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Segregation and Racial Discrimination in Housing


The primary aim of this essay is to understand the role of segregation and discrimination in creating housing disparity between African Americans and the white community. However, for centuries now, national spatial imaginary has been racially marked, with segregation serving to induce a fine line between the majorities from minorities in the society. This paper agrees that various government policies and reforms since World War II have helped promote institutionalized racism between the majority and minority groups in the US.

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Race and Black Ghetto

Ghettoization, systematic segregation, and racial discrimination, especially in the housing sector, have led to the creation of black societies distinct from white communities. Lipsitz (2007) notes that Tootie Montana, a chief in New Orleans, passed away attempting to champion for inclusivity of the minorities in New Orleans with the final words, “I want this to stop” (p. 10). According to Duneier (2016), ghettoization or ‘black ghetto’ traces back to how Venice’s Jews were forced to live in confinement behind the walls of Ghetto Nuovo. Napoleon set out to destroy the enslaved individuals in the ghetto while the outside communities enjoyed an economic and cultural traditions boom. Ghettos become places coupled with decay and diseases with inadequate housing and health status (Du Bois, 2006). It would set the approaches for ghetto squalor for centuries after. Presently, many individuals of color have endured systematic racism and segregation in housing, forcing them to live in ghettos. In that case, this continued exclusion has contributed to low living standards for African Americans.

Systemic racism led to the establishment of segregated black neighborhoods in the US. For instance, the Bronx developed due to discrimination and separation of African Americans from white society. A community famed as the Hip Hop culture pioneer, the Bronx emerged as a borough within New York City to expand racial segregation. The region mostly consists of African Americans, West Indians, and Latina populations that account for at least 50% of the entire population (Duneier, 2016). Due to urban renewal policies in the 1940s, the Bronx experienced an ‘intended’ increased rent control policy that forced the landlords to burn their buildings for profit. However, the actual policies that led to the Bronx burning included redlining activities, with the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation categorizing the Bronx residents based on race (Kenigsberg, 2019). Therefore, the black minorities experienced significant discrimination as they were concentrated in labeled neighborhoods.

The institutionalized segregation of the minority groups to ghettos and exclusion from essential economic resources has adversely affected this population. Excessive policing has led to disproportionate levels of state violence on black lives in the ghettos. In an interview, Garza (2014) acknowledges that more than 1 million black individuals are confined in cages in the US, with the other half of the African American population in correctional facilities. Individuals living in ghettos are perceived as dangerous and unfit for democratic functions leading to excessive policing (Garza, 2014). The police have internal and systematic hatred based on race and perceive blacks as violent gang members. Consequently, this has led to the increased murder of many African Americans, including George Floyd. In that case, systemic racialization has adversely affected the black community.

Race and American Suburbs

After World War II, the housing plan and policy invention significantly influenced American suburbs’ development, primarily based on race. The suburbia has experienced significant population growth and diversity because of immigration and economic changes that have resulted in increased rates of inequalities. In the 1940s and 1950s, the housing programs funded by various grants and findings from federal programs and banks enabled the establishment of suburbia to ensure veterans’ homes (Herbes-Sommers et al., 2003). However, blacks and minorities were not allowed to have a home in the suburbs. For instance, when white people living in Detroit wanted to establish a suburb, they were denied because of the proximity to the black neighborhood. Moreover, a wall had to be erected for the occupants to receive mortgages and housing establishment grants. According to Harris (2013), post-war media representations depicted the housing programs with middle-class white people at the expense of the minorities. This move served to create powerful and invidious cultural iconography that exists today in the form of ghettos and suburbs.

The government policies significantly enabled the establishment of racial segregation in suburbs and the inner cities. As indicated by Harris (2013), the post-war outskirts become racially segregated because of the media, uneven social and economic developments in Detroit, Kansas, and Chicago. The first segregation-linked policy in public housing was drafted by President Franklin Roosevelt’s policy, known as the 1949 Housing Act, which induced whites to relocate to the suburbs. After the Great Depression, the Public Works Administration implemented civilian public housing programs that favored the whites. Moreover, urban renewal policies significantly created racial segregation in post-war American suburbs. Harris (2013) posits that post-war suburban housing programs aided in the construction of white identity. It is accurate as blacks were not allowed to own a home in the suburbs, and it created an image of white supremacy. Therefore, the post-war domestic housing programs become a poignant issue for white identity and belonging or the right to own properties.


The issue of segregation and racism continues to impact contemporary American society negatively. Since World War II, various policies and practices have been implemented to benefit the majority in society. However, all individuals’ inclusivity should be a priority to achieve the American Dream. Relevant stakeholders and the government should articulate informed decisions and policies that would enhance the inclusivity and eradication of segregation and racism issues.

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Du Bois, W. E. B. (2006). The negro and the Warsaw ghetto (1949). Raisons Politiques, 21(1), 131 −135. Web.

Duneier, M. (2016). Ghetto: The invention of a place, the history of an idea. Macmillan.

Garza, A. (2014). A herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The Feminist Wire. Web.

Harris, D. (2013). Little white houses: How the post-war home constructed race in America. University of Minnesota Press.

Herbes-Sommers, C., Strain, T.H., & Smith, L. (Directors). (2003). The house we live in. In Race: The power of an illusion. California Newsreel.

Kenigsberg, B. (2019). ‘Decade of fire’ review: A Documentary remembers the blazes that scorched the Bronx. The New York Times. Web.

Lipsitz, G. (2007). The racialization of space and the spatialization of race: Theorizing the hidden architecture of landscape. Landscape Journal, 26(1), 10−23. Web.

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