Racial segregation in the United States is the separation of the white population from other ethnic groups (mainly Afro-Americans and Indians). It occurred by means of a variety of social barriers: separate training and education, the distinction between landing zones in public transport, and others.
The American society comprised of white people differed by its national and religious grounds along with attitude towards other ethnic groups. The main victims of racial exclusion were non-white people, in particular, Indians and African Americans. Moreover, Italians, Spaniards, French, Greeks, Pilipino, Poles, Jews were under attacks at the household level. They were regarded as “foreign whites.” In spite of the prohibition of racial segregation in the 1960s, racial discrimination persists in the US nowadays as well because of the consciousness of the people and history of the country that equalized the different races in the rights, by means of legislation not so long ago. It is “a consequence of its self-conception as the first ‘new nation’; that is, a nation that was forging its own destiny free of the encumbrances of history and tradition”1.
Psychologically, the racial segregation laws highlight inequality. Frequently, climate differences and other environmental factors are also included2. In this regard, the case of Filipinos is not the coincidence as American law directed to the separation of different races already resided in the U.S. Besides, “Chinese women and criminals are identified as potential threats to the United States”3. There are cases when white Americans exclude other nations by proclaiming the identity of whiteness4. There are explicit or conscious white Americans who know their race and who defend it openly. Nevertheless, sometimes, “mixed-race applicants often failed to establish their whiteness”5.
In contrast, implicit white Americans rarely defend their racial consciousness, or, perhaps, do not even think about it honestly, but they prefer to communicate with other whites and live among them. In addition, they are attracted to the various aspects of the traditionally white culture, for example, classical music or country music. Speaking of Mexican-Americans, one might note that “Mexican-Americans are excluded from public facilities and neighborhood and the targets of racial slurs, they typically lived in one section of town because they were not permitted to rent or own property anywhere except in the ‘Mexican Colony”6.
Moreover, “the demand side of the labor market-employers either have a “taste” for discrimination or use race as a proxy for unobserved variables that imply lower productivity for minorities”7. This fact also confirms the existence of social segregation in US society.
Segregation might be observed not only on the country level but also in the daily life of immigrants. The contrast is particularly noticeable at schools because the system of school education in the United States is the same for most of the state and school choice is tied to the education district in which the student’s parents live, but not to the size of their financial state. Therefore, children from different families of different social statuses can study at the same school. Thus, attempts to create new school districts form a better environment for the children of wealthy Americans, that is, at first glance, rich ones separated from the poor.
However, the reality is that in the US, white people are wealthier while Afro-Americans are poorer. As a result, the growing gap between rich and poor in practice entails the social polarization of society by race. This type of segregation called education was expressed in the fact that African-American children were not allowed to attend the same schools as white children. Segregation of that kind has been regulated by state laws.
For this reason, African-Americans had to attend schools that were located on the other side of town, and sometimes simply in another town. Naturally, the quality of education in these schools was different from that received by the children of white Americans. The other instance is Mexican students who suffer from discrimination at school having lower scores than their classmates. School segregation is also connected to political problems, “in particular to the unequal power relations between ethical minority parents and school boards composed of dominant group members”8.
In the US, there remains a serious geographical separation, in other words, residential segregation, between the races because immigrants live mostly in areas where the vast majority of residents are entrants. These are mainly poor neighborhoods; as a result, residents have less access to education, employment, and public transport. Generally, the crime rate is higher in these areas. Despite the prohibition of racial discrimination, authorities cannot dictate to owners to sell or rent homes. Due to that fact, members of minorities de facto were not allowed to live in rich predominantly populated by white neighborhoods for decades, and the US authorities suspect that today the practice persists to some extent.
In spite of the fact that racial segregation was a powerful component of the United States society, people tried to confront it. In his article, Kelly describes the theme of Malcolm Little and Black cultural politics during World War II. The leader of the young organization called “Nation of Islam” Elijah Muhammad and his more gifted and temperamental assistant, nicknamed “the angriest man in America” Malcolm Little, better known as Malcolm X, refuted the teachings of King’s non-violent resistance. They counterposed “black capitalism” against “white capitalism”. However, Kelly states that Afro-Americans were integrated, “a sense of collectivity as well as individuality, as dancers improvised on the standard lindy hop moves I friendly competition”9. All in all, the article considers Malcolm’s early life and several political and social transformations of that period.
Besides, Sugrue writes about crabgrass-roots politics speaking of the postwar Detroit. In the postwar period, there was a first wave of the exodus caused by the closure of Packard, Hudson, and Studebaker factories. At the beginning of the Government’s program of colonization the city by black citizens, plenty of “white” residents decided to leave. The outflow of the most solvent population has led to unemployment and the departure of shopkeepers, bankers, doctors, etc. At the beginning of the 60s, the population of the city consisted of unemployed people, those living on benefits or low-wage workers. They were mostly representatives of the African-American population.
Poverty and endemic unemployment have led to the fact that the city gained notoriety as one of the “black” and dangerous US cities10. The abolition of racial segregation was the peak of the intensity in Detroit that has led to the fact that the city’s black residents were more likely to collide with “whites” resulting in interracial conflicts. It shows that the law passed by the state did not guarantee the immediate abolition of racial segregation in the country.
At the same time, inclusion, in other words, assimilation has performed a dominant strategy for the integration of many immigrant communities. The American model of “melting pot” was considered as a model of the national policy. The image of the “melting pot” explained the synthesis of the program concerning immigrants: taking the citizens of other countries, representatives of various ethnic cultures, American society is able to turn them into the unified American nation. In this model, the US government seems ethnically and culturally neutral proclaiming a commitment of American democracy.
The evaluation of the effectiveness of the American assimilation model is inconsistent. On the one hand, some scholars emphasize the remarkable efficiency. For example, all researchers mark national civic consciousness, patriotism, and nationalism in respect of the country. Moreover, Tocqueville wrote that talking about other countries’ Americans usually manifested a bias. “If you talk to them about their own country, you will see their clear, concise, and precise thoughts.
They will tell you about their rights and explain what determines the political life of their country”11. National tolerance towards different ethnic groups becomes a mandatory feature as one of the elements of the so-called American “political correctness”. However, integrating the assimilation model has lost its effectiveness due to the influx of immigrants increased after the liberalization of the immigration legislation in the 60s. It seems that there is critical mass immigration for the “melting pot” of a nation. Nevertheless, the causes of the problem of assimilation are deeper than quantitative “pot” overload. Until the mid-twentieth century, the United States pursued a policy of supporting “ethnic balance” giving priority to migration flows from Europe. The opening of borders to immigrants from the Third World in the 60s of the twentieth century changed the ethnic composition of America. At the beginning of the 20th century, the proportion of Asian immigrants increased.
It is also should be noted that the American government makes efforts to connect and integrate people. According to Marcias, “the popular Latin music performance brings together people from different races and different neighborhoods by means of country musical programs”12. Visiting the general public places and communicating with people of different races might contribute to overcoming segregation.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that nowadays racial segregation in the United States still exists, and it is a rather serious problem of society. Social segregation influences all spheres of life making people confronted. However, there is also a positive side to the issue. Due to the American “melting pot” and exclusion, people from different countries and of different races and ethnicities are able to live together in the same area peacefully.
- Bhambra, A sociological dilemma: Race, segregation and US sociology, p. 1.
- Tyner, The Geopolitics of Eugenics and the Exclusion of Philippine Immigrants from the United States, p. 55.
- Tyner, The Geopolitics of Eugenics and the Exclusion of Philippine Immigrants from the United States, p. 56.
- Roediger, Whiteness and Ethnicity in the History of ‘White Ethnics’ in the United States, p. 182.
- Martinez, Mexican Americans and Whiteness, p. 99.
- Martinez, Mexican Americans and Whiteness, p. 100.
- Loury, Social Exclusion and Ethnic Groups: The Challenge to Economics, p. 232.
- Menchaca and Valencia, Anglo-Saxon Ideologies in the 1920s-1930s: The Impact on the Segregation of Mexican Students in California, p. 222.
- Kelley, The Riddle of the Zoot: Malcolm Little and Black Cultural Politics During World War II, p. 75.
- Sugrue, Crabgrass-Roots Politics: Race, Rights, and the Reaction against Liberalism in the Urban North, 1940-1964, p. 553.
- Zbigniew and Tracz-Tryniecki, Tocquevillian Ideas: Contemporary European Perspectives, p. 136.
- Macías, Bringing Music to the People: Race, Urban Culture, and Municipal Politics in Postwar Los Angeles, p. 702.