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Biological Race

The term “race” has a very narrow definition in evolutionary biology. Biologists use “race” to describe sub-populations of a single interbreeding species that differs from other sub-populations by a small number of specific traits. Those traits correlate precisely with the geographic or ecological distribution of the sub-populations. That is, phenotypes that map onto populations found in one part of the species range are not found in different sub-populations in different portions of the species range. An example of a species with biological races is Heliconius erato. This beautiful butterfly has black wings with red and yellow markings that vary across the species’ range. The species’ range extends from sea level up to 2,300 meters along forest edges throughout Central and South America. In H. erato, a particular wing pattern (red stripe/yellow dots) correlates precisely with its geographic distribution, and wing patterns are sharply demarcated from other wing patterns (red stripe/yellow dots versus red spots/yellow dots).

Like any other animal on the planet, Homo sapiens exhibits phenotypic variation in many traits, including differences among human populations in hemoglobin’s affinity for oxygen, in the ability to metabolize lactose, and in resistance to particular parasites. Of all the phenotypic variation that exists in our species, however, a small number of arbitrarily chosen and superficial characteristics (e.g., hair texture, skin pigmentation, facial features) have been used to define “racial” categories. Biologically speaking, this classification scheme fails for a number of reasons. One problem is that the superficial differences used to draw terminological boundaries around humans (e.g., white, black) have no (or limited) geographic or ecological significance. In this way, human “races” are completely unlike the butterfly example described above. The human “races” one might encounter on a government form are “folk” races that (broadly speaking) have no biological basis, and incorrectly conflate natural variation with variation that correlates with ecological or geographic patterns of population distribution.

The tendency to classify humans into groups, and then assign value to the groups, has resulted in atrocities that plague our society to the present day. Scientists need to speak more directly to the scientifically indefensible racial categories/colloquialisms. The biological reality is that H. sapiens is a large bodied ape of African origins. We are defined by a rich, recent, and shared evolutionary history that has generated a beautiful spectrum of phenotypic differences. But these differences tell us nothing about the quality or capacity of the person.

Colonialism

The word “colonialism,” as Ania Loomba tells us, comes from the Roman word “colonia,” which meant “farm” or “settlement.” From this definition, we might imagine that powerful nations simply expanded their reach to new geographical locations. Yet what historically has been neglected is attention to how these “new” lands were never really new at all, and were in fact inhabited by indigenous human populations who, because of their racial and cultural differences, were seen as inferior, “savage,” and “uncivilized” by their colonizers and thus subjects worthy of domination.

While human history is riddled with colonial encounters between different groups, modern European colonial practices were unique in their global reach and scope. Between the eighteenth century and the 1950s, many Western European powers – including Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands – claimed foreign territories around most of the world as their own. By the start of the First World War in 1914, an overwhelming 84.6% of the earth’s land surface had become “Western” territory. Thus, most of the world’s population at that time was governed by colonial powers whose investments were certainly economically driven, but also rooted in the desire to “civilize” and control the colonized peoples of almost everywhere.

The world as we know it today is mapped very differently in the aftermath of the decolonization struggles of the mid-twentieth century, when much of the world fought to regain some form of political independence. Anti-colonial activists and intellectuals gave rise to a series of global revolutionary movements, and even inspired the Black Panther movement in the United States. The term “post-colonial” therefore describes the temporal period that builds up to and follows the achievement of political independence from colonial rule. Yet today, when much of the world has gained independence from explicit colonial rule, we are left to consider why so much of the world continues to remain bound by Western powers.

—Julietta Singh, English, University of Richmond

Further Reading
  • Césaire, Aimé. Discourse on Colonialism (Discours sur le colonialisme). Trans. Joan
  • Pinkham. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000.
  • Fanon, Frantz. “Concerning Violence.” The Wretched of the Earth (Les damnés de la terre). 1961. New York: Grove Press, 1963. (35-106)
  • Loomba, Ania. Colonialism, Postcolonialism. New York: Routledge, 1998.
  • Said, Edward. Orientalism. 1978. New York: Vintage, 1979.
Dehumanization

Dehumanization is the practice of defining and treating humans as if they are not human. It may take several forms: treating humans as if they are objects, or animals, or statistical information. For example, anthropologists and feminists have analyzed cultures where men “exchange” women as property, treating them like things instead of human persons. When critics evoke it, it is almost always to decry the ways that humans are being treated in ways that are inappropriate to humans but appropriate to other entities. While dehumanization occurs based on factors other than race (such as gender), modernity has seen three major racialized forms of dehumanization.

The first is colonization. When western European countries claimed a majority of the world’s population as part of their empires, much of this imperial expansion was justified and understood as the “civilizing” of the less-than-human natives. In order to be fully “human,” the natives needed to adopt western languages, religions, forms of government, manners, and so on.

The combination of global networks of commerce and transportation set up by colonialism and the belief that most people living outside of western Europe were in some way less-than-human gave rise to racial slavery. Slaves were treated as both beasts of burden and objects that could be bought and sold.

Third, when the Third Reich set about its “Final Solution,” it began with extensive efforts to remove Jewish people (and others) from the category of “human,” both in law and in popular opinion. In a phrase attributed to Adolph Hitler, “The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human.”

In all three cases, racial characteristics were used to delimit “the human” from the inhuman or nonhuman or less-than-human. Paradoxically, as people in the West came to believe that inalienable rights derive from the simple fact of being a human being, there was a simultaneous explosion of discourse justifying global atrocities on the grounds that those oppressed and killed did not need to be included in our ethical universe because they were not “human.”

Importantly, critics of dehumanization have argued that dehumanization in these cases has the effect of dehumanizing everyone. They would have us ask: Does not the fact of being able to treat a fellow human being as a thing prove the inhumanity of the oppressor?

—Nathan Snaza, English, University of Richmond

Further Reading
  • Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
  • Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth.
  • Freire, Paul. Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
  • Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz [If This is a Man].
  • Wollstonecraft, Mary.  A Vindication of the Rights of Women.
Dependency

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “dependency” is a condition in which one is “influenced or determined by or subject to another” or reliant “on another for support.”  Therefore, we say that young children are “dependent” on their parents because they need their care to survive and people with addictions are drug and alcohol dependent because their behavior is strongly shaped by their addictions.  By contrast, to be “independent” is to be free of the control or influence of others, and in the American political tradition, the rhetoric of self-governance and economic self-sufficiency have long gone hand-in-hand.

Today, “dependency” has emerged as a policy problem, as some political leaders have sought to curb what they see as Americans’ increasing reliance on public forms of economic support, particularly among the poor.  Therefore, low-income mothers receiving cash assistance for their families are called “welfare dependent.”  In 1995, congressman Clay Shaw derided welfare as “the last plantation” because it trapped the poor in “dependency.”  Recently, though, some conservatives have used the term “dependent” to describe anyone receiving any government assistance at all, including Social Security and veterans’ benefits.  In 2012, noting that “almost half of America receiv[es] some government benefit,” Rick Santorum asserted that President Barack Obama had created “a nightmare of dependency.”  Independence, therefore, means supporting oneself exclusively through paid employment.

However, when government assistance is equated with dependency, while paid employment is equated with self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, the term serves to reinforce economic arrangements that foster racial, gender, and class inequalities.  Until the end of Jim Crow, the Southern political economy was deeply dependent on the cheap labor of African-Americans.  Southern white prosperity depended on black poverty, poverty so enduring that African-Americans would take any job, no matter how grueling, no matter how little it paid.  Today the national economy rests on a foundation of low-skilled, low-wage manual labor and service-sector jobs heavily populated by racial minorities and immigrants, especially women.  Furthermore, to insist that independence is found only in the paid labor market is to devalue the caregiving that women provide in the home to children and aging parents.  Ironically, while poor families lack the resources to purchase high-quality childcare and eldercare on the market, much of the paid caregiving in nursing homes and daycare centers is done by low-skilled, white and non-white women, whose low wages make the care affordable for privileged families.

—Jennifer Erkulwater, Political Science, University of Richmond

Further Reading
Disenfranchisement

Disenfranchisement is, quite simply, the practice of prohibiting the right to vote. In the United States, unlike liberal constitutional monarchies in Europe, citizens express their preferences/prerogatives through voting. Historically, propertied white men believed that American citizens needed to have an economic investment in society to vote wisely. Until the early 19th century, these men kept poor people from voting by placing strict property requirements on the right to vote. During the mid-19th century, wage laborers and suffragists directly challenged this practice—they met firm resistance. These contestations over equal representation characterize American political development.  It took the majority of African Americans almost 200 years to achieve civic equality.

In terms of race (along with ethnicity and sex), disenfranchisement evolved in two distinct ways: direct and indirect. Following the ratification of the 15th Amendment (which made race-based disenfranchisement illegal), white Southerners maintained control over race relations by directly obstructing access to ballots. Toward the end of the 19th century, white Southerners devised laws (embedded in state constitutions) that made it virtually impossible to cast ballots. Laws like poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses not only directly disenfranchised African Americans, but also women and many poor whites.

The practice of indirect disenfranchisement gained significant momentum following the ratification of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965. African Americans and civic activists spent the better portion of the early 20th century challenging direct disenfranchisement and Washington accommodated these appeals with the VRA. In short, the VRA prevented direct disenfranchisement and sanctioned federal intervention into, and enforcement over, American and Southern politics. Immediately after the act’s ratification, however, Southern whites corrupted the spirit and practice of the VRA by undermining the power derived from voting (indirect disenfranchisement). Between 1965 and 1970, whites ushered in an era of vote dilution by combining white and black districts, relocating polling places to white neighborhoods, threatening economic reprisals against black voters and candidates, and expanding city boundaries into predominantly white suburbs.

By the early 1970s, African Americans and the federal government carried on the momentum of civil rights reform by strengthening not merely the right to vote, but the power derived from voting. Using the VRA, the Supreme Court thwarted whites’ attempts to dilute black votes. The Court allowed African Americans (and other minority groups) to elect candidates of their choice in electoral districts made up of predominantly minorities. These district systems and the VRA have recently come under increasing scrutiny by conservatives who claim that they are racial entitlements. Moreover, disenfranchisement has reemerged in the form of voting disqualification for felons.

The process felon disenfranchisement has, according to recent scholarship, sweeping implications for America’s most vulnerable communities (particularly racial minority communities whose rates of incarceration are disproportionately higher than whites). Rates of incarceration in the United States have risen dramatically since the 1970s (there are over 2 million individuals in America’s penal system). America does not allow incarcerated individuals the right to vote. Many of America’s incarcerated are not only racial minorities; the restrictions on voting for eligible former prisons (many lose the right to vote for life), according to Michelle Alexander, varies from state to state and is “a bureaucratic maze”. This maze, for those that qualify to vote, often discourages the small minority of released felons from voting.  Indeed, like voting restrictions during the Jim Crow era, qualified felons “must pay fines and court costs, and submit a paperwork” to various agencies to re-obtain voting rights. These legal restrictions on released felons are eerily reminiscent to the myriad forms of direct disenfranchisement prior to the civil rights movement. [1]

—Julian Hayter, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

[1] On disenfranchisement and the American penal system see, Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, (New York: The New Press, 2010), 158-161.

Books
  • Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press, 2010.
  • Davidson, Chandler and Grofman, Bernard. Quiet Revolution in the South: The Impact of the Voting Rights Act, 1965-1990. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.
  • Davidson, Chandler (ed.). Minority Vote Dilution. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1989.
  • Klarman, Michael J. From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Kousser, J. Morgan. Colorblind Injustice: Minority Voting Rights and the Undoing of the Second Reconstruction. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
  • Lawson, Steven F. Black Ballots: Voting Rights in the South, 1944-1969. New York: Columbia University Press, 1976.
  • In Pursuit of Power: Southern Blacks and Electoral Politics, 1965-1982. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.
  • Running For Freedom: Civil Rights and Black Politics in America Since 1941. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991.
  • Reed, Jr., Adolph. Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.
  • Thernstrom, Abigail M. Whose Votes Count? Affirmative Action and Minority Voting Rights. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987.
  • Vallely, Richard, M. The Second Reconstruction: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Supreme Court Cases on Voting Rights
  • Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U.S. 544 (1969).
  • Avery v. Midland County Texas, 390 U.S. 474 (1967).
  • Bond v. Floyd, 385 U.S. 115 (1966).
  • Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1917).
  • Chavis v. Whitcomb, 403 U.S. 124 (1971).
  • City of Petersburg v. United States, 93 S. Ct. 1441 (1973).
  • City of Richmond v. United States, 422 U.S. 358 (1975).
  • Connor v. Johnson, 402 U.S. 690 (1971).
  • Farley v. Patterson, 166 App. Div. 358, 152 NY Supp. 59.
  • Fortsen v. Dorsey, 379 U.S. 433 (1965).
  • Harper v. Virginia Board of Election,. 383 U.S. 663 (1966).
  • Holt v. City of Richmond, 344 F.Supp 228 (1972).
  • Holt v. City of Richmond, 459 F.2d 1093 (1972).
  • Perkins v. Matthews, 400 U.S. 379 (1971).
  • Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964).
  • Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944).
  • South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301 (1966).
  • White v. Regester, 412 U.S. 755 (1973).
Diversity

Since the mid-1980s, “diversity” has become a major emphasis in Corporate America and U.S. higher education. Despite its clear influence over a wide range of organizational policy and practice, however, diversity’s actual meaning is much less clear, and that may be both its appeal and its central problem. “Diversity,” according to one research team, “is what you want it to be”: people tend to construe its meaning in ways that are consistent with their existing motivations (Unzueta 2012).

In common usage, “diversity” can refer to a seeming infinite range of human differences, including geographic origin, family size, birth order, race, the kind of school attended, political persuasion, gender, musical tastes, height, social class, etc. In higher ed and Corporate America, diversity is about being “inclusive” (to use current lingo) of all types of people, regardless of their experience or background. In other instances, “diversity” can refer to a short-list of differences related to social inequity, such as class, gender, race, sexuality, or ability.

Curiously, “diversity” also works as a kind of specific code for “race.” People can say “diversity,” but what is typically meant or heard is something about the presence of non-white or black people in white settings. When we are told, for example, that the incoming class is “diverse,” most people would take it as misleading if the speaker was not referring to race. But when “diversity” means “race,” race itself becomes reduced to one type of difference among others, which effectively makes invisible the systemic inequities and exploitation that actually perpetuate racism. Diversity, in this sense, manages race by making it just another kind of difference and thereby making the messiness of racial politics disappear.

How did it come to this?

Building on the insight that simply being nice to workers increases their productivity, the field of management took a turn in the 1980s away from authoritarian and finance-driven modes of workplace supervision and motivation toward a new future of human relations focused on managing culture (Newfield 1998). And when it came to the “problem” of workplace diversity—that is, people of color and women in white male organizations—the shift toward culture proved handy for companies looking to lessen the external legal pressure of affirmative action. “Diversity management” was born.

As diversity has secured its place in our ethos, its alignment with corporate and institutional interests has become more refined. Under the diversity banner, difference in general and race in particular have been transformed into market-friendly issues, with organizations pledging to eliminate individual prejudice and discrimination. Current “best practices,” for example, promote “cultural competencies” to help foster effective interactions with people who are different (which is to say, non-white). As solutions to racism, however, such individualizing efforts fall quite short, or worse. For one thing, reducing racism to a problem of interpersonal dynamics distorts it to the point of giving it new life, because it makes invisible the broader structures that shape patterns of racial inequity—such as wealth and incarceration rates, to take two examples.

For another, when universities and companies transform racism into a problem of individual prejudice, they conveniently obscure their own roles in perpetuating structural racism. Because universities, colleges, and other companies are powerful actors in regional, national, and global economies, they are implicated in the inequities perpetuated by those systems (Gordon 1995). And a robust diversity initiative can provide a sanctifying cover, managing race as an individualized problem and absolving the organization from accountability for the larger patterns and structures. These are a few of the ways that “diversity” can be antagonistic to racial justice.

—Glyn Hughes, Common Ground, University of Richmond

Further Reading
  • Berrey, E. C. (2011). Why diversity became orthodox in higher education, and how it changed the meaning of race on campus. Critical Sociology, 37(5), 573-596.
  • Gordon, A. (1995, Autumn-Winter). The work of corporate culture: Diversity management. Social Text, 44, 3-30.
  • Newfield, C. (1998). Corporate culture wars. Corporate futures: the diffusion of the culturally sensitive corporate form (Vol. 5). Marcus, G. E. (Ed.). University of Chicago Press, 23-62.
  • Unzueta, M. M., Knowles, E. D., & Ho, G. C. (2012). Diversity is what you want it to be: how social-dominance motives affect construals of diversity. Psychological science, 23(3), 303-309
Economic Development

Thanks to the Richmond Peace Education Center for their partnership with Common Ground and for sharing their series of videos, “Richmond, Race, and Regionalism.”

Education

Thanks to the Richmond Peace Education Center for their partnership with Common Ground and for sharing their series of videos, “Richmond, Race, and Regionalism.”

Entitlements

Dr. Jennifer Erkulwater (Political Science) discusses the concept of “entitlements”.

First-Generation Students

Guest speaker Dr. George Sanchez (University of Southern California) addresses the concept and needs of "first-generation students" in higher education.

Housing

Thanks to the Richmond Peace Education Center for their partnership with Common Ground and for sharing their series of videos, “Richmond, Race, and Regionalism.”

Race-Neutral/Race Blind

“Race-neutral” and “race-blind” are terms used to describe a situation, an institution, a society, or an individual’s worldview that is apparently free of racism.  Race-blind people and organizations with race-neutral laws and examinations are said to be free of prejudice regarding a people’s background or the color of their skin.  In labeling something “race neutral,” Americans hope for or expect a “level playing field” on which every person can succeed entirely on his or her own merits.  They see a world in which, as Dr. Martin Luther King put it, people are “judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.” Indeed, race blindness is tied tightly to notions of meritocracy, a belief in neutral testing and “deserved” success.

The trouble is, there have never been institutions or communities in the United States entirely free of assumptions of racial inferiority.  Americans react to the color of a person’s skin whether or not they are aware of it, and American institutions bear a history racism that few have overcome fully.  In fact, claims of race neutrality have often impeded the pursuit of social justice in the United States by denying the insidious ubiquity of racial thinking in American life.  In imagining that we are free of racial thinking, we lose the impetus to act against the persistence of racism, even as evidence continues to mount that race still affects career opportunities, criminal justice practices, and prospects for free and healthy lives.  Civil rights activists have long worked to build a world in which the fiction of biological racial difference no longer shapes lived experience.  But imagining that we live in such a world today means mistaking aspiration for reality, often with the tragic consequences of inaction and entrenched inequality.

—Eric Yellin, History, University of Richmond

Further Reading
  • Alexander, Michelle.  The New Jim Crow.  New York: New Press, 2012.
  • Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo.  Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.
  • Omi, Michael and Howard Winant. Racial Formation in the United States: From 1960s to the 1990s. New York Routledge, 1994.
  • Sugrue, Thomas J. Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North.  New York: Random House, 2008.
  • Williams, Patricia J.  Alchemy of Race and Rights. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.
Redlining

Redlining describes a practice where residents in some neighborhoods were placed at a decided disadvantage in accessing mortgages and other financial services.  The term itself refers to the drawing of red lines on a map to indicate where banks should avoid making loans.  Redlined neighborhoods were classified as too undesirable or risky for financial institutions to invest in. The redlining designation trumped other factors (such as the income of the applicant or the quality of the house) when an otherwise creditworthy individual applied for a mortgage.

While redlining in the United States had a negative impact upon some working-class neighborhoods, there is no question that during the twentieth century racial minorities, particularly African Americans, bore its brunt. Private financial institutions and federal agencies involved in housing claimed that the new standardized appraisal and lending methods they developed were objective. They insisted that those methods (which included redlining, though they didn’t use that term) were based upon a wealth of carefully considered evidence and informed by the best social scientific research of the day. In practice, those methods were undeniably racialist and racist. The mere presence of African Americans or other racial and ethnic minorities, including Jews and recent immigrants, often resulted in mortgages becoming inaccessible for whole neighborhoods regardless of other criteria. For instance, during the Great Depression the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), a New Deal agency, evaluated and assigned grades to thousands of neighborhoods in over 200 American cities. With very few exceptions African Americans neighborhoods were assigned the lowest grade of “D,” or “hazardous,” and colored red on the maps the HOLC produced. White neighborhoods were typically given grades of “A,” “B,” and “C,” advantaging them for loans.

For much of the twentieth century, redlining practices were abetted, endorsed, and promoted by a number of agencies in the federal government. Even as federal policies helped increase numbers of white middle-class Americans who could purchase homes after World War II, federally sanctioned redlining practices prevented many African Americans and other people of color from doing the same. Through redlining they were often cut off from homeownership, an increasingly important path to personal wealth creation and a central component of the proverbial American Dream. The federal government began to outlaw racially discriminatory redlining practices during the Civil Rights Era with legislation like the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

In recent years many people of color have increasingly become prey to reverse redlining. Instead of being systematically denied access to mortgages, some financial institutions have targeted them for predatory loans that charge higher rates and fees than mortgages offered to otherwise similar white applicants.

—Robert Nelson, Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond

—Amy Howard, Center for Civic Engagement, University of Richmond

Social Race

Dr. Jan French (Anthropology) discusses the concept of “social race”.

Transportation

Thanks to the Richmond Peace Education Center for their partnership with Common Ground and for sharing their series of videos, “Richmond, Race, and Regionalism.”

White Flight

White flight is best understood in the context of white resistance to movements for racial integration and racial equality, especially in the postwar South. The case of Richmond, Virginia is a telling example. Following the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision of 1954, white political leaders in Virginia embraced strategies designed to slow and if possible thwart altogether the racial integration of public schools in the state. “Massive resistance” strategies gave way to tokenist forms of integration in the city in the 1960s, before federal courts intervened and required the city to implement more substantial racial integration policy in the early 1970s. Over the following decade, the proportion of white students in Richmond Public Schools fell dramatically. Some whites stayed in the city and attended private schools, but many others relocated to the surrounding counties of Henrico and Chesterfield. This move by whites away from the city to avoid having to send children to schools with substantial levels of racial integration is a prime example of white flight.

Scholars of southern cities like Atlanta have demonstrated how not just public education but racial integration of public parks, public golf courses, swimming pools, and other facilities in which whites and blacks might come into close contact stimulated virulent white resistance and, after formal racial segregation was overturned, white flight. Whites could achieve the goal of inhabiting racially homogenous spaces by relocating to suburbs with few people of color. Closely related to this, many suburban communities practiced (and continue to practice) exclusionary zoning—i.e. restrictions on the kinds of housing that can be built in those communities, with the effect (and often, intent) of limiting the number of low-income residents who might move in. Racially biased practices by the private real estate industry also played an important role in preventing African-Americans from relocating to suburban communities in the second half of the twentieth century.

The consequences of white flight for American cities and for social justice in the United States are profound. White flight combined with other forms of suburbanization helped create the distinctively American pattern of high-poverty, disproportionately African-American and Latino central cities surrounded by more affluent, largely white suburban communities, each with distinctive sets of public institutions (such as schools).  This pattern of de facto segregation both constitutes and reinforces racial and economic inequality. Affluent suburban white communities with minimal poverty typically have high-quality public schools with strong, well-compensated teachers, strong facilities, high levels of public safety, and many other amenities. Central city communities often have schools with high numbers of impoverished students, many of whom have special needs, attending schools in older facilities, in neighborhoods with much higher levels of crime. This discrepancy is a key mechanism for the reproduction of inequality in the United States. It also helps create a distinctly suburban politics that is more conservative and opposed to institutional changes designed to rectify inequality and to redistributive tax and spending programs aimed at mitigating inequalities between suburbs and central cities.

—Thad Williamson, Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond

Further Reading
  • Kevin Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism
  • Matthew Lassiter, The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South
  • Robert Pratt, The Color of Their Skin: Education and Race in Richmond, Virginia, 1954-1989
  • James Ryan, Five Miles Away, A World Apart: One City, Two Schools, and the Story of Educational Opportunity in Modern America
  • Thad Williamson, Sprawl, Justice and Citizenship: The Civic Costs of the American Way of Life