Yes, Virginia, 6 years into the first black presidency and 50 years after the Civil Rights Act America still is a pretty segregated place. It’s not nearly as bad as in decades past, of course A lot of progress has been made in integrating our society, some of it by federal government fiat and some by a changing society. Still, while “segregation forever!” is no longer the battle cry that George Wallace and millions of white Americans once made it, hyper-segregated neighborhoods and school districts live on, well, seemingly forever. There has even been some backsliding, especially in the South where hundreds of federal court orders requiring integration have been lifted in the last decade (see article below and here.).
How can this be? Wasn’t segregation supposed to gradually disappear thanks to declining levels of racism, rising opportunity for people of color, and federal court orders that have been in place for decades? Where’s the color blind society conservatives say we live in?
Well, that’s our topic. I will explain what I know in a brief opening. But basically, it turns out that some racial segregation persists even when it’s not enforceable by Jim Crow-like legal structures. It just sort of happens, a result of thousands of small decisions made by individuals, families, businesses, and governments. And this is the problem since, in case it’s not obvious, hyper-segregated housing and neighborhoods have devastating effects on the people that live in them.
Please try to read a few of the recommended articles before the meeting if you don’t know much about this issue – or, maybe also if you think you do
Discussion Questions –
- What does “segregation” mean (residential versus educational versus employment, etc.) and who is segregated (Whites, Blacks, Latinos, the poor)?
- How segregated is the United States today?
- Why has some segregation persisted despite decades of efforts to stop it? Did we really make much of an effort to stop it?
- So what? What are the ill effects of segregation?
- What can be done, given White resistance and the inherent complexity of the solutions? Does the answer lie outside of integration – improving the opportunities of isolated poor people where they already live (e.g., improving their educational and job opportunities)?
- Segregation has declined over the decades and that’s a good thing. (The Root)
- Yet, reports it’s ended are greatly exaggerated. (New Republic) Recommended.
- And, Southern school districts are re-segregating at a rapid clip as the federal government lets them out of court-ordered desegregation programs. (A long but moving Atlantic Monthly cover story this month)
- Why are hyper-segregated neighborhoods so devastatingly bad?
- Here’s why. Read it.
- Poor African-Americans inherit their poverty – and segregated neighborhoods are the cause. Read this, too.
- Racial segregation overlaps with another type: Class segregation, which undeniably is on the upswing. Obviously, one feeds the other.
- Optional and long: Rutgers study of housing segregation issues. (pdf, 2005)
NEXT WEEK: San Diego’s June 3 Primary Election.