Racial Segregation – A Living Legacy

Historic Los Angeles Housing Protest Against Redline Lending and Community Segregation

The 10 most segregated urban areas in America.

1.  Milwaukee

2. New York

3.  Chicago

4.  Detroit

5.  Cleveland

6.  Buffalo

7.  St. Louis

8.  Cincinnati

9.  Philadelphia

10.  Los Angeles

I saw this report posted at Sociological Images this morning and it set my mind on a  wandering about housing segregation and the historic relationship between segregated housing and public education.

If I were to show these slides to my average college student and they would tell me that where people live is a personal choice not a social fact.  People simply choose to live with people ‘like’ them racially.  They may even throw some data behind this personal choice notion.

I know this because I uses census slides on housing segregation every year when teaching my introduction to social issues in education course.  Then I show students this PBS history video Race – The Power of an Illusion “The House we Live In”
(Here is a YouTube excerpt)

And they are everything from confused  – to overwhelmed with history they were never or minimally taught  – to utterly skeptical  – to stunned and angry.  And of course there are always a very small number of students in my class of 50 who do know this history and present reality.

But each time we go through this lesson I think to myself of how many teachers and adults in general know nothing about the history that brings us to the segregated cities we see in our country today. 

What does it mean to have future teachers read all sorts of ‘at risk’ materials about urban schools void any understanding of the racial history and present state of  this countries urban settings?  What does it mean to have ‘tax payers’ who know nothing about this history as they look at racialized political campaigns about black children that look like this.  (BTW – these people are all over this racial meme – with a new billboard going up in Chicago today.)

More to the point, what does it mean to talk about public education segregation, de-segregation, and re-segregation as our U.S. Supreme Court did in 2007 without taking into account our federally orchestrated HUD housing segregation and the U.S. government’s role in the inability of the black community to generate home equity during the birth of the middle class?  Or should I say to take it into account and then dismiss it as a natural fact.

The U.S. public schools are now more racially segregated than they were four decades ago.  And the 2010 U.S. Justice Department recently noted  the consistently proven education institution fact that:

Regrettably, students of color are receiving different and harsher disciplinary punishments than whites for the same or similar infractions, and they are disproportionately impacted by zero-tolerance policies – a fact that only serves to exacerbate already deeply entrenched disparities in many communities.

So our segregated housing drives neighborhood school boundaries producing stark contrasts in these separate and unequal schools.  In addition  the institution of public education offers black children unequal discipline as hardened criminals for the same infractions their white peers get a pass on… 

How then does public education interact with other social institutions in general?

Well given that there are more black men in prison today than were slaves in 1850…

it would seem our schools are most often training grounds for racialized incarceration.


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