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Civil Rights Legislation Did Not End Structural Racism.

The civil rights movement is often romanticized as having been victorious; the mainstream public discourse purports that racism, as a factor oneimpeding black social mobility, is increasingly on the decline. It is claimed that America is coming closer to achieving Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream with each passing day. Such a dangerous myth obfuscates the true plight of African-Americans; the reality is that civil rights legislation proved ineffective in improving the plight of black Americans, and discrimination against African-Americans is ubiquitous throughout all of American society, even in the era of a black President.

two    America is still a segregated society; the masses of blacks are confined to ghettoes, where they are completely ostracized from mainstream American society. Civil rights legislation failed to even put a dent in segregation. When the legislation was passed, white citizens created various neighborhood improvement associations throughout America. Racism was masked under the agenda of protecting property value and maintaining safety in the neighborhood. Neighborhood Improvement Associations actively lobbied the city council to carry out zone restrictions, endeavoring to preserve white racial homogeneity. Strategic boycotts were organized against real estate agents who had the audacity to sell their homes to blacks. Thus, institutional racism would remain an integral part of city planning, all seeking to keep blacks living in a perpetual state of segregation.[i]

African-Americans who made it to the middle class would often seek to escape the narrow confines of ghetto life. Real estate agents would takewhitetenants advantage of these black customers by selling a home in a predominantly white area, yet, subsequently, these white real-estate agents would alert whites in the area that blacks would be moving in; with fear and panic, they would often sell their homes. Poor African-Americans were then targeted, and these same real estate agents would then sell them homes that they could not afford. A cash advance and several months of mortgage would be collected, and after inevitably defaulting, they would be evicted; afterwards, another black family would be subjected to the same process.

 

segregationThese discriminatory practices, known as blockbusting, ensured that segregation would be maintained despite the passing of civil rights legislation.Douglas S. Massey concluded, “Since the passing of the Fair Housing Act, the level of black-white segregation has hardly changed.” Within these segregated neighborhoods, the educational systems reflect these apartheid-influenced conditions.[ii] A Harvard study on civil rights recently concluded that – even in the 21st century, after the Brown Vs. Board of Education decision – the majority black students were found to not only have attended schools that were in a de facto state of segregation, but they were also found to attend schools that were more likely to be at the bottom of the socio-economic latter with less resources available for students.[iii]

 

The discrimination in educational opportunities significantly harms equitable access to the job market—a job market in which black candidatesdiscrimination2 are already at a disadvantage for merely having dark skin. The study titled, ‘Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?’ concluded that job applicants with more ‘black-sounding’ names were less likely to be called back for an interview than applicants with more ‘white-sounding names,’ even with identical credentials.[iv] A more troubling study from found that white convicts and blacks without a criminal record, with otherwise identical credentials, have an equal opportunity for employment.[v] Such a social reality demonstrates a dire situation for black ex-convicts seeking to improve their lives.

 

 

 

 

policetortureSuch black convicts would have already been victims of an unjust legal system. Racism pervades the judicial system; blacks are more likely than whites to be stopped by the police and to become victims of police brutality. In court, blacks routinely have poorer representation compared to white defendants; blacks are more likely to receive harsher sentences for the same crimes as whites. Instead of standing firmly for justice, whether an individual is rich or poor, black or white, the report, ‘Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System’ [vi] concluded that, “The source of such disparities is deeper and more systemic than explicit racial discrimination. The United States in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and minorities.” As a result of these discriminatory practices, America incarcerates its populations at rates that surpass all other nations, and the majority of these prisoners are black, Latino, or a member of other minority communities.

Yet, the discrimination against black people in the judicial structure is part of a broader problem that seeks to feed the prison industrial complex. The apartheid prison system is becoming an increasingly important factor in the U.S. economy, with the government issuing out private contracts to construct prisons. The federal prison industry (UNICOR), which is owned by the U.S. government, even utiliprisionlaborzes the labor of prisoners to produce miscellaneous goods, including solar panels. Furthermore, many mainstream corporations, such as Microsoft, Boeing, IBM, and Texas Instruments, take advantage of this prison labor. Merrill Lynch has made heavy profits from investing in prison construction bonds. Eve Goldberg notes:

“Prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No health benefits, unemployment insurance, or workers’ compensation to pay. No language barriers, as in foreign countries. New leviathan prisons are being built on thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, make circuit boards, limousines.”[vii]

Thus, discrimination continues to be ubiquitous throughout American society, from housing, employment, and education. Civil rights chiefkeeffgbelegislation merely removed the overt signs of racism, such as “No blacks allowed” signs, but it did not mitigate the everyday practices of racism which manifests in the blockbusting, redlining, tactics of real estate agents in housing, the discriminatory predatory loans practices of banks, or court rooms which continue to bequeath harsher sentences to black offenders. At large, the black population in America is segregated in ghettos in which the only viable source of employment is the drug economy; they are systematically deprived of quality education; their communities host lethal gang violence; their neighborhoods are often food deserts; and inside these ghettoes many die from preventable diseases.

 

Racial discrimination is as pervasive as it was during the ‘60s, the only change being how this racism manifested itself. After years of solidifying anti-black discrimination in every facet of American society, discrimination was able to continue without an overt legal mechanism to support it. Taking all this into account, it is clear that civil rights legislation protected white supremacy by putting an end to the overt manifestation as a recuperative mechanism to give the illusion of equality.

In the next article, we will take a look at how Civil Rights Legislation was passed with the intent to protect white supremacy.

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[i] American Apartheid, Segregation and the making of the Underclass by Douglass S. Massey A. Denton

 

[ii] IBID

[iii] http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news_events/features/1999/orfielddeseg06081999.html,

[iv] Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? http://www.chicagobooth.edu/pdf/bertrand.pdf,

 

[v] “Discrimination in Low Wage Labor Markets.” http://paa2005.princeton.edu/papers/50874

 

[vi] Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System, http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/rd_ICCPR%20Race%20and%20Justice%20Shadow%20Report.pdf

[vii] Racism matters http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Prison_System/Masked_Racism_ADavis.html

 

The Making of Chiraq

herb43The name Chiraq, which is frequently employed the black Chicagoans, has attracted much criticism, with some arguing that its utilization glorifies an urban culture of violence. Lil Reese, who grew up in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, describes his upbringing by forcefully testifying, “I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage […] Where I’m from? This Chiraq.” In numerous rap videos, these self-proclaimed savages residing within the enclave of Chiraq appear brandished with weapons that are suitable for military combat. Their T-shirts often have insignia that reads ”R.I.P______,” with the blank filled by the names of deceased peers. “Chiraq” is just one of many of these ghettos; the same lifestyle can be found in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and other urban communities. In Lil Bibby’s pivotal track entitled “Raised Up,”  he asserts, ”We some savages, that’s what the hood made us.” Lil Bibby and Lil Herb describe the dominant mode of life in inner-city ghettoes, which is one of pure survival where youth must  bear the brunt of a chaotic environment that consists of coping  with the stress that comes with living in and out of jail, violently protecting ones stake in the drug market, and dealing with potentially lethal run-ins with law enforcement.

In the public’s imagination, these ghettoes are home to black welfare queens who are leeches on the economic system, as well as a remberinghadiya“black criminal deviant underclass” who carry out horrific acts of violence in the form of drive-by-shootings, car jackings, and burglaries. The linguistic choice to dub their areas of the city “Chiraq” by Chicago’s youth conveys a fundamental reality about the status of black Americans; it reveals that they constitute a segregated space in  the United states, effectively challenging the commonly held belief in the post-Civil Rights era of America in which  institutional racism is said to be gradually fading as we move towards a  more progressive society, heading more towards  accomplishing  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream with every passing year. After the death of Chicago public school student Hadiya Pendleton, President Barack Obama made the tragic death a mere issue of “gun-violence” and utilized it to advocate tougher gun control legislation, without acknowledging the oppression that went into creating the violent conditions in her community.

The Violence that Created the Violence

chicagogreatmigrationThe ghetto and all of the sporadic anti-social behavior, which is a product of perpetual violence (both physical and institutional), continues to create the social conditions needed for gang conflicts. In 1870, after legal plantation slavery was abolished, 80% of black Americans resided in the rural south; these families were forced to endure an oppressive sharecropping system which had largely replaced slavery. They were marred in poverty with a lack of education while having to cope with a series of repressive black code laws which were the precursor to Jim Crow. During the great migration, African-Americans began moving to Chicago in search of better opportunities, but would instead be met with violence.

 

The White Circle League, formed with the mission of “keeping white neighborhoods free from negroes,” regularly terrorized Africanchicagoraceriots-Americans in Chicago.  Between 1917 and 1921, the bombing of African-American homes occurred once every twenty days on average. In 1919, an African-American boy who was swimming was killed as a result of whites throwing heavy rocks at him. When blacks sought to report the incident to police, they themselves were arrested while the white individuals who had killed this young man went unpunished.   As African-Americans began peacefully protesting, whites began to violently assault them, forming mobs that eventually sought to harm African-Americans through various avenues, from attacking patients in black hospitals to setting fire to the homes of blacks. The Irish Hamburg Athletic Club was among the groups who made an effort to kill many blacks; a man who would eventually become mayor decades later – Richard J. Daley – was an active member of this group. These violent attacks left many African-Americans homeless, causing them to lose the relatively small amount of wealth that they had come up north to accumulate. Furthermore, the Irish gangs who carried out these brutal attacks would in mass numbers be recruited to the Chicago Police Department.

 

cjocagpb;aclbe;tThe Chicago Housing Authority also implemented the “Neighborhood Composition Rule,” which ensured that blacks would be segregated and confined to housing in the black belt. The housing for black Americans lacked plumbing and was routinely neglected; the neighborhoods did not even receive the benefit of regular garbage disposal services. In addition to being near toxic waste dumps, the decrepit housing set aside for blacks drastically increased the levels of infant mortality.  Even after the neighborhood composition rule ended, whites would take to violence to ensure segregation.

 

In Englewood, the  birthplace of rappers Chief Keef & Lil Reese, was once a bastion of white supremacy. After African-Americans had
nnegroes
 merely visited the neighborhood, due to fears that a home was going to be “sold to niggers,” neighborhood associations campaigned with slogans like “America for whites, Africa is the onl y place for niggers.” One white person being interviewed argued that, “We don’t want them, we don’t want to live with them. I think they’re savages. ” With protest signs stating, ”Negroes Invading,” whites began the ‘Englewood Race Riots of 1949,’ not only carrying brutal acts of violence against African-American citizens, but also finding black residential homes to arson, which left many blacks dead, homeless, and losing all of their property. All of this set the precedence of the creation of the ghettos within the city due to the huge wealth loss that black families had struggled to gain. White Flight  took place and years later Lil reese would rap,”I lost so many niggas, turned into a savage. In real life, no movie shit, bitch we clap. Where I’m from? Chiraq.”

The Failure of Civil Rights

tenants A week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Richard J. Daley, who was part of an Irish Club which routinely terrorized blacks, would become the Mayor, and his racism would be backed with institutional support. Daley ordered his police force and U.S. army troops to cripple and maim outraged black citizens. Nonetheless, African-Americans won some concessions; the Fair Housing Act was passed, allegedly attempting to address housing discrimination.Under the Fair Housing Act, African-Americans could sue if they were subjected to housing discrimination. However, such legislation did nothing on a practical level to restructure American society. Indeed, think about the capitol, time, and effort that the average African-American single parent would have to expend to pursue such a case in ‘job discrimination’ or ‘housing discrimination,’ all while struggling with what comes from living in the ghetto.

 

While the “No Niggers” signs and overt visible signs of racism declined, the act could do nothing to change the everyday racially discriminatory practices of realtors and city planners who would routinely blackhousign4operate along radicalized lines. Douglas S. Massey points out that realtors had unspoken assumptions in their clients’ interest which kept “unwanted” elements (blacks) out of affluent neighborhoods, fearing the professional repercussions from their clientele. This confirms that, despite legislative changes ending overt signs of racism, such legislation would have no effect in transforming the cultural attitudes and daily practices of institutions of city planning and realtors who would continue to operate along racist lines; in summation, relators were found to, and have continued to, keep African-Americans away from white neighborhoods despite the passing of the Fair Housing Act. The sociologist Douglas S. Massey concluded, “Since the passing of the Fair Housing Act, the level of black-white segregation has hardly changed.”

In fact, according to the current trend, blacks in Chicago will still compromise a segregated group as far into the future as 2042. Douglas Massey, states, ”Ironically, within a large, diverse, and highly mobile post-industrial society such as the United States, blacks living in the heart of the ghetto are among the most isolated people on earth.” Born witlilreesehout a silver spoon, in the ghetto, the typical lifestyle of a resident consists of languishing in run down areas, being pressured to hustle on the streets, carrying out “hits” to protect their block as a result of the lethal underground drug economy, all resulting in a continuous cycle of going in and out of jail; many individuals born in these areas know they may  face an early death, and they do not expect to live past eighteen.

 

 

The segregated status of black Americans, which separates them from white America, protects white Americans from the social violenceLeondore Draperproblems, drugs, gang wars, and violence, which are a result of an unjust social order. Meanwhile, innocent  African-American women, such as Chicago Public School Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot down by stray bullets on her way home from school, and Leondore Draper, who was shot coming back home from an anti-violence  campaign that she helped to organize, bear the brunt of a racially segregated society. The complicity and perpetration of this racial segregation includes both conservative right wing forces, many of whom deny racism is even a viable factor in the social mobility of blacks, often blaming “immoral black culture.” Also complicit are  liberal left wing forces seeking to liberalize America while  reinforcing the violence against African-American  by spreading the narrative of “steady progress” for blacks and thus obfuscating their true plight and the desperate living conditions they live within.

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American Apartheid, Segregation and the making of the Underclass by Douglass S. Massey A. Denton

Making of the Second Ghetto, Race * Housing in Chicago 1940-1960 by Arnold R. Hirsch