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Suburbs, Race, and White Identity in Postwar America

I believe that the isolation of black citizens from the suburban households and the prevalence of white residents there considerably affected the development of American suburbia. According to Diane Harris (2013), space is “constitutive of culture” and “equally significant in the construction of ideas about race and identity” (p. 13). Middle-class citizens occupying suburban houses were mostly white, so there was no cultural influence from black Americans or ethnic minorities. Moreover, a homogeneous population of white suburban residents resulted in a lack of cultural diversity that was further promoted by advertisements featuring white people.

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Institutional policies and practices, such as urban public housing, created racial segregation and accumulation of white capital in postwar suburbs. Suburban houses were not available for black Americans due to the decades of exclusively white ownership and racially restrictive laws that existed from the 1870s (Harris, 2013). Harris (2013) suggests that “whites were the only people with access to new suburban housing,” while urban renewal programs offered housing for minorities in high-rise developments (p. 15). Public housing projects developed by the federal government encouraged segregation, as they were zoned and reserved for low-income African-American families (Rothstein, 2017). As a result of institutional policies, the segregated neighborhoods became black ghettos surrounded by relocation barriers, while white suburbs prospered with the support of the middle-class capital.

Homeownership was a historically significant symbol of prosperity that provided Americans with protection from homelessness or expensive rent and served as a worthwhile investment. Ownership of a suburban home was a sign of belonging to a middle-class citizen. Literature and advertisements in postwar America supported the assimilation of immigrants and demonstrated that suburban housing existed only for white middle-class residents. Therefore, Diane Harris means that the exclusive status of suburban housing, advertisements of middle-class white residents, and the white population’s dominance in the postwar suburbs helped construct white identity.

References

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

Rothstein, R. (2017). The color of law: A forgotten history of how our government segregated America. Liveright.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, February 16). Suburbs, Race, and White Identity in Postwar America. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/suburbs-race-and-white-identity-in-postwar-america/

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StudyCorgi. "Suburbs, Race, and White Identity in Postwar America." February 16, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/suburbs-race-and-white-identity-in-postwar-america/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Suburbs, Race, and White Identity in Postwar America." February 16, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/suburbs-race-and-white-identity-in-postwar-america/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Suburbs, Race, and White Identity in Postwar America'. 16 February.

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