modern-day segregation in the USA

by the Asian Hispanic Empowerment Organization

Brown v. Board of Education was a critical turning point in American history when relating to the progress of segregation. That Supreme Court case effectively ended the practice of segregation in all public school facilities and was followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which formally ended all forms of segregation. Yet despite these federal mandates which ended segregation half a century ago, American schools and neighborhoods are equally as segregated as before. In some cases, schools are even more segregated today than in the Jim Crow law era. The main factor behind the modern-day institution of racism was not a law passed to hurt African Americans, or with malicious intent, rather a law whose main intent was to provide a financial reform in housing.


Leading up to the beginning of the 20th century, the United States was run by many large monopolistic corporations which worked with absolute control over the market. Additionally, the American system of political rule was heavily tainted by corrupt politics specifically in large cities such as New York and Chicago. Although the United States experienced one of its greatest periods of “bull” market growth leading up to the market crash, the weaknesses in the American system created a “bubble” which would inevitably burst. The mix of an unfair “free” trade, unstable value of gold, and corrupt policies created the perfect firestorm which was known as the Great Depression.


During the 1929 market crash, President Hoover was in power. President Hoover was a republican who believed in minimal federal interaction with the free market. Although this mindset is a founding principle of the republican party, at a time of economic despair it should've probably been avoided as Franklin D Roosevelt’s plan of federal intervention proved to be more popular with a majority of Americans, as he won the election of 1932 at a count of 472 points, to Hoover’s 29 points.


In FDR’s leadership, he expanded the Federal government's presence in regard to establishing an emergency work holiday for banks - which allowed for the people to grow confidence in the banks - created a program which was designed to provide certain rights to all unemployed people, created a federal infrastructure program which aimed at creating jobs and created a national standard for living and housing, which also invented the 30-year mortgage which made it easier for some American to buy houses. This act which created the 30-year mortgage was known as the National Housing Act.


The main purpose of the National Housing Act was to ensure that all Americans had wealth. Wealth is most commonly found in assets such as a home, so FDR’s administration aimed at making sure all Americans had easy access to safe and affordable housing. Although the idea was both noble and functional, it failed in a major sense: it discriminated against virtually all non-whites. The National Housing Act implemented a system called redlining which would divide neighborhoods into different colored zones to represent businessmen, white-collar, working-class, and at-risk people (non-whites). This form of economic subdividing created for certain neighborhoods to have an easier time taking out a mortgage to a house as they were seen less likely to default on their property (meaning that the person who owes money fails at paying back the bank in time). This very practice of Redlining affects the American population to this day.


Despite the many economic positives of the resurgence of the American economy after the great depression, there existed one major flaw in the racial equality which was presented in the fact that 98% of all housing loans were given out to the white population of America. Although this number is only indicative of loans, these loans were a representation of who was buying houses in America, and who was trapped in the system of economic restriction. These economic injustices were present by placing limits on African-American families on amassing wealth through the purchase of a property. Buying a house is a key tool for passing down wealth within generations. If an African-American family is restricted to buy a house by an unfair breakdown of the city which recommends banks to not lend them money, then they can not pass down wealth to the next generation, which places the next generation at an economic disadvantage.


Apart from the economic hardships which made it virtually impossible for African-American people to acquire properties, many areas banned any non-white from buying houses. Such laws highlight the fact that the USA permitted for legal implementation of segregation. These practices not only hindered the acquisition of wealth but also continued the “legal” segregation which is present in the United States to this day. Despite William Levitt’s important contribution to the modern-day American Suburbia, his racial discrimination against non-white exemplified the racial divide in the American on the basis of owning property.


The American school system was segregated in many states until 1964. Although the end of segregation banned having services be provided to only one race, it did not see the end of a racial divide which was present within the United States. Because of the practice of redlining enacted in 1934, certain neighborhoods were still seen as “critical risk”, which meant African-American people still could not purchase homes, acquire wealth, and in many situations have access to a fair education. The American school system is based on a state level, meaning that schools are built on the basis of state taxes, specifically property taxes. For this reason, schools which were in African-American neighborhoods offered a poorer standard of education which would later inhibit students to reach the next level of education.


Alongside the economic burden faced by many African-Americans because of redlining, they also had to face the educational divide between “white” schools and their schools. Although in practice segregation was over, most people could not move out of their homes because they did not have the wealth to do so. Additionally, their schools were local to the neighborhoods, so schools in “red” areas were inherently disadvantaged compared to schools in “green” zones. And because of the price of the university in the United States, many people who were and are financially unstable cannot attend university because they do not have the financial means to make a $350,000 investment in education. The policy enacted in 1934 has effects to this day which continue the social and economic divide in this nation. Despite the good intentions of the National Housing Act of 1934, many Americans, specifically, African Americans, experienced the negative consequence of socio-economic grouping which suppressed people's rights to loans and the right to property ownership. The lack of wealth within certain “zones” which were established nearly a century ago still determine what percentage of students attend university. The practice of redlining did not only encourage segregation in the short term, but created a system where banks, investors, and schools would see “red zones” unfavorably which eventually turned into predominantly African American neighborhoods.

Sources: www.epi.org & https://amcs.wustl.edu