Black Oppression: Opinion
According to the U.S Census Bureau, African-Americans make up about 13% of the U.S population. However, their communities continue to experience substantially higher rates of poverty, policing, and poor access to adequate housing. In 2011, a study published by housing discrimination expert John R. Logan and sociologist Brian J. Stults helped shed some light on segregated housing in metropolitan areas. Logan and Stults concluded that white people continue to live in predominantly white neighborhoods, while black people continue to live in predominantly black neighborhoods. This is an interesting connection to make, as in another paper published by John R. Logan and Deidre Oakeley, the two urban sociologists describe that Blacks disproportionately live“ in neighborhoods with higher poverty, lower homeownership, lower home values, and higher crime” than whites.
In a study published in the academic journal Nature Human Behavior, Emma Pierson and colleagues concluded that Black Americans are more likely to be stopped by police across municipalities in the nation. These statistics further an argument by Logan and Oakeley. They argue that policing has been used as an intimidation tactic that protects “the mainstream United States from the perceived risk of its 'ghetto'."
Since the beginning of slavery, America has done everything in its power to keep African Americans barred from influential societies and socioeconomic advancement. After the passage of the 13th amendment that emancipated all slaves in the U.S, America entered a progressive era for Black Americans, until Andrew Johnson took office, who “appointed governors of seven Confederate states, basically handing back power to influential Southern whites.”(Graff, 250) Gilda Graff, a licensed psychologist practicing in Elmont, New York, effectively connects this shift where influential Southern whites would take back the power to the creation of racist policies such as “sundown towns." Graff explains that “between 1890 and 1940, many towns across the country adopted policies forbidding African Americans from residing, or even being within town borders after dark… draining the morale of African Americans after Reconstruction.” (cited in Graff 39)
Furthermore, policies of equality have continued to be contested by the public. These policies include affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act, which have all substantially increased equal opportunity for Black Americans. A study condcucted by Prau Shah et.al, published in the Journal of Politics concludes significant gains in representation of Blacks in city councils. The study also supports Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, focusing on differences in data between cities covered by the VRA and those not covered. Under Section 5, states with a history of voter intimidation are required to be qualified by the United States District Court of the District of Columbia to set voting policy into effect. However, much of the Voting Rights Act remains contested in the public eye. Just in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled Section 5 of the VRA unconstitutional. This ruling was brought by a 5-4 conservative majority, suggesting to many liberals and left-wingers that the Supreme Court does not support policies promising equality in their terms. After the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, these fears among liberals have consolidated.
Despite these statistics, America’s culture remains unwilling to address its racist past; a past whose effects have bled into the future. As Brett Hammon writes in the peer-reviewed Texas Hispanic Journal of Law and Policy:
“Americans were happy to pretend that we lived in a ‘colorblind’ society”. However, colorblind ideology is when we “pretend that everything is equal while Whites occupy a distinctly superior position in society."
America seems to be a long-standing debate over what equality means and how we interact with the past. Should we treat individuals in context to what they have faced in the past, or should we approach equality without that context? We are yet to find out.