which discriminatory ‘red-lining’ began, consisted of working class neighborhoods near black neighborhoods that were ‘within such a low price or rent range as to attract an undesirable element’ these areas can be generally identified as the neighborhoods surrounding minority populations within cities. The property that compromised the fourth category was essentially areas that held the residency of ‘undesirable elements’ (Squires 2003, 394). To be more blunt, black neighborhoods were placed in the fourth category. With such a blatant yet socially acceptable discriminatory rating system in place, the vast majority of federal loan monies were channeled away from the fourth category and into the upper three and away from African American population centers. For instance, between 1937 and 1953 The Federal Housing Authority financed more than three out of five homes purchased in the United States. Yet less than three percent of the loans were made to non-white applicants. The result of this policy was pretty much devastating to black neighborhoods and urban culture in general that was left to wayside to dilapidate (Squires 2003, 396).

    Consequently, these schemes increased the concentration of poverty where it has festered ever since and has caused me to label the federal government as the most influential in creating and maintaining residential segregation in the United States. Even more so, examples of discrimination in federal housing policy persist today, and they are as numerous as they are disturbing. For instance, most minorities in public housing live in communities largely populated by poor minorities; in contrast, public housing for elderly whites is typically situated in areas with large numbers of whites that are not poor.

    To say the least, the days of ‘whites only’ real estate deals are history, but housing discrimination lives on in subtler forms. According to federal statistics, officials still receive over twenty thousand complaints a year from minorities that say they were mistreated by real estate agents by being steered away from desirable neighborhoods or misled about the availability and cost of a house or apartment (Seitles 1998, 202). For example, The Fair Housing Council of Oregon recently brought this kind of discrimination to light they found that in fourteen of twenty-five cases landlords discriminated against black apartment seekers. In one case a landlord quoted costs of around $730 but for an equivalent black man the landlord wanted $1,495 to $2,040 (Law 2011). In another case, a landlord failed to show up for multiple appointments with a prospective renter with a Latino sounding name and accent while a white man with a similar profile, but no accent or Latino surname, had no such problem (Law 2011). To this point, private housing discrimination takes various forms: from realtors discouraging minority home buyers from seeking out white communities, to landlords unfairly levying additional costs upon minorities when renting property, to the absolute denial of housing for racially motivated reasons in all housing markets (Roch & Espino 2009, 417). Yet, I would argue that it is in fact the vestiges of past public policy that still linger the most in urban ghettos today.

    Many would argue that to live in an urban ghetto today is one of worst disadvantages any person could face because those who live there undoubtedly face many self-compounding challenges. These disadvantages range widely from a substandard education to a severe lack of meaningful employment. From severe housing dilapidation that has destroyed the beauty and attractiveness of these neighborhoods to businesses failing to open due to high crime rates and social disorder (Rosenbaum & Popkin 1991, 447). Take these issues and add on high levels of welfare dependency, single parenthood, and gang violence and what you get is a culture of social dysfunction and self-perpetuating poverty. For the people that live in these neighborhoods it can be tough to nearly impossible to climb out of such destitution because broken families and crime-ridden streets create a sense of powerlessness because they are stranded without considerable opportunity for change (Rosenbaum & Popkin 1991, 448). Probably one of the hardest hits demographics of people in the urban ghetto are its children. To be blunt, the relative isolation of the urban ghetto has been shown to severely limit the opportunities for their young people. To prove that residential segregation has proven to be detrimental to urban children Northwestern University conducted a study of an Illinois state program called the Gautreaux program in which the state relocated young people and their families from concentrated urban ghettos and into middle class suburban communities and analyzed the results. What they found was that while in the beginning the relocated children were nearly identical to their remaining peers, over time they did in fact achieve higher grades, lower dropout rates, and by en large maintain higher rates of college attendance (Rosenbaum & Popkin 1991, 457).

    In conclusion, residential racial segregation is a practice that was developed through discriminatory government policies and private acts of racism. By looking at the history of residential segregation we have discovered our society hasn’t always been this way. By discussing the discriminatory policies that destroyed early African American businesses and how our government used public works projects and loan programs to create the foundations of the urban ghettos we see today we have learned that government is often the greatest barrier to equality. By analyzing how private citizens still serve to segregate urbanites from relocating into more diverse neighborhoods we have come to understand how the vestiges of past discrimination still manifest themselves and perpetuate the worst of our society up to this very day. In the end, the United States is a country that was born out of individuality and personal freedom. But so long as individuals are not truly free to make their own opportunities in life we as country will never be able to overcome the racial barrier that separates us. Sadly, in my research I was unable to find a definitive answer to the problem of our urban ghettos. But I feel -much like WEB Du Bois- as though the only way to conquer stereotypes and hate is to no longer associate solely on the boundaries of race and class but to come to come together as one people and learn appreciate our historical diversity.









    Bibliography

    Boyd, Robert L. (1996), "Demographic change and entrepreneurial occupations: African Americans in Northern cities." The American Journal of Economics and Sociology 55: 129-143.

    Charles, Camille Zubrinsky (2003), The Dynamics of Racial Residential Segregation Annual Review of Sociology, 29: 167-207

    Higgs, Robert (1976), Participation of Blacks and immigrants in the American merchant class, 1890-1910. The Journal of Economic History 13: 153-164.

    Iceland, John & Weinberg, Daniel (2002), Racial and Ethnic Residential Segregation in the United States: 1980-2000. United States Census Bureau.

    Kushner, James A. (1981), Apartheid in America: An Historical and Legal Analysis of Contemporary Racial Segregation in the United States. Michigan Law Review, 79: 856-922

    Law, Steven (May 12, 2011), Portland Tribune: Discrimination ‘haunts’ local renters.
    < http://portlandtribune.com/news/story.php?story_id=130514882328561300> Accessed: May 14th 2011.

    Lieberson, Stanley (1980), A Piece of the Pie: Blacks and White Immigrants Since 1880. University of California Press Berkeley. Berkley, California.

    Meyer, SG (2000), As Long as They Don't Live Next Door: Segregation and Racial
    Conflict in America Neighborhoods. Rowman & Littlefield Publishing,
    New York, New York.

    Rocha, Rene R. & Espino, Rodolfo (2009), Racial Threat, Residential Segregation, and the Policy Attitudes of Anglos. Political Research Quarterly, 62: 415-426

    Rosenbaum, James E. & Popkin, Susan J. (1991), Social Integration of Low-Income
    Black Adults in Middle-Class White Suburbs. Social Problems, 38: 448-461

    Seitles, Marc (1996), The Perpetuation of Residential Racial Segregation in America. Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law, 113: 189 – 203.

    Squires, G. D. (2003), Racial Profiling, Insurance Style: Insurance Redlining and the Uneven Development of Metropolitan Areas. Journal of Urban Affairs, 25: 391–410.

    Wilson, William Julius (1978), The Declining Significance of Race.
    University of Chicago Press. Chicago Illinois.

    Welch, Susan (2001), Race & Place: Race Relations In An American City.
    Cambridge University Press. New York, New York.
    Last edited by JTouhey; 05-17-2011 at 07:59 PM.
    RON PAUL 2012
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    Reply With Quote

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