Quick hit: Ta-Nehisi on why we have ghettos

Spoiler alert: It’s not by chance. You must read TNC’s piece at The Atlantic today, about housing policy in the 1950s and how it created and reinforced the racial wealth gap. It’s a story of legalized exploitation, of how the structures and policies of the United States government were not perverted, but used as intended, to create an economic underclass.

Jim Crow — Northern or Southern — is usually rendered to us as an archaic system in which people irrationally decide to separate from each other just based on skin color. There’s a reason that so many of us remember Martin Luther King’s line about little white boys and little black boys holding hands. It’s comforting to us. Less comforting is that fact that Jim Crow amounted to the legal pilfering of resources from the black communities to advantage white people across generations. In Mississippi, it meant the right to reduce someone to sharecropping, or to benefit politically from their census numbers while not giving them any representation, or to tax them for services they did not enjoy equal access to. In Chicago, it meant the legalized theft of black wealth by white agents.

It is very hard to accept this — the wealth gap is not a mistake. It is the logical outcome of policy and democratic will. From the streets of Cicero on up, the point was to imprison black people in the black belt and then exploit them. The goal was pursued through public policy, private action, and open terrorism. The goal was accomplished.

You can read the whole thing here. And when you’re done, you should click on the reading list he provides, and go read a little more on the topic.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/jcalchemist/ James Cornwell

    Not for nothing, but TNC has a whole series of posts with that same title. He published the reading list to tell his readers what had inspired all that stuff. It started with The Warmth of Other Suns and continued from there, and it’s all super-enlightening, at least it was for me.