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Confronting the Causes of Residential and School Segregation

Race, Residential Segregation, and the Death of Democracy: Education and Myth of Postracialism
Lori Latrice Martin and Kenneth J. Varner
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Evidence shows that government housing policies and individual practices created and sustain segregation between white and Black people and that segregation exacerbates racial wealth inequality, racial achievement gaps, and racial profiling. This 2017 study applies a “white racial frame” to explain the persistence of residential and school segregation, synthesizing more than 60 articles from the fields of sociology, economics, critical theory, and law. The authors’ frame reflects the theory that white people who hold power in the US purposefully maintain their dominance and perpetuate socioeconomic inequities based on race and ethnicity. By applying this frame, the authors shift focus from disparate outcomes by race and ethnicity to the (often white) lenders, police, educators, and politicians who shape structures of opportunity.

Key findings
  • Where a person lives is directly linked to the life experiences, schools, and opportunities available to them. And in the United States, where one lives is highly determined by one’s race or ethnicity.
  • Despite the nation’s growing racial and ethnic diversity, residential and school segregation persist.
  • Segregation undermines quality of life and access to opportunity, especially for Black people and other people of color.
  • Lenders, police, politicians, and others with power and influence actively perpetuate residential segregation.
  • White people hold the most wealth, power, and influence in the United States and are motivated to maintain this dominance through policies and practices that create and maintain segregation, such as redlining, restrictive covenants, mortgage lending discrimination, predatory lending, and violence.
  • The creation and expansion of suburbs, suburban school districts, magnet schools, and schools within schools perpetuate school segregation and relegate students of color to schools that often lead them to the underground economy, correctional facilities, or low-wage work.
  • When white people fail to acknowledge their role in creating and maintaining segregation and inequity, they perpetuate racism.
Policy implications
  • The authors argue that to address the root causes of segregation, unequal opportunity, and inequitable outcomes, people in power must acknowledge that racism still exists in the United States and that it harms people of color while benefiting white people who use their power to perpetuate the current system.
  • They recommend that solutions should focus on equity, which they define as a step further than equality, by diverting and reinvesting resources in communities of color to remedy years of oppression and marginalization.