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.