Modern Segregation in a Post-Segregated Era

Modified: 18th May 2020
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Modern Segregation in a Post-Segregated Era

The term “systemic racism” was first introduced in a 1967 book co-authored by Charles Hamilton and Stokely Carmichael titled Black Power: The Politics of Liberation. Hamilton and Carmichael presented that racism is an umbrella term that encompasses many types of biased behaviors and institutions. They wrote that individual racism was more perceptible and thus easier to condemn than systemic racism because individual racism involved acts that were done openly to target the other group. Systematic racism in the United States originates as “the ordering and structuring of [a] society in the maintaining of the Negro community in its condition of dependence and oppression” (Carmichael and Hamilton). As a result, systemic racism is the most harmful of its type because it masks itself with a neutral face. Systemic racism does not mean that people in the system in charge are racist it simply means that systems in place produce racially different outcomes. Systemic racism is represented in disparities regarding, housing, education, criminal justice system and wealth all of which hinder black American’s success.

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      Systemic racism in housing can be seen with the implementation of the National Housing Act of 1934 by president Franklin Roosevelt. In response to the Great, Depression president wanted to rebuild the economy in the United States, at the time property was important in building wealth. The National Housing Act (NHA) introduced the idea of the 30- year mortgage plan and low fixed interest rates. As a result, people with lower incomes were able to afford homes. The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) was created in addition to the NHA. The HOLC offered loans to homeowners to avoid foreclosure. The HOLC redlined certain neighborhoods’ who were at risk of defaulting on their mortgage. Redlining made it difficult for people living in these areas to have access to buy homes. This meant upper-class white Americans fled to the green zones thus leaving poorer whites, foreign people and black Americans in red zones. This led to funds becoming less prevalent for those living in red zones leaving crime rates to increase and property values to drop. It was not until 30 years later when segregation was outlawed that people realized it was wrong, thus the Fair Housing Act was created. It was implemented to encourage equal housing practices regardless of race but it does little to fix the damages caused by the HOLC. The zones are still present today but they have just taken been masked under a different name, “inner-city.” The effects of the NHA are still prevalent, with the disparity in education and wealth (Chen 2019).

Systemic racism has various effects on the lives of black American children specifically in the little opportunities they receive through education. Public schools in the United States are paid for by property taxes. People living in better neighborhoods have better-funded schools, thus more opportunities and resources to allow them to thrive. These schools tend to produce higher test scores and more students attending college. The idea can go both ways, neighborhoods with better schools have homes in their vicinity that have a higher property value thus their property taxes being higher, think of it as a positive feedback loop. Children in lower-income neighborhoods are thus forced by systemic racism to attend underfunded schools. The funds given to these schools pay for the necessities but do not allow room to further on the students’ education such as extracurriculars and academic pursuits (i.e. AP and IB courses). A study conducted by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center found that “75% of the students in suburban districts received diplomas, but only 58% of students in urban districts did.”(Dubose 2008) This means a little over half of all the students in urban districts graduate vs. their suburban counterparts. The gap between the two is significantly wide. Children in suburban neighborhoods have access to tutors that will aid them in receiving higher ACT/ SAT scores. Children with better-standardized test scores and grades have a higher chance to attend university. Those who attend university tend to make more money thus their children and grandchildren tend to have the same amount of wealth, this is called generational wealth. In return those who never got the chance to attend college or trade school resort to a minimum wage job, with their children attending the same school they did thus the cycle of poverty continues. 

  Systemic racism deters schools from instilling a sense of passion for the students to want to put the effort into school. Students who are involved in things like extracurriculars at school are well-rounded meaning they have more motivation to achieve in and attend their classes. With extracurriculars, students are occupied doing something they are passionate about in return allows less time to be involved with crime. Children are focused and excited about after school because they will be involved in a club that will ultimately benefit them. Extracurriculars could also bring money into the school system through sponsorships in sports and winning academic awards. Since low-income schools do not have extracurriculars set in the first place there is no way of the school to gain academic prestige. Education is more than just what is taught in the classroom. Students can also meet peers who can be good role models or introduce them to a different way of thinking. Students may not have access to good role models at home so the education system is what is left for them. It is not that students do not care about a school that leads them to drop out it is that they are in a system that ultimately fails them.

The modern criminal justice system in the United States has been dubbed the “New Jim Crow.” According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), “African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites.”(NAACP) The causes of black Americans to be incarcerated faster and receive fair trials could be multiclausal but you cannot neglect the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of black Americans going to jail than their white counterparts for the same offenses. The criminal justice system is covertly unequal. Many police officers and judges are trying to do the right thing, it is just that the criminal justice system creates corrupt incentives. For example, The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was made as a result of the war on drugs during the Reagan administration. It created federal mandatory minimum drug sentences in hopes of pinpointing and cracking down on drug kingpins. Although it was good in theory, the incarceration rate skyrocketed. This left federal prisons filled with low-level offenders. Judges are forced to apply harsh arithmetic to minor violations that drive up the prison term. The mandatory sentencing disproportionately affected black Americans. Since most tend to come from low-income cities and neighborhoods they do not have the access to just lawyers and legal counsel.

Another point to add is that of housing segregation as mentioned in the 2nd paragraph. Housing segregation means black Americans are having different experiences with the police than white Americans. Since neighborhoods are segregated as a result of redlining, racial profiling by police can be masked under spatial profiling. Spatial profiling means that different areas can make you more or less likely to be stopped by the police. As mentioned in the introduction, it is not that the people in the institutions and systems are racist and express overt racism to individuals it is that institutions set policies and laws in place that produce racially suggestive outcomes. Systemic racism in the criminal justice system leaves black Americans with a criminal record as a result of a low-level offense that hinders them from getting jobs and prospects after jail.

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      In an opinion piece by John McWhorter titled “What’s Holding Blacks Back?”, McWhorter suggests black Americans sabotage themselves through victimology, that is they hinder their success through their attitudes. He states, “It is black attitudes, not white racism, that’s to blame.”(McWhorter) He explains that hard work can help one get ahead and not make race an issue in terms of our personal growth. It is true, everyone writes their destiny but certain groups have the advantage and that is where he falls short. He does not mention the systems set in place that allow such disparity to happen in the first place. He only skews the data with little room for interpretation.

      The United States needs to stop pretending systemic racism does not exist. The issue is that many Americans are unaware that racism is an umbrella term. Racism is not just the KKK riding out at midnight lynching innocent black Americans it can represent itself in the institutions and policies set in place by our government. When writing laws and policies politicians should put into consideration how these laws will affect all citizens, not just the person they are trying to target in said law. The system is not broken, when it was built this way. There should be a better way to reform laws and remove policies that are time specific to the date they were created. For example, a law enacted during segregation to implicitly target black Americans should be removed from practice.

Works Cited

  • Chen, James. “National Housing Act.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 3 Sept. 2019,
  • “Urban vs. Suburban: the High School Graduation Gap.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 2 Apr. 2008,
  • “Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” NAACP,
  • McWhorter, John H., et al. “What’s Holding Blacks Back?” City Journal, 18 June 2019,’s-holding-blacks-back-12025.html.


  • Balko, Radley. “Opinion | There’s Overwhelming Evidence That the Criminal-Justice System Is Racist. Here’s the Proof.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 10 Apr. 2019.
  • Bouie, Jamelle. “How Much Does ‘Culture’ Matter for ‘Inner-City’ Poverty?” The Daily Beast, The Daily Beast Company, 20 Mar. 2014.
  • “All The MLK Streets I’ve Been To Have Been In The Hood.” PushBlack Now, 28 Nov. 2017,
  • Chen, James. “National Housing Act.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 3 Sept. 2019,
  • “Urban vs. Suburban: the High School Graduation Gap.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 2 Apr. 2008,
  • “Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” NAACP,
  • McWhorter, John H., et al. “What’s Holding Blacks Back?” City Journal, 18 June 2019,’s-holding-blacks-back-12025.html.
  • Jones, DeEtta. “The Many Types of Racism: 5 Terms to Know.” DeEtta Jones & Associates, 7 Aug. 2018.
  • “4 Things You Need to Know about The Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline.” Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing, 16 June 2016.
  • Rothstein, Richard. “America Is Still Segregated. We Need to Be Honest about Why | Richard Rothstein.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 16 May 2017.


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