I thought that this video from NPR was very interesting in light of our conversation surrounding poverty and racism. While this video does not relate directly to racism it highlights a system that has institutionalized racism in a way that makes breaking the class barrier almost impossible. In the US, most of the time individuals will be born into the same class that they will die in. In our capitalist market based system, it is incredibly hard, and almost impossible, to gain any kind of upward mobility.
As we have often discussed in my Urban Social Problems class, labor market is one that advantages the few and serves as a huge barrier for most. With most of our job market remaining in the service sector where there are only minimum wage jobs, or lower, and there is almost no room for upward mobility for promotions, it is no wonder that we have a stagnant lower class unable to remove themselves from their current situations. Another large reason that African Americans are unable to advance, distinct from their social class, is their race.
I think that many people don’t consider our system racist because they have not felt the effects of it. Someone said this in a class which I found really interesting: “Because of the way our economic system was established, whites don’t have to act ‘racist’ to benefit from a racist system that was established generations ago.” For many the idea of an American racist society does not exist because they have not been exposed to it.
One of the other ways that African Americans have been marginalized and historically suppressed in the United States is through housing. A lot of this is related to the historical practice of red-lining where the federal government gave out subsidies following World War II for housing loans but only two percent of these loans were reserved for African-Americans while the white people received ninety-eight percent of the subsidies. This effectively allowed for the creation of disproportionately wealthy neighborhoods while at the same time urban ghettos and low-income areas were growing. Today, this is still very relevant because so much wealth is tied into housing. If you are the child of a homeowner, you are much more likely to have inherited wealth once your parents die because there is value in owning a house. Most African American families were forced to rent homes during this time because they did not receive subsidies so this systematic racism proved to suppress African Americans even further.
I think this is something to consider as we analyze our political and economic systems today. How did we get to this point where we are today?