Housing segregation swindled white people dearly
I’m not a fan of segregated communities. De facto residential segregation still exists. But now they exist under the guise of empowerment. The idea that it is empowering is a myth and you will never empower, fix, or repair a segregated community. Segregated communities were created for the explicit purpose to break one group of people while providing a minor social boost to other people. There is nothing empowering about the many pockets of concentrated poverty, a segregated workforce, and the 1 in a trillion chance to be the sole chosen Black representative that gets amplified for relaying Black Pathos to hegemony. These Black representatives are used to contradict the actual social reality. Their winning the racial lottery is used to suggest that the US is always the land of opportunity because at least they made it. All of which oddly negates the pathos and turns the consequences of racism and the act of racism itself into a wildly entertaining sadomasochistic caricature.
But what about white people? We rarely talk about what white people have lost owing to segregation, and we should. Segregation has significantly cost white people capital. Redlining drove middle and working-class whites out of valuable urban areas, even white people who weren’t racist. They had no choice. They were literally pushed out because they could not obtain loans in areas that had Black people as neighbors, and if they had Black neighbors, they had to sell their homes or lose all of their equity, which is the only wealth most Americans have.
While the average (mean) wealth for white people is astronomical at nearly a million dollars, the median is the real story. The median wealth for nonwealthy white people is around $188,000, which is tied up mainly in their homes. The below chart shows how dire the situation is for everyone.
Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity in the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, the chart is in thousands
Without a house, we would all be about the same in worth. Wealthy people need white people to ignore this hard truth. Wealthy people need white people to forget that their only privilege is they are not Black. And that privilege only works within the confines of the US borders, and it does not include health insurance, childcare, or college and may involve working in person during COVID.
Look at the property values today in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Newark, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Los Angeles. The white people, for the most part benefiting from the increased values, are newer, wealthier white people. The middle class and the working class fled. That 1 million dollars average worth for white people? Those are the scammers and grifters that manipulated poorer white people into escaping to the suburbs. They probably even helped them pack.
Even the property values of “rough” communities like Paterson, Passaic, Historical South Central Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Irvington are holding up well. As the property values were forced down artificially when an area was redlined, those properties were bought up by rich speculators and slumlords. And then they rented those areas out to Black, Puerto Rican, and Mexican American families at the price that was almost the same. Renting in the hypersegregated ghettos is expensive. That is a dirty little secret, and it has always been that way. And I don’t mean more costly in comparison to salary. I mean more expensive in actual dollar amount for comparable amenities. Section 8 has only added to the rent inflation as it goes by the median area rent of the Metro area. Why should a slumlord not try to get as much as possible for a unit? The government is paying for it. If you aren’t on Section 8 and Black good luck renting outside the ghetto the Fair Housing Act has never been enforced, especially with Black people. You better get some overtime.
White people lost millions, possibly billions when they were incentivized through blockbusting to move to the New Jersey suburbs or in the case of Los Angeles, to suburban deserts in Arizona and Nevada. Dirty old dollars were traded for shiny new pennies out on cheap rural land.
There were other consequences to the drive (pun intended) to suburbia. Now those families needed multiple cars to drive everywhere in the suburbs because the cul-du-sac model prevented efficient walking and bicycling. Most of the public transport in a highly dispersed habitation will be focused on getting people into the center cities. New Jersey has an AMAZING public transportation system, to get into New York City or Philadelphia. But trying to move perpendicular to those arteries can take hours. Are you going from Bloomfield to Paramus? That’s three buses, and hope that you don’t miss your connecting bus at a Hasbrouck Heights street corner with no shelter for rain, snow, sleet, hail, or high heat and humidity. Want to take public transportation from the desert to West Los Angeles? Well, good luck once the train dumps you out literally on skidrow. Maybe one of our houseless people can tell you where the vomit-covered bus stop is as Metro Los Angeles has no in-person customer service at its stations.
The cost of a car and keeping it up is expensive for a family. And now that both spouses are mobile, maybe with driving-age children, let’s multiply it by two, or three, or four. Each car costs approximately $10,000 a year to purchase on credit, insure, fuel, and maintain. Suburbs are tax losers. The taxes to support the many roads, lights, sewers, school bus routes, and civil government for each municipality are expensive. Often those costs are more than can be paid through reasonable property tax rates. These costs could have been dramatically reduced if white people had been given a choice to live in more dense communities near neighbors that were Black.
There is also a mental health cost to racially exclusive white suburbia. The suicide rate by gun is 92% white men (Metzl, 2020). The lack of any enforcement of gun policy and the lack of funding for the study of gun violence is based in part on the supposed Fear of a Black Planet. The unspoken but deadly mythology of white people’s need to defend their homes and neighborhoods from the invading black menace is the excuse for allowing the continuation of clearly stochastic terrorism activities that end up mainly killing white women and white children. White men with god complexes are allowed to kill themselves and their families owing to their lust to subjugate the imaginary Black people who don’t even live in their communities (Feagin, 2013). There are plenty of countries that allow for animal hunting, but they don’t allow their citizenry unfettered access to guns. Guns in American communities (suburbia and the inner cities) across racial and class lines in large part have very little to do with hunting animals and very much to do with racism, misogyny, and the hunting of humans.
White people voted to defund higher education in the 1980s, which locked their white children into crushing debt. This was able to happen in part owing to racism fueled by an acceptance of racial segregation. “You make bad choices when you do not know the people who are being lied about” (Feagin, 2013). The Zero-Sum Game was used again to pit white people against people of color for limited educational opportunities. The defunding of colleges in the 1980s was allowed by manipulating white people into thinking Black college students were replacing them (Bell, 1988).
White America is an abused spouse whose racial isolation has reduced its autonomy which allows the wealthy to more easily control and manipulate it. And White America are you winning, generally, no, you’re not.
If the white middle class can stand up to the racists in their community and the white misleadership, then they could link up with the African Americans, who culturally are very similar, and actually, change the system, and make it better for everyone, including themselves. Ending residential segregation and racism generally, is not an altruistic endeavor for white people. It is an action that will help white America’s health and economic situation, and ultimately all of America.
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Bell, T. H. (1988). The thirteenth man: A Reagan cabinet memoir. Free Press.
Massey, D. S. & Denton, N. A. (1993). American apartheid: Segregation and the making of the underclass. Harvard University Press.
Feagin, J. R. (2013). The white racial frame: Centuries of racial framing and counter-framing. Routledge.
Metzl, J. (2020). Dying of whiteness: How the politics of racial resentment is killing America's heartland. Basic Books.
I like that you expanded this topic to describe the financial and sociological effects on working and middle class whites. When I see redlining discussed in public, I often read in the comments white racists laughing or labeling this as unwarranted "black victimization." The reality is that these suburban whites are being played, yoked, saddled, and are being ridden into the ground. In Animal Farm, they are the Mollies.