Settlers of the Suburbs


For years, the idea of white supremacy has corrupted the minds of many generations of Caucasian people in the United States. So long that this thought has been embedded through laws within our society, making us no longer realise what is wrong or right. As stated by Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton, institutional racism can be less perceptible because of its “less overt, far more subtle” nature. Which means that instead of individuals being overtly or covertly racist, they’re a part of a system which highly benefits their race without realisation. But how could there be racism without a racist? Racism is divided to levels within itself. Internalized racism, which is race-based beliefs and feelings between individuals, Interpersonal racism, bigotry and biases shown between individuals through word and action. Institutional racism, discriminatory policies and practices buried within organizations and institutions. At last, systemic racism. Ongoing racial inequalities maintained by society.

Chapter 1: Systemic Racism

Systemic racism differs from racial bigotry in that it is marked by the presence of institutional structural policies, processes, economic and political systems that disadvantage minority racial and ethnic groups in comparison to the institution’s racial majority. This is harder to detect because it requires data to be examined over time to determine how the set of historical, cultural and interpersonal practices maintain racial inequalities over a period of time. “The collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour that amount to discrimination through prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.” Institutional racism, also known as systemic racism, defined by Sir William Macpherson in the UK’s Lawrence report of 1999. After many years of oppression, individualistic racism has become associated with systems rather than racists. White people can be sympathetic to black people but still benefit from this system, such as job opportunities and better schools. Their race helps them reach to a different levels and opportunities of society, contributing to patterns of racial residential segregation and redlining.

George M. Fredrickson has written that societal racism is embedded in American culture and it had already emerged by the 18th century. With the purpose of maintaining a white-supremacist society. “Societal racism does not require an ideology to sustain it so long as it was taken for granted”.

Poverty levels across ethnic groups gives an indication of structural racism. One must look at the poverty trends over a period time of each race group. Compared to white houses, those who identify as African American or Hispanic have higher rates of poverty. More than twice the percentage of Black neighbourhoods are impoverished in relation to white neighbourhoods. Both Hispanic and African American neighbourhoods have about 6 percent of households that make less than the poverty line compared to white neighbourhoods.

Chapter 2: Settlers of the Suburbs

Many people of colour living in low-income areas experience low or no upward economic mobility due to limited access to quality schools, safe neighbourhoods, reliable transformation, or higher paying jobs. This is due to decades of racial residential segregation. In the 1930’s, FDR created new loan programs to help American citizens finance their houses. Banks would determine a neighbourhood’s risk for loan default and mark neighbourhoods that were at “high risk of crime”. (I) This practice became known as redlining. These neighbourhoods tended to be African American neighbourhoods. (II) If you were to live in the green marked neighbourhoods, it was easier to get home loans. Redlining systematically prevented African Americans and other minorities from getting home loans. Early suburb developers like William Levitt instituted explicit policies such as: “The tenant agrees not to permit the premises to be used or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race. But the employment and maintenance of other than Caucasian domestic servants shall be permitted.”. (III) Preventing the minorities from escaping redlined neighbourhoods. As a result of these policies, from 1934 to 1968, 98 percent of home loans were given to white families. (IV) While white neighbourhoods continued to accrue wealth, attract new businesses due to the influx of new wealth. (V) Passing their wealth to their future generations through better education and higher property value. Settlers of the red neighbourhoods got none of the opportunities. Banks still regularly charge African American home buyers’ higher rates on loans than white owners even if they have equal credit. Leaving many, trapped in poverty. (VI) Even after laws that made most of these discriminatory practices illegal passed, minorities, without wealth, couldn’t afford to move. Today, 70 years after Levittown was created, African Americans make less than 1 percent of the tenants. (III)

Chapter 3: Segregation

African American children are more segregated in schools more than any time in the 20th century. (VII) In the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex or national origin is prohibited. However, in the United States, schools are largely funded by property taxes. Since property values in white neighbourhoods are higher, better facilities, qualified teachers and supplies were present. On the other hand, African American and Latino dominant schools were massively under-funded. This a direct result of decades of redlining policies. Most white students first came in contact with African American students in college. After the Civil Rights and Higher Education, students of colour started attending colleges after the Civil Rights and Higher Education Acts. But due to the lack of preparedness of many universities to teach a diversity of students, it was difficult for students of colour to attend college due to the poor quality of education in segregated schools.

The United States remains a deeply divided place in many ways. Many Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds live in homogenous neighbourhoods. This limits the opportunity to learn from, interact with and befriend people who are racially and ethnically different. Racism can only end if we contend with the policies and institutional barriers that perpetuate and preserve the inequality that we still see all around us.

I – Alexis C. Madrigal, Atlantic, 22 May 2014

II – Jamelle Bouie, Daily Beast, 13 Mar 2014

III – Bruce Lambert, New York Times, 28 Dec 1997

IV – Fresh Air, NPR, 14 May 2015

V – Emily Badger, Washington Post, 28 May 2015

VI – James Surowiecki, New Yorker, 10 Oct 2016

VII – Nikole Hannah-Jones, ProPublica, 28 Oct 2012.

I decided to choose this topic because of the rising numbers of victims of police brutality. Innocent African American citizens are being murdered for no reason every day. Since I’ve chosen this topic, 241 Black citizens have been shot to death by the police in the United States. I also considered to write about this topic and how to prevent it, but I’ve come to realisation that all of this has a dark history that grew its roots so deep that I haven’t found a single way to solve this issue. This project, even though not so important, is dedicated to; Daunte Wright, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Tanisha Fonville, Eric Garner, Michelle Cusseaux, Akai Gurley, Gabriella Nevarez, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Tanisha Anderson. These are just a few of the African Americans killed by police. There are many, many more.

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