POS334-L: THE RACE AND ETHNICITY BOOK REVIEW DISCUSSION LIST

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Douglas S. Massey & Nancy A. Denton.  American Apartheid (Harvard University Press, 1993)    

From Subject
"Erik Johnson" <eejohns@ilstu.edu> AMERICAN APARTHEID by Massey and Denton
chris <cgstroh@ilstu.edu> Am. Apartheid
"Angel B. Johnson" <abjohns@ilstu.edu> AMERICAN APARTHEID

Date: Tue, 25 Apr 1995 04:36:01 -0600 (CST) 
From: "Erik Johnson" <eejohns@ilstu.edu> 
Subject: Review of AMERICAN APARTHEID by Douglass Massey and Nancy Denton 

Separate but Not Equal Everybody from Newt Gingrich to Louis Farrakhan has their own theory about what is causing the problem of widespread poverty among African Americans. The Newt Gingriches and Rush Limbaughs of the world see the problem of the Black poor lies within the Welfare system. Welfare discourages people from getting jobs or getting married, while encourages people have more children and collect more welfare benefits. Remove welfare benefits, then people would be forced to find a job and get married, before they think about having children, therefore lessening poverty. Louis Farrakhan sees the problem in the white establishment. The system that whites have created helps whites at the expense of blacks, causing poverty.

Change the system that works against blacks, then poverty would go away. Douglass Massey and Nancy Denton see neither of these to views as being correct. In their book, AMERICAN APARTHEID, Massey and Denton argue that the fundamental cause of poverty among African Americans is segregation. Despite all of the advances made by the Civil Rights movement, progress on housing desegregation has been painfully slow. The vast majority of large cities are divided geographically along racial bounds. AMERICAN APARHEID argues that segregation has created black ghettos, that have created and perpetuated a black underclass by limiting the educational and employment opportunities for the residents of these neighborhoods. This happens because the wealthier or white residents leave the area for the suburbs, while decreasing the tax base which hurts funding for education , which causes everyone else who can afford it to leave, further decreasing the tax base and education. No businesses want to invest in an area that has nobody with money, but lots of crime. The result is that the only people who are left are black and poor. They have little opportunity for eduaction or employment, and are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.

When African Americans do try to leave the ghetto they are subject to a variety of discrimination techniques that are designed to steer them back into the black neighborhoods. They are told that lots in the white areas are sold or quoted inflated prices. They are also more likely to be rejected for home loans. If they do make it into the white neighborhoods, they are often subjected to intimidation by their white neighbors. If none of these tactics work in keeping African Americans out of white neighborhoods, then the white residents, fearing a loss of property values and increased crime flee to different towns, decreasing the tax base and causing process of ghettoization to begin again.

Contrary to popular belief, segregation is not at its worst in the South, but in the North. In 1966, Martin Luther King came to Chicago and declared it, "The most segregated city in America." Despite King's and all the civil rights leaders' efforts, little has changed. Chicago is only five percent more integrated today, than it was in 1970, and it still retains the title of America's most segregated city. Interestingly enough, America's cities were not always segregated. Before the turn of the century, blacks and whites were intergrated. However, the mass migration of southern blacks to the cities in the North in the first two deacdes of the century, coincided with the mass influxes of immigrants to cities. All of these new arrivals lived seperately in their own neighborhoods, including Afican Americans. After the Great Depression and World War II, government housing policies favored whites while at the expense of those in the black neighborhoods, causing a white flight to the suburbs, leaving blacks isolated in the ghettos of the inner city. If we have become so progressive in our views on civil rights and racial equality, then why does segregation still exist. The answer lies in the conflicting beliefs of whites. 88% of whites agree in the principle offair housing while only 43% said they would feel "comfortable" living in an area that was one-third black.

Just as whites believe that blacks should be allowed to live wherever they want. They also believe that whites should live wherever they want. The last places they want to live would be Cabrini-Green, Harlem, or Compton. Massey and Denton offer little hope as far as the abilty of public policy to desegregate America's cities. Chicago has had one of the most progressive and agressive Fair Housing policies, yet the city still remains terribly segregated. The authors suggest a more vigorous prosecution realtors and bankers that discriminate against African Americans coupled with rental vouchers to African Americans in order to ease segregation Segregation is a problem without any easy answers. If Massey and Denton's proposals were enacted, would that still be able to stop the probelm of whites moving away. Perhaps, the only real solution lies whites learning how to get along with and not fear African Americans. If this ever happens, then segregation will not be the only problem that is solved.

Erik Johnson eejohns@ilstu.ed

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Date: Tue, 30 Apr 1996 13:10:03 -0500 
From: chris <cgstroh@ilstu.edu> 
Subject: Am. Apartheid 

American Apartheid By: Douglas S. Massey & Nancy A. Denton (Harvard University Press, 1993)

By: Chris Stroh

Massey and Denton have written a book that works to remind us that the evils of segregation still exist in America. The problems of residential segregation run deeper in the last 40 years then ever before. This is the underlying cause of one of the biggest problems, the urban ghetto. In "American Apartheid" the authors address the creation of the ghetto and the problems it causes for the underclass. The authors show, with statistical evidence, that some cities with high poverty rates tend to have a high degree of residential segregation. As we discover at the conclusion of the book, the ghetto is the main breeding ground for poverty, crime and broken dreams.

The book takes an interesting look into segregation and the way it creates slums for the poor. We discover that segregation did not end with the creation of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, but only succeeded in creating the urban ghettos. This increases the problems of black social and economic isolation from the rest of American society. Detailed statistical evidence shows the growing problem of residential segregation in most major metropolitan areas. The authors have created charts that show the percentage of blacks and whites living together in major metropolitan areas.

The higher the percentage of blacks living together means the higher degree of segregation. It is discovered from the information given that cities such as Atlanta, Chicago and D.C. have a high number of segregated areas. Blacks tend to live in the cities, while whites prefer the suburbs. Instances such as this, according to the authors, has created "chocolate cities with vanilla suburbs."

The authors are successful in pointing out that though times and methods have changed, blacks are still forced to live apart from whites. Instances of "cross burnings" are rare in today's society, but other methods have segregation have taken its place. . Before the creation of fair housing practices, banks and home mortgage lenders openly discriminated against black home seekers. In current times, the methods of discrimination still exist, but only in different forms. For example, real estate agents work to keep people living in "color coded" neighborhoods. This is accomplished through lying and methods public pressure. When black home buyers look for a house, they are shown only those in all black or racially mixed neighborhoods. If these people ask about homes in white neighborhoods, they are lied to and given bogus reasons as to why no homes are available. If blacks due succeed in moving into a majority white neighborhood, they generally force whites to move out. The book gives detailed studies on real- estate agents who are openly biased and continue to create racially segregated housing.

There are several interesting facts that the authors discuss. The first one is that the problems of residential segregation mainly effect only those who are black. There are communities with a large percentage of certain nationalities, but total separation from other ethnic groups does not exist. Neighborhoods containing other ethnic members (Chinese, Russian, Polish) tend to integrate into other areas , while majority black areas have become a permanent feature of black residential life. This is where we get into the problems of the inner city ghetto. These areas are unable to achieve social connections with the outside world and are incapable of existing in the social standards established by society. By this we get into areas where there are high instances of crime, poverty, unemployment and poor education. An instance of this would be the creation of black street speech or black english vernacular. (BEV). BEV has become the language of segregation (162) and is used in a majority of the urban ghettos. The authors say that issues such as this, were created because of the high degree of segregation imposed on blacks in urban areas. It is a language with its own grammar and pronunciation, with some links to the standard version of American english. This separate 'language" has side effects in such areas as education. Black children in the ghetto who grow up speaking BEV, are forced to learn from textbooks written in standard english. This causes learning difficulties for many students, who are unable to handle the transition from language to another. This creates a culture shock that undermines the whole learning process (164). This is one reason for the communication barrier that makes unemployment unattainable and hurts chances for socioeconomic achievement.

One point the book discusses, deals with the issue of integration. Many black leaders continually question the reasons why blacks would even want to be integrated with whites. Integration as a goal seems to suggest that white is better then black. In the 1970's, black leaders, Stokly Carmichael and Charles Hamiliton, argued that "in order for blacks to have a decent house.. blacks must move into white neighborhoods." They suggested that this itself is an idea that one is better then the other. The case of whites living next to blacks gets strong opinions from both sides. In a study done (chart p 89) numbers show some blacks do not necessarily want to live in majority white neighborhoods. This creates the tiny possibility that perhaps patterns of residential segregation are voluntary. The attitudes between blacks and whites in terms of integration, show that the answer to problems of racial equality are a ways away.

In the 1960's, the Johnson Administration appointed a commission to identify the problems of residential segregation. Back in March of 1968 the commission found that two separate societies existed, one separate and unequal from the other. Johnson's study discovered that, "discrimination and segregation have long permeated much of American life; they now threatened the future of every American." (4). My question is, if the problem was addressed in 1968 why was it allowed to grow to the great proportion we have today? Because of our failure to tackle this issue forty years ago, we are now faced with an even greater problem. We have allowed poverty, crime and racism to become a problem in today's urban society. Continued integration of both societies must become a national agenda, before issues of racism and inequality will ever be solved.   Chris Stroh Illinois State University cgstroh@ilstu.edu   Back to top...


Date: Wed, 1 May 1996 20:38:28 -0500 
From: "Angel B. Johnson" <abjohns@ilstu.edu> 
Subject: AMERICAN APARTHEID 

Review of: American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass Authors: Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton

Reviewed by: Angel B. Johnson Illinois State University

AMERICAN APARTHEID!! What a title for a book! Not only did it catch my eye, but it captivated my interest immediately! Apartheid, as we all know, was the oppressive government that was in power in South Africa for years. But to make a reference to it in a title of a book about America, it simply can't be. Or can it? Just 30 years ago, the civil rights movement was at its highest point. Americans were fighting in the streets. People were being beaten and jailed simply because of their skin color. Segregation was a sad fact of life. How feasible is it to think that things have changed that much? Could Americans still be so cold that they are capable of such hatred, racism and oppression in this day and age that they would knowingly devise plans that would make the lives of blacks in this country a living hell? Massey and Denton seem to think so. Through numerous charts and examples, they critically assess the damage that has been done by primarily the white majority, but also, the black minority and their efforts to keep segregating themselves from one other.

Their fundamental argument is that race segregation, in its institutional form, is the key component that is responsible for the increasing number of blacks that are found living in substandard areas. Massey and Denton believe that the increasing number of blacks in the underclass can be blamed on several things. Table 3.3 (page 71) depicts some interesting figures. In major metropolitan areas like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, black-white segregation is higher than 80%. "Hypersegregation" has become a major problem in America's largest cities. This reinforces the first point that the authors made. Socioeconomic status will never matter to whites. Whites will never care that blacks are equally capable of obtaining good educations, good jobs at a Fortune 500 company and basically "becoming their equal." This is simply not of importance to them. Many whites are unwilling to live next to black families, no matter how successful they are. This not only stigmatizes blacks but it also produces barriers that are not easily broken down. Affluent blacks are then forced with to deal alternatives that are less than attractive.

These middle to upper class black families are then forced to look for housing in other areas. However, in their search for different areas to live, more problems arise. Blacks have often encountered real estate agents that are not willing to sell them housing in predominately white areas. Although no reasonable explanations are given, bogus excuses are usually offered. This is demeaning to black families. These families have worked hard to achieve that "dream" but end up being shut out simply because they are perceived to be a "less than an ideal" neighbor. Their choices become extremely limited. All middle-class households flee low income areas but only blacks encounter serious troubles. This all goes back to the issue of morals and values. Blacks have been stigmatized as a race that has no morals, values, education, and hates employment. These negative stereotypes follow all blacks wherever they go and eventually have a direct effect on some aspect of their happiness.

The authors also believe that the spatial isolation that blacks encounter can also be attributed to manufactured segregation by whites. This is usually "achieved" by self conscious actions on behalf of whites that would only benefit them. An increasing number of thriving urban centers are moving into the suburbs that surround them. More and more white families are now moving to the suburbs as well. This "white flight" from major metropolitan areas has been blamed on increasing crime rates and decreasing property values. This is also usually blamed on minority families. Is this not a form of segregation? White families are moving to the suburbs and so are the jobs. Clearly, this is benefitting them. Whites have better access to the jobs and better schools. What is to become of the blacks and other minorities that have to stay in the inner cities?

A recent proposal by Bob Dole involves the housing issue. Dole advocates that public housing should be abolished and replaced with housing vouchers. It is a wonderful idea on the surface, but realistically, it will go no where. How soon would all of these families be placed into new homes? Are there apartment complexes that are willing to take them? What will happen to all of the residents that are displaced? Housing vouchers would mean that minority families would have a choice of where they wanted to live. Conservatives, especially those in the suburbs, will go insane. Part of the problem is the animosity between the races. With an increasing number of whites moving to the suburbs, a program that will bring more blacks to the suburbs will not be readily accepted. Hostility would increase. People would be at each other's throats once more. I believe this to be nothing more than an election year tactic.

The continued segregation in the United States is creating more problems than people realize. Segregation perpetuates poverty. Figure 5.1 (pages 120 -121) provides a clear example of this. This chart outlines four fictitious cities. In each case, the poverty level is increasing and so is the margin that separates black and white families. As the segregation level approaches 67%, the chart reflects that 15% of blacks are in poverty. Only 11.7% of whites are in poverty at this point. When the black-white segregation rate reached 100%, twice as many blacks were in poverty as opposed to white families. This is a problem in the inner cities. With an increasing number of businesses moving to suburban areas, it becomes difficult for black families to keep up. Massey and Denton believe this is a tactic used to keep blacks from coming into potential white job markets. If the jobs aren't in areas that are easily accessible by public transportation, then the employer will not have to worry about hiring people from low income areas.

Policymakers in the United States have not recognized that racial segregation and discrimination in housing practices are important issues. Since the 1940's, blacks have continuously been subjected to discriminatory housing practices. Such practices have included only building housing projects in black neighborhoods, substandard apartments that are often infested with pests, deteriorating infrastructure in the neighborhoods and drug infested areas. Who is to blame for this? In a sense, this problem still only perpetuates the need for elected officials to still play the political game. Recently, an alderman in Chicago advocated for improving the housing projects instead of moving the residents to better and safer areas. This would be to his benefit only. By keeping the residents in the area, he believes that this would insure his victory in the next election. This self-interested stake is taking its toll on the lives of blacks across the country.

The failure of public policy was also a big issue mentioned in that affects the black community. Programs have been established that are supposed to help people in these low income areas but they do not seem to be working. Section 8 housing is a program that fits into this category. Section 8 would be a good social program if there was not so much discrimination toward the recipients. Families that receive Section 8 assistance receive vouchers for full or partial rent payment to be used in apartments or homes that accept them. Part of the problem is that some landlords do not like accepting the vouchers. Payment is sometimes delayed by 60 days or more. More importantly, they usually find some fault with the tenants with the vouchers. Since most of the recipients of the vouchers are minorities with lower incomes, they believe these potential tenants will bring problems to the neighborhood. This incorporates previous stereotypes that blacks have been stigmatized with: laziness, unemployed and lack of morals and values.

After persisting for more than 50 years, the black ghettos across the country simply can't be dismantled through passing new amendments or providing the poor with housing vouchers. Years of systematic abuse have contributed to the demise of quality of black family life in the ghetto. Blacks face drug wars and skyrocketing crime rates in these communities daily. With employment opportunities moving further away from the central city, what happens to the chance that members of the black community equally deserve? They all can not follow the job by simply packing up and moving to the suburbs. It just doe not happen that way. Massey and Denton believe that whites perpetuate the segregation by making it difficult for blacks and other minorities to move into their neighborhoods. They believe that they also contribute to institutions or candidates that will fight to end programs that will provide some incentives for members of the black community.

The authors argue that it will take a tremendous effort on the part of lawmakers and citizens together to improve things. Race and class are issues that are not going to be ignored by anyone. However, they should not always be taken into consideration. What does it matter if a middle-class black family is moving into a neighborhood that is predominately white? It should be obvious that they are economically stable to have been given the loan to move into an upper class neighborhood in the first place. Since segregation is still a issue in 1996, what is going to be done about it? Blacks and whites were separated for years. True integration seem so far away.

Can the segregation problem be blamed solely on whites? Blacks and whites are probably equally guilty of reinforcing the segregation that plagues us today. Most blacks feel comfortable living in all black neighborhoods. The same is true for whites. Can this be considered racism or is it conditioned in each to just feel more comfortable around members of their own race? I am not sure what you would exactly call that but no one should be discriminated against just because they have the desire to live in a different place. Are whites designing institutions that will make black neighborhoods undesirable to live in? Well.... the authors and some examples in society seem to prove this. White flight has become a major topic in urban studies today. Whites move from the central cities to suburbs to escape crime and decreasing poverty rates. Is it fair to say that whites have such a blatant hatred for members of the black race that they are willing to keep moving just so they don't have to be near them? Are they afraid of blacks?

Massey and Denton give an in depth look at what fuels the segregation controversy in the United States. They do not say that whites are afraid of blacks but they do imply that whites are fueling the fire. This type of hatred and bigotry has a direct effect on the lives of all Americans. The controversy created by employers moving has had a partial influence on Affirmative Action programs and Americans' attitude toward it.

Overall, American Apartheid is a very interesting book. The authors provide a carefully articulated argument that is sure to make all readers think about the situation a little differently. One thing is for sure. If something is not done to stop segregation and hostilities from increasing, American Apartheid will continue. "And Still I rise....." Maya Angelou

Angel B. Johnson abjohns@ilstu.edu   Back to top...