Despite the advancements made by the Civil Rights Movement in race relations through the illegalization of racial segregation, a new form of segregation-economic segregation continue to influence and impact the lives of Americans in society today (Jargowsky & Wheeler, 2017). It is driven by the practice and policies that significantly impact the livelihoods and the way of living of most Americans, such as policies on housing in the urban areas whose effects have been long-lasting and destructive (Jargowsky & Wheeler, 2017). Economic segregation may be referred to as the difference in the magnitude to which individuals in different classes in the social spectrum live mostly among other people of their class (Jargowsky & Wheeler, 2017). It may also be defined as the physical manifestation of income inequality through characterization and categorization of people’s geographical distribution, especially in urban America (Jargowsky & Wheeler, 2017). Therefore, this discussion will delve into the history of economic segregation in the metropolitan cities of the US and the impacts that it has on African Americans living therein.
The history of economic segregation traces back to the times of Jim Crow and his pro-segregation policies in the American South (Stern, 2021). The separate but unequal neighborhoods in the US did not stem from the point of natural evolution or unbridled market forces (Stern, 2021). Instead, they were a consequence of policies, plans, and racial exclusion policies, which prompted disinvestment that was targeted towards African Americans, hence laying the foundation for economic segregation, whose main driver was systemic racism (Stern, 2021). The continued application of unfair housing policies and unequal employment opportunities, among others, made it more challenging for African Americans to gain the much-needed basin resources in their neighborhoods. In contrast, the white neighborhood was pampered with government-endorsed investments and furnished with the necessary social amenities (Stern, 2021). Such occurrences were attributed to the very cause of the economic segregation that resulted from events in the American south (Stern, 2021).
History of Economic Segregation against the African Americans in Urban Cities in the US
In the early 20th Century, black people migrated from the rural areas of the South into the Midwest in northwest America in large numbers that totaled millions. These people were then categorized and put in regions or zones specifically designated for them (Turner & Greene, 2020). The zoning was made possible through violence, local zoning ordinances, and covenants that seemed to restrict access of the black person to the areas dominated by the white population (Turner & Greene, 2020). For example, some of the restrictive ordinances included placing restrictions on the ability and right of African Americans to own lease or occupy homes in areas designated explicitly for white communities (Turner & Greene, 2020). These restrictive ordinances formed the foundational backdrops against which economic segregation in urban cities in the US resulted (Turner & Greene, 2020). Moreover, they provided the legal framework that made it possible to propel economic segregation along racial lines, which favored the whites but disregarded the development of the areas where African American communities occupied until the late 40s (Turner & Greene, 2020).
At the end of 1940, the Supreme Court ruled against the restrictive ordinances that had prevented people of color from owning and leasing property in designated areas (Turner & Greene, 2020). These covenants were termed unenforceable, but their influence continued to be felt and applied in how communal development was being done. It is as if they had been embedded into the minds and structuralism of the people who would otherwise have been in charge of ensuring that development in the American communities happened uniformly regardless of the race or ethnic backgrounds of the people who live in these places.
In addition, the federal government played a significant role in the propagation of economic segregation against the people of color in the US, and specifically the African Americans. It was responsible for reinforcing patterns of economic segregation along racial lines through the uneven distribution of investment opportunities in the communities in urban areas of the US throughout the 20th Century (“Urban Socio-Economic Segregation and Income Inequality,” 2021). For example, in the 1930s, the Federal Housing Administration refused to carry out insurance activities on mortgages in built-in African American neighborhoods (“Urban Socio-Economic Segregation and Income Inequality,” 2021). Besides, after world war II, the government was instrumental in ensuring that predominantly white suburban communities developed faster than those in the African American-dominated areas (“Urban Socio-Economic Segregation and Income Inequality,” 2021). Consequently, new political jurisdictions and school districts emerged. In addition, there was an increase in redlining and development of local policies and the enhancement of prevailing real estate policies and practices whose sole aim was to exclude the African Americans from accessing the burgeoning and booming suburban communities (“Urban Socio-Economic Segregation and Income Inequality,” 2021). Also, these policies ensured that loans were denied to residents who came from neighborhoods categorized as predominantly black (“Urban Socio-Economic Segregation and Income Inequality”, 2021).
Furthermore, economic segregation was enhanced by the unequal development in the transport system. The federal transportation investment was scheduled and directed towards the reinforcement of the transportation system that made it easier for residents in the suburbs to easily connect and carry out their businesses more efficiently without the challenges posed by the lack of an effective transportation system, as was the case in the black-dominated areas. For example, the federal investment policies ensured that the white-dominated suburbs and cities were endowed with inner-city highways. However, these highways mostly passed through the black neighborhoods to block and create barriers for the African Americans to access and use the booming downtowns. Such downtowns were areas of economic opportunity, but the established transportation network that seemed to favor the white communities meant that the African Americans were blocked from accessing them.
Moreover, economic segregation against African Americans was propelled by racial overtures disguised as developments in the areas designated as for black communities (Turner & Greene, 2020). For example, federally subsidized housing projects mainly targeted African American communities in their segregated neighborhoods (Turner & Greene, 2020). However, in the instance where the subsidized housing projects were carried out in other areas, the areas chosen mainly were isolated from the affluent suburbs and were mostly underdeveloped or undeveloped (Turner & Greene, 2020).
Consequently, the economic segregation fueled by systemic racism led to the denial of capital and finding towards the African Americans in the urban cities of the US. The long-term impact of these moves was the geographical segregation of people whose primary connection was poverty and the low life- primarily affecting the African Americans (Reardon & Bischoff, 2011). These communities were disinvested by private and public institutions and were characterized by distress in the neighborhoods. Moreover, the discriminatory policies that
Supported the constriction of the African Americans to specific neighborhoods in the cities made it challenging and almost impossible for them to evade the rising poverty levels in these areas (Reardon & Bischoff, 2011). As a result, the rise in the poverty level leads to increased prices for essential services and goods in these neighborhoods, marking the negative impacts of racist economic policies against people of color. It is worth noting that research has established that neighborhoods that are still in poverty today in the US cities are mainly constituted of people of color-specifically African Americans. At the same time, the white who live in such areas is mostly dispersed and account for a very minute percentage of the total white urban population (Reardon & Bischoff, 2011).
Moreover, the ‘60s and ‘70s saw the federal government responding to distress in the inner cities, which was caused by the suggested urban renewal program whose implementation was underway (Turner & Greene, 2020). The program exacerbated problems, especially in the city neighborhoods whose composition was primarily black and with high poverty rates (Turner & Greene, 2020). When the urban funding was appropriated to the cities, those in charge of implementing the projects ensured that they used the eminent domain that led to the condemnation and racing of the housing projects and other economic oriented property development, after which they redeveloped the land following the city plans (Turner & Greene, 2020). Some African American residents were relocated to the newly established public housing properties whose location had been categorically selected to be in undesirable and isolated areas (Turner & Greene, 2020). Such programs led to highly concentrated neighborhoods whose people were economically segregated and ravaged in poverty and the lack of most of the common social amenities (Turner & Greene, 2020).
The Impacts of Economic Segregation against the African American
The legacies created by the economic segregation in the 20th century have led to disproportionate access to social amenities for African Americans today. For example, for the bigger population of the African Americans living in the segregated neighborhoods, they lack the privilege of prestigious job opportunities and other resources that those who live in the developed parts of the American cities experience-mostly the whites (Firebaugh & Acciai, 2016). As such, African Americans have been blocked and face challenges and barriers in accessing the necessary educational opportunities for them to thrive in their lives in future-mostly because a good education background has been found to have a direct connection to a better paying job and thus better standards of living for the individual in the US (Firebaugh & Acciai, 2016). While the blacks keep n struggling with access to these social amenities, white Americans who have lived in the developed sections of the city continue to enjoy the advantages that such places and the progressive economic development have presented them with for generations. The whites derive these benefits as part of the structural advantages of living in an economically superior background in the US, which has been enhanced and driven by the unfair and unjust economic development policies of these areas stemming from mid-20th century.
Economic segregation of African Americans in the urban centers in the US has led to the gross and negative impacts that are brought about by gentrification. Gentrification is mostly perpetrated by ‘gentrifiers’ who are mostly white (Turner & Greene, 2020). When the ‘gentrifiers’ move into a predominantly black neighborhood and start setting up properties for rent and the like, they are likely to drive up prices (Turner & Greene, 2020). The effect on this has been the increase in property rent, which has driven out long-time residents in these areas due to their inability to keep up with the price rise. The rise in the rent and property taxes in the gentrified neighborhoods means that with the lack of adequate and comprehensive housing plans, it becomes impossible for the African American families living in these areas to survive and thus have to relocate (Turner & Greene, 2020). In the instance where an African American family tries to withstand the effects of gentrification, such as the increase in the cost of services, cultural displacement, and the increasing social distance from the new residents, most of them end up feeling the sense of erosion of their belonging and may thus impede or inhibit their access to new economic opportunities (Turner & Greene, 2020).
Moreover, economic segregation in the US urban residences has led to disparate impacts on African Americans when viewed from the aspect of the environmental spectrum. There are several ways of thinking about how the environment may affect an individual or a certain race. For example, the presence of a clean environment, trees, among others, contribute highly to the existence of quality life. However, according to a report done by Moxley and Fisher (2020), areas or neighborhoods that African Americans predominantly occupy in the US have been less developed in terms of environmental conservation measures and are prone to being near industries or activities that lead to pollution of the environment in these neighborhoods (Moxley & Fischer, 2020). As a result, it has led to lower quality of life in these neighborhoods when compared to those who live in more healthy and developed suburban localities (Moxley & Fischer, 2020). Therefore, these studies confirm the connection between economic segregation, which has disproportionately affected African Americans in economically segregated neighborhoods compared to the whites.
In a nutshell, economic segregation originated from the unjust and racially motivated, and driven economic policies of the mid-20th century and has disproportionately affected African Americans living in US cities. Economic segregation has led to disparities in housing and residential centers in the city. The developments were mainly geared towards enhancing and making life better for white Americans living in the suburbs. Similarly, economic segregation has led to lower living standards for African Americans due to the reduced job opportunities, lower incomes, and the challenges posed by the continued systemic racism. Also, economic segregation has led to the disparity in the provision of health care in the various communities in the urban centers, thus leading to increased infant mortality and morbidity among African American women compared to the whites. Therefore, steadfast and robust measures are needed to ensure that these adverse effects of economic segregation are countered while also instituting a structurally mental and generational paradigm soft in the functioning and running of the American society.
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