Photo courtesy of The New York Times
Published 06/26/2020 | Reading Time 6 min 15 sec
By Benjamin Fields, a Ph.D. student in sociology and demography at the University of California, Berkeley
Right now, the United States is at a crossroads when dealing with the issue of race. Many Americans look at statistics of disproportionate health outcomes and treatment, incarceration rates, and the historical legacy of slavery as obvious evidence that racism still exists in society. Other Americans deny these issues, with the President refusing to acknowledge them, as well as people toting American and confederate flags to gaslight those fighting racial injustices.
This has been an ongoing issue, as the Civil Rights movement was just half a century ago. Unfortunately, many successes have been undercut by arising negatives. These negatives include police brutality, food options (or the lack thereof) for Black communities, our health outcomes when interacting with the medical care system, and countless other inequities. At the foundation, a social and physical separation of races has proliferated with very little resistance.
Currently, the deaths and attacks on innocent Black men, women, and transgender Americans have brought attention to the Black community to an extent that has not happened in recent history. With advances in progressive thinking on things such as social welfare and LGBTQ rights, not only is the country forced to recognize its treatment of Black Americans and our intersectionality but also the broad structure of our community.
The issues we are addressing have happened through gradual segregation since the rise of the Black middle class. Redlining has forced different racial/ethnic groups into different parts of the city. Banks have prevented the accumulation of wealth. Black youth are incarcerated to prevent socioeconomic advancement by way inadequate schooling. Jobs, that are high paying, are excluded from black communities, and proper transportation to facilitate better labor market outcomes is non-existent.
In essence, the country has created a social system in which races are differentiated and institutionalized into different groups. This affects how all racial/ethnic groups interact in the United States and creates macro-scale cliques of groups like “Black Twitter”.
Moreover, thinking this is strictly social would be disingenuous. Black communities are distinctly separate from White communities; and the same goes for Latinx communities, our disenfranchised peers. The indigenous peoples of the United States suffer some of the same issues at equal, and occasionally worse, magnitudes as Black Americans — which are usually swept under the rug. Enclaves like Chinatown, Koreatown, and others are very popular in our largest and most populated cities.
The fact that our communities are segregated can be exemplified in how we are advocating for resources and rights. We want equal treatment and the injection of resources in our communities in relation to White suburbs. We want less police and more education. We want safe and stable food choices rather than a lack of grocery stores and an ominous presence of fast-food restaurants.
While segregation was fought to be outlawed and has negative connotations, the rights we are fighting for predicate themselves on the fact that communities stay segregated. Based on how the United States operates, it is hard to believe that things would be allowed to change. I mean, we did pass Brown vs Board of Education (1954) to overturn the separate but equal doctrine, but the institution of White America has ensured that things continued under its status quo.
One dialogue I would be curious to see democratically amongst Black Americans are our current views on segregation, and what we think of the politicization of this term. To spearhead this conversation, I would like to advance the idea that the term self-dependency was replaced and adulterated with the term segregation.
Search the world, are there any true autonomous Black states, regions, cities, etc.? Here in the United States, we are always dependent on others. Applying a global analysis of Black independence would give us a trail of neo-colonized African/Black states as well as oppressed diasporic groups.
What we are seeing is that the latter is being explored, namely that segregation poisoned our view of self-sufficiency. I think that Black Americans do not want the reality of completely intermingling with White America because of the existence of covert racism, and because of the natural fear of cultural and social genocide. This is being forced on indigenous populations of the United States through acculturation schools, and while I don’t think this is highly publicized in the way that I am talking about it, we innately know that our social and cultural existence is at threat. Our physical and artistic traits are being mimicked through industries of cosmetic surgery as well as social media.
Going into the future, I think this is an interesting topic for education in the Black communities of the world, as well as a great stepping stone towards us fighting for self-sufficiency. Understanding that segregation was used as a term to disenfranchise our idea of self-sufficiency in an ironic manner, we should continue fighting to maintain ourselves instead of engaging in a false battle of impossible integration.
Benjamin Fields is a Ph.D. student in sociology and demography at the University of California, Berkeley. Currently, his research focuses on health disparities and inequalities in African American and African populations as well as on social-psychological states of mind in education and health. In his free time, he runs mentoring programs for high school and college students who are trying to reach the next level of education. Post-PhD, he plans on becoming a tenured track faculty member and engaging in health and educational consulting as well as continuing his mentoring programs.