*The recent report that America’s most segregated cities are just as if not more segregated than they were a couple decades ago is hardly a revelation.
The report focused on the top ten most segregated cities. But this could easily be expanded to find vast and unbroken pockets of racial segregation in many of the nation’s smaller and mid-size cities as well.
A casual drive through any of the major urban neighborhoods in America, a walk through the schools in the neighborhoods, the hospitals, and clinics will tell reveal the stark, and naked pattern of the two Americas. In fact, even three or four urban Americas.
An America that is poor, black and Latino. An America that is black and middle class. An America’s that is white working class and middle class, and one that’s white and wealthy.
But whichever urban America one travels through, the line dividing the neighborhoods are dug as deep as the Grand Canyon. There are the usual suspects to blame for the rigid segregation. Poverty, crime, lender redlining, a decaying industrial and manufacturing inner city, white and middle class black and Hispanic flight, crumbling inner city schools, the refusal of major business and financial institutions to locate in minority neighborhoods and cash strapped city governments that either through lack of funds or political will have thrown in the towel on providing street repairs and basic services.
This tells a big part of the story for the chronic segregation, but only part of the story. The hard and painful truth three years after the election of America’s first black president is that there are far too many policy makers, political leaders, and many whites that still think that segregation is too much a longstanding, even immutable, way of life in America to ever change. The entire history of Northern urban segregation is damning proof of that.
In the decades before the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the great migration of blacks from the South before and after both World Wars, and the flight of whites from urban neighborhoods to the suburbs locked in place the economic, social, and political mindset that racial segregation was a fact of life in the North and would stay that way. Redlining, zoning laws, and the federal government’s deliberate policy of bolstering residential segregation insured that. Even as the Jim Crow barriers tumbled or were smashed in the South and blacks and white mingled in schools, public facilities, and more and more neighborhoods, residential segregation in the North remained America’s idea fixee.
Every census report in the post Civil Rights era and the countless Urban League’s State of Black America reports showed that the inner cities continued to get blacker and browner and poorer, while the suburbs got whiter and more well-to do. That trend isn’t likely to change.
With President Obama and Congressional leaders trying to figure out where to cut every penny they can from education, health care and employment programs, there is absolutely no chance of any new spending or initiatives to be put on the legislative table to deal with the continuing decay of urban neighborhoods. Some experts have pointed to the increasing gentrification by young whites and non-blacks of some urban neighborhoods as a hopeful sign that residential segregation could in time pass away. That’s not likely. In fact, studies have shown that gentrification has not altered the neighborhood racial segregation patterns as much as is popularly presented. And that many of the old flats and homes that have been renovated, as chic, pricey, apartments and townhouses, have been gobbled up not by whites and non-blacks but by black upwardly mobile black business and professionals. They are upscale, but they are still black, and so are the freshly gentrified neighborhoods they live in.
Urban racial segregation then may not be the permanent lot of American society, but if past decades are any sign, and current policies of dealing with or ignoring the problem, or any confirmation of that, America’s most segregated cities will stay just that for more census’s to come.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a national Capitol Hill broadcast radio talk show on KTYM Radio Los Angeles and WFAX Radio Washington D.C. streamed on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on blogtalkradio.com and wfax.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson
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