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Black People Acutely Aware of Structural Racism

If you don’t like ‘structural racism,’ try ‘the dice are still loaded.’

The evidence for it is undeniable.

White families typically accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars in wealth, mostly in homes they own. Black families typically don’t own homes, so they don’t accumulate such wealth.

Why?

Whole Black-majority neighborhoods were systematically red-lined by banks that would not issue mortgages in those areas. When the Federal Housing Authority and the Veterans Administration began subsidizing home-ownership, these same red-lined areas were left out.

It used to be that Blacks were systematically excluded from higher-paid jobs. Now, it’s a direct consequence of Blacks’ poorer educational opportunities. 

Most deeds had a clause that prohibited sale of the property to anyone of the Negro race. Those clauses were ruled unconstitutional in the late 1940s, but the informal practice continued. Red-lining itself was outlawed in the late 1960s, but affordable mortgages remained hard to get in those neighborhoods. When banking deregulation allowed mortgages to be issued to people whose ability to pay was questionable, it was Blacks who got sucked in, putting thousands of dollars into homes, only to default and lose everything. The dice are still loaded.

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Schools were ordered desegregated in 1954, a process that went on into the late 1960s. Today, all schools are officially integrated, but the best schools are 95% White and the worst ones are 95% Black. That’s partly due to continuing residential segregation, partly due to supposedly color-blind ‘standards’ that assure that students who got inferior early education can’t leap into better secondary education. The dice are still loaded.

Blacks have half the average annual income as Whites. It used to be that Blacks were systematically excluded from higher-paid jobs. Now, it’s a direct consequence of Blacks’ poorer educational opportunities. And in turn, Blacks on average are less able to afford mortgages and thus less able to accumulate wealth. The dice are still loaded.

A hugely disproportionate number of killings by police are committed on Black men. Black men who haven’t been killed yet are hugely over-represented in our prison population. It used to be that Black men were lynched on suspicion of raping White women. Now, police regard any Black man as suspect, while Whites get the benefit of the doubt. And once you’ve been in prison, your right to vote and your access to jobs is often restricted. The dice are still loaded.

You get the idea. Blacks know all this. Whites need to learn it, if we are ever to make our society live up to the goals of “liberty and justice for all.”

For Blacks, there’s a paradox here: knowing it can dis-empower you. As Blacks in a society where the dice are still loaded, you have a right to lay your problems at the door of systemic racism. But that, of course, doesn’t make things any better for you.

Blacks have historically had at least two answers to this dilemma. One is exemplified by the Black middle class, most of whom have gotten where they are from disadvantaged backgrounds. They have seen opportunities and taken them. They’re still subject to subtle as well as blatant discrimination. They can still get killed by cops. But they have refused to be confined by the circumstances of their birth. And they have been lucky.

impeachment unavoidable

Another major response to loaded dice has been to organize, to protest, to call out the name of injustice, to demand that America live up to its creed. While members of the Black middle class rise individually, overcoming their disadvantages without changing society, protest movements demand such change for the masses. While some Blacks may see no alternative to being stuck in poverty, protesters envision a more just order.

It is up to Whites to get rid of systemic racism, but Blacks have open to them at least these two constructive responses to injustice.

John Peeler