African-Americans Are Second Term Paper

Pages: 12 (3977 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] These blacks were displaced by highways constructed under the National Highway Act of 1956. Other municipal improvements included the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, which displaced hundreds of poor black families living in the area in an attempt to improve the neighborhood. When the highways were built and families were displaced, white people received home loans to live in the suburbs, while blacks were sent to projects where they had no hope of gentrification improving their neighborhoods.

Although housing projects were ostensibly designed to help black people, the effect of their construction was usually the opposite. An article published in The Economist in 1998, Chicago's problems were born when Mayor Daley and other prominent politicians began to use public housing to segregate the city's rapidly growing black population...The result was hulking high-rises in poor black neighbourhoods, the worst of which is an uninterrupted four-mile stretch of public housing on the city's south side. The Robert Taylor Homes are the hallmark of this corridor -- a clump of more than two dozen 16-storey buildings, identical except for the colour of their brick and the way they face..The result is the biggest concentration of poverty in America.

Other cities faced worse fates, as the white flight to the suburbs left them almost exclusively poor, black, and bankrupt. White flight from Newark, New Jersey to its suburbs, which started in the '40s and accelerated in the '60s, drove city revenues down, leading to another problem associated with the new black inner city: urban blight. According to Thomas Dolan at Rutgers University, between 1960 and 1970, Newark experienced a 6.6% drop in population (26,998 residents) while the surrounding region's population increased by 14%. Between 1960 and 1967, a net total of more than 70,000 white residents moved out of the city. During the same amount of time, the city went from 65% white to 52% black and 10% Puerto Rican.

By the end of the 1960's, blacks not only went to separate schools from whites, they lived in different kinds of communities, they were much poorer, and they were radicalized in opposition to what they saw as an alien culture. In a famous speech, Malcolm X referred to those that assumed that their lot would be improved alongside that of the whites as the house negros, which he contrasted with the radically anti-white majority of blacks, that he likened to the field negros. Malcolm X implores the blacks to use violence against whites, saying;

You bleed for white people, but when it comes to seeing your own churches being bombed and little black girls murdered; you haven't got any blood. You bleed when the white man says bleed; you bite when the white man says bite; and you bark when the white man says bark. I hate to say this about us, but it's true. How are you going to be nonviolent in Mississippi, as violent as you were in Korea? How can you justify being nonviolent in Mississippi and Alabama, when your churches are being bombed, and your little girls are being murdered, and at the same time you are going to get violent with Hitler, and Tojo, and somebody else you don't even know?

Leaders such as Malcolm X and James Baldwin adopted the revolutionary class rhetoric that had been refined by white intellectuals in order to implore the proletariat to self-identify as a group that maintained separate interests from those of other classes.

Whites had never seen blacks in this class context before: it implied that they were of equal ability and shredded the notion of an equitable democratic polity. Since blacks were seen as having inferior minds to those of whites, white racism, even in a "compassionate" incarnation, retained a paternalistic role. Social reformers such as Margaret Sanger and politicians such as Mayor Daley saw blacks as a social responsibility, reducing the governments efforts to help blacks to one of stewardship. Although this is arguably a social policy aimed at alleviating poverty, it is much different in focus from the black empowerment efforts that were to follow, in that it reflects the notion that blacks are inferior. By re-imagining the black population in a class context, Malcolm X and others were to win a pyrrhic victory. They illustrated the politics of race as intolerable to blacks, but at the same time re-invented the black social reformer as a hardened militant who saw himself as cheated by society and by the course of American history.

This negative self-image lead many blacks to play into the trap devised for them by the anti-egalitarian social reformers and politicians: the young urban black male or female, estranged from the social mainstream, was to live within the confines of the blighted and abandoned urban centers, his or her life pre-determined by the effects of an environment populated by adults collecting public assistance (95% of public housing residents in the Chicago projects reviewed by The Economist,) a criminal justice system that punished non-violent drug offenders, and underfunded schools. New drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine, which were often introduced to the United States with the full support of high officials within the United States government, devastated previously respectable black communities in places like Washington, DC. Even blacks that had managed to escape this cycle and join the middle class were negatively effected by these stereotypes, which persist to this day.

Whereas escalation can be seen in the history of the black experience in the United States, it is even more important when seen through the eyes of children growing up in American communities. The New York Times conducted a nationwide series of surveys on the nature of race relations in the United States in 1999 and 2000. They focused on the lives of young people in various communities and showed how race affects people in the 21st century and were eventually compiled into a book called "How Race is Lived in America." One article, "Growing Up, Growing Apart" by Tamar Lewin, investigates a racial behavioral dichotomy in the middle-class town of Maplewood, New Jersey.

The article tells the story of three children who were best friends: Johanna, Kelly, and Aqeelah, and focuses on how racial differences among their peers threatened to drive them apart. According to the book, the racial balance between blacks and whites in the South Orage-Maplewood school district is almost exactly even. What's more, the blacks in this school district are middle class, and even manage to enjoy a higher median income than the whites. According to the Times, however, even here, as if pulled by internal magnets, black and white children begin to separate at sixth grade. These are children who walked to school together, learned to read together, slept over at each other's houses. But despite all the personal history, all the community good will, race divides them as they grow up. As racial consciousness develops -- and the practice of grouping students by perceived ability sends them on diverging academic paths -- race becomes as much a fault line in their world as in the one their parents hoped to move beyond."

Johanna conferred to Times reporters one experience that she had talking to another black student. "People are always asking, 'What are you?' And I don't really like it," she said. "I told him I'm half white and half Puerto Rican, and he said, 'But you act black.' I told him you can't act like a race. I hate that idea. He defended it, though. He said I would have a point if he'd said African-American, because that's a race, but black is a way of acting. I've thought about it, and I think he's right." As they are starting high school, black children have difficulty identifying themselves. Because blacks are thought both by blacks and whites to have their own culture, any attempt to adopt cultural standards based on taste rather than racial posturing is seen as contrarian. We remember Malcolm X's excoriation of blacks that saw themselves as members of society rather than as members of black society, who he demonized as "Uncle Toms."

Again and again, we see these children condition themselves to behave in distinctly separate ways based on perceived racial identity. The example is given of Aqeelah, the little black Muslim girl, getting reprimanded by her friends for picking up something a fellow black girl had dropped on the floor.

Why do you have to be like a white person? her friend retorted. Just leave it there. But Aqeelah picked it up.

There's stuff like that all the time, and it gets on my nerves," she said later. "Like at track, in the locker room, there's people telling a Caucasian girl she has a big butt for a white person, and I'm like, 'Who cares, shut up.'"

The article notes that at the elementary school, the students all play together without regard to race. When interviewed, a third grade student claims that the racial… [END OF PREVIEW]

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