American Journal of Economics and Sociology

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  • Sanitation Inequity and the Cumulative Effects of Racism in Colorblind Public Health Policies

    A majority of Lowndes County, Alabama, residents live without properly functioning, legal, basic sanitation infrastructure. We describe the contemporary racialization of sanitation inequality in the county. We trace structural dimensions of race in land tenure through the heir property system, housing availability, and public health enforcement. Our analysis shows how cumulative effects of colorblind policies overlain on explicitly racist foundations operate to establish public health sanitation law as a persistent mechanism of producing racial stratification.

  • The History of Residential Segregation in the United States, Title VIII, and the Homeownership Remedy

    Residential segregation was practiced by federal, state, and local governments as an instrument of racial domination in the United States throughout much of the 20th century. Systematic racial discrimination in housing was unconstitutionally developed and implemented by state and federal agencies. Laws, regulations, and private practices in the real estate industry were used to promote legally enforced residential segregation in the United States. Zoning, redlining, and blockbusting created the division of our urban landscape along the color line: black and white. Residential segregation has had debilitating impacts on African Americans in cities in terms of lost opportunities for economic prosperity and the denial of homeownership and the wealth‐building potential that comes from it. Oakland, California is at the center of this research, where urban renewal and an interstate highway destroyed whole neighborhoods in West Oakland. The Acorn Housing Project was built in the aftermath of the urban renewal program. Title VIII of the Fair Housing Act remains the most promising basis for developing strategies for African Americans to fully engage in American’s legacy of wealth building through homeownership—the American Dream. Historically, that dream was designed only for white America. The task now is to realize it for everyone.

  • Cracking the Racial Code: Black Threat, White Rights and the Lexicon of American Politics

    Racially coded language that appeals to racial bias without open bigotry has a long history in the politics of the United States. Politicians intentionally activate the latent racial biases of both racial conservatives and center‐left liberals without explicitly talking about race. Conservative positions on significant policy areas have shifted over time on the basis of coded racial appeals. Fundamental rights are coded as white rights. Government actions to aid the poor or reduce discrimination are coded as black threats. The racial dimension explains the changing positions of American conservatism on gun rights, crime and mass incarceration, immigration, the welfare state, federalism, and economic policy. White racial identity, mobilized by coded political talk, restrains the potential for cross‐racial coalitions and perpetuates the political repression of nonwhite Americans.

  • Issue Information
  • The War on Drugs, Racial Meanings, and Structural Racism: A Holistic and Reproductive Approach

    The War on Drugs in the United States has been part of a system of social control targeting low‐income black and Latinx communities. While this statement has been contested, its validity is clear from an encompassing framework that considers the history of racially motivated laws and practices and moral panics among whites who have blamed drug‐related social problems and crime on marginalized racial groups. We develop a holistic and reproductive approach to understanding racial oppression by analyzing racial meanings and structural racism related to the War on Drugs. To uncover structural racism, we propose a framework that captures the relationship between drug policies and enforcement practices, racialized mass incarceration, the distribution of resources, and the reproduction of racial oppression in the United States. To examine racial meanings, we present findings from an in‐depth content analysis of newspaper articles and digital media discussing the War on Drugs. Based on over 30 years of news content—394 op‐eds, letters to the editor, and news articles and 3,145 comments drawn from the comments sections of online news articles—we argue that criminal justice practices and the distribution of racial meanings through the media act as racialized structuring mechanisms. We demonstrate how those mechanisms work in tandem to strengthen and naturalize the connection between racial groups and unequal social positions. We uncover how dominant racial meanings act as symbolic resources that maintain forms of structural racism such as the War on Drugs. Finally, we discuss the benefits of our approach and suggest relevant and necessary future research and practices.

  • On the Perils of Race Neutrality and Anti‐Blackness: Philosophy as an Irreconcilable Obstacle to (Black) Thought

    Race‐neutral philosophies often depend on the illusion of a universal humanist orientation. This philosophical position, while common, often misses what is concretely at stake in the diagnosis and analyses of anti‐Black racism in the United States. This article argues that racism is part of a deliberate strategy of academic philosophy to keep the discipline white. When one considers the demographic underrepresentation of Blacks compared to other groups in the academy, the use of universal pretenses to negate the experiences of racial minorities, and the sociological realities of race and racism in America, academic philosophy emerges as one of many ideological stratagems used to deny the realities of death and dying in our society. The authors argue that race neutrality and colorblindness cloak the societal consequences and disciplinary practices that allow segregation, violence, and anti‐Black death to continue unabated.

  • “The Inevitable Products of Racial Segregation”: Multigenerational Consequences of Exclusionary Housing Policies on African Americans, 1910–1960

    From 1910 to 1960, whites fought viciously and persistently to prevent African Americans from living in decent housing in racially integrated neighborhoods. In 1910, Baltimore was the first city to adopt an ordinance banning African Americans from white neighborhoods. In part, this law was justified as a means to restrain the violent behavior of white citizens who might otherwise act as vigilantes against their black neighbors. Other cities followed suit. These racial zones were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, for 31 years this Court sanctioned the adoption of private restrictive covenants that were effective at blocking African Americans from buying or renting a house in a white neighborhood. In the 1930s, the insertion of racially restrictive covenants became both a protective mechanism and a prerequisite for federal mortgage lending, insurance, and guarantees by a variety of national housing agencies. In effect, the federal government enforced racial segregation even though local governments were not allowed to. The net effect of three decades of federal housing programs was to drive an economic wedge between federally subsidized housing for whites and federally enforced denial of housing loans in African American neighborhoods. Those policies made whites wealthy at the expense of African Americans, a condition that still persists and will continue to do so in the absence of federal intervention to reverse the wealth gap it helped to create.

  • Race and Location: The Role Neighborhoods Play in Family Wealth and Well‐Being

    A household’s wealth provides an important form of economic security for a family, as well as enabling parents to invest in children to help them realize their aspirations. Yet in the United States, wealth inequality between white families and families of color who are earning the same incomes has reached startling levels. The racial wealth gap, which reduces the opportunities available to African American families, has proved to be a pernicious and enduring phenomenon since it was first identified in 1990. This article identifies and explores the role of neighborhoods in creating and perpetuating the ongoing racial wealth gap. Wealth available to a family influences the neighborhood a family is able to afford to live in: through wealth available to purchase a home or wealth available to put down a deposit on an apartment. This article makes the case that the neighborhood a family lives in not only influences social outcomes, but also influences how much wealth a family can build over the years, either as a homeowner or a renter. It also discusses the key wealth mechanisms that influence neighborhood access as well as how a household’s neighborhood location influences wealth accumulation. Historical government policies created an inequitable landscape of neighborhoods across the United States. Government policies must seek to address this historical injustice.

  • Rural Segregation and Racial Violence: Historical Effects of Spatial Racism

    To review the evidence of changes in segregation over time, we use a newly developed household‐level measure of residential segregation that can distinguish between the effects of increasing racial homogeneity of a location and the tendency to segregate within a location given a particular racial composition (Logan and Parman ). This household measure of segregation reveals high levels of segregation in the South and rising levels of segregation in both cities and rural communities over the first half of the 20th century. We review new evidence that this segregation was highly correlated with interracial violence in the form or lynchings. We conclude with a discussion of the interaction between residential segregation, racial animosity, and violence.

  • How to Blow Up a Wall with a Heartbeat

    A manifesto written in the form of a letter is a tradition in the African American canon, one that undergoes a radical revision in this essay. Whether in My Dungeon Shook, the first section of James Baldwin’s 1963 classic The Fire Next Time or Ta‐Nehisi Coates’s 2015 Between the World and Me, the strategy was a pedagogical one. The double work being done in these texts was to use a stated reader, in each case a family member, to grant the writer an intimacy that guaranteed the larger claims made on racism in America. Yet both writers seemed ultimately to elude that stated reader for a not too implicit, liberal white reader. In “How to Blow Up a Wall with a Heartbeat,” the text reverses this tactic to ask what a new life teaches us about racism and the desire for human connection it frustrates. The time frame is the end of the Obama presidency, where there was a hint of hope, even if it was betrayed. It ends shortly after November 2016 when white Americans chose a president who threatened to initiate a new neo‐Jim‐Crow era and asks: How does the endless, generative power of life teach a man of color to love during a politically reactionary time?

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