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Segregation and Desegregation

SEGREGATION AND DESEGREGATION

In the early years of the American colonies and the new republic of the United States, segregation was not only impractical but undesirable. To benefit from slavery, slave masters had to manage and control slaves; therefore, they had to work with them. Not all slaves were field hands or agricultural workers; some were domestic servants, and so the slave master and mistress had to share their private quarters with slaves. Thus, many white Americans, especially Southerners in the pre-Civil War South, accepted daily, intimate, personal, primary face-to-face contact with slaves as a necessity. They insisted, however, that all such contacts reflect proper social distance: slaves were always to be subservient, behavioral assimilation was allowed only to a point, and slaves were supposed to know the dominant-group culture, use it appropriately, and always recognize that they were not the equals of their masters. Although structural assimilation occurred at a primary level, it was not among equals.

With the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, some Americans seriously considered the idea of separating blacks and whites. As some blacks emigrated to poor urban areas in the South and as their numbers increased, some whites recognized that blacks were becoming a threat to the hard-won victories of higher-priced white labor (Bonacich 1972). They recognized that the former mechanisms of deference and social distance would no longer allow whites to maintain the subordination of black men and women, and so they insisted on a system of separation. It was not enough to separate residentially; it was necessary to establish a caste system that would deny blacks equal access to most jobs, social and governmental services, schools and colleges, public accommodations, and the right to vote.

In both the South and the North, segregation was practiced long before it became embodied in law. It was a Supreme Court decision, however, that in 1896 established segregation as the law of the land. It was through the medium of statutes, therefore, that domination was ultimately exercised. In other words, it was the polity, not the economy, that suppressed the competition of black urban laborers and that established the shift from paternalistic to competitive race relations (Scott 1977; van den Berghe 1967).

Segregationist laws were passed as early as 1875 in Tennessee; they rapidly advanced throughout the South, and by the 1880s blacks were not only separated on all modes of transportation (Franklin 1947). However, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which guaranteed black Americans all the privileges and rights of citizenship, was an impediment to the policy of segregation. Consequently, the impediment was removed in 1883, when the Supreme Court declared the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional. Soon after that decision, black Americans were banned from most Southern venues, from hotels and other places of public accommodation—restaurants, theaters, and places of public amusement. The process of limiting opportunities for blacks continued, and by 1885 most Southern states had enacted laws requiring separate schools for blacks and whites. Finally, on May 18, 1896, the Supreme Court in the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson decision made segregation the law of the land (Kromkowski 1991). Although the North and the South were elated, the implication of the decision and the way it was to be implemented would be considerably different in the two regions. As a result, the consequences and effects of segregation in the South would be different from those in the North.

If segregation had not legitimated the rights of Southern whites to degrade and control blacks, blacks might have seen opportunities for independent growth in segregation. Segregation in the South meant biracialism, and biracialism meant the creation of black institutions that were to some extent administered and controlled by blacks. Although most blacks in the South worked for whites, they did not have to depend on them for all their basic services: They had separate schools, hospitals, and churches. Most blacks in the South became sharecroppers, working rented land. The land meant debt for the sharecropper, but it also meant a certain amount of daily independence. It is conceivable, therefore, that under a more positive set of circumstances blacks could have focused on the "equal requirement" of the Plessy "separate but equal" decision. However, because segregation became the detested symbol of injustice, Southern blacks insisted on destroying it.

As blacks struggled against segregation, they were beaten and murdered. Law enforcement participated in those affronts either by refusing to protect black people or by becoming the perpetrators of violence. Such actions reinforced the view of Southern blacks that segregation was the symbol of black inferiority. As blacks struggled to defend themselves, they learned that sheriffs and law enforcement officials, mayors, governors, the FBI, the federal government, the attorney general of the United States, and even the president participated in one way or another in the maintenance of a system of segregation that declared black people inferior and denied them equal access to the labor market and to educational opportunity.

Although Southern blacks were eventually successful in destroying the system of segregation in the South, blacks in the North, where the Plessy decision had been implemented differently, often failed. Because the major problem in the North was not segregation, the strategies of Southern blacks were inappropriate for the problems of Northern blacks and those who moved north. Desegregationist strategies were designed for problems such as residential segregation but not for problems such as poverty and differential access to occupational opportunities. This is why the Southern Christian Leadership Conference left the urban slums of Chicago in 1965, where the the real problems were, and attacked the issue of segregated housing in Cicero, Illinois, which for blacks at that time was insignificant.

Although Southern whites insisted on black inferiority, one should not assume that they therefore wanted to dispose of blacks. They needed blacks for at least two reasons: to establish their alleged superiority and to exploit black labor. Blacks had been their slaves, had worked their fields, had stablized and maintained their households, and had been a source of wealth and sometimes pleasure. Many Southern whites had even developed a degree of affection for blacks.

Northern whites were quite different in this regard. Some knew the value of black Americans, but their major goal was to make certain that blacks and whites remained apart. A biracial system was not required because occupational and economic discrimination kept blacks and whites apart. When and where necessary, whites would use restrictive real estate practices to keep the races separate. Whites in the North wanted blacks to stay completely to themselves unless there was some need for their labor. With the exception of hiring black women, whites did not really want to make competitive use of black labor. It seems that Northern whites wanted blacks to disappear, and so they pretended that they did not exist.

In the South, segregationist policies eventually led to a biracial system that produced unanticipated consequences. It actually laid the groundwork for the development of a black middle class composed of clergy, college administrators and professors, medical doctors, journalists, schoolteachers, artisans, and skilled craftspeople, all of whom had learned to be independent in their respective institutional settings. They were the decision makers and leaders of their people. They would train the new teachers, the new professionals, and even a new business elite. Their protégés would become the new entrepreneurs and open businesses of various kinds—barbershops, beauty shops, grocery stores, restaurants, and nightclubs. They would establish black banks, publish black newspapers, and establish professional societies. Many of the college graduates would become ministers and establish their own churches. In time, all these professionals would combine their resources and expertise and, using their two institutional bases, the school and the church, lead a struggle against the very system that made their existence possible: the system of segregation. In the South segregation did not mean separation only. It meant the right of whites to degrade blacks and treat blacks unjustly, but mostly it meant the right to keep blacks in an inferior position by denying them equal access and equal opportunity.

Eventually the black church, a product of segregation and discrimination, would become the institutional base for the fight against segregation and discrimination. Not only did the black church provide the leadership, it also provided the following. However, since black churches had existed for decades and their congregations had been ready for change for decades, why did the "movement" take until 1955 to start? A critical component is the size of the black middle and skilled-working classes. In the middle to late 1950s, those two classes constituted approximately 39 percent of the black community, a larger percentage than ever before. World War II had been a major period of opportunity for African Americans, and as a result, they garnered more resources and consequently expected more from the system. In short, they experienced a revolution of rising expectations. They had become intolerant of abuse, the various forms of discrimination they had experienced, and insults to their dignity. They were in need of a social movement.


DESEGREGATION: THE CIVIL-RIGHTS MOVEMENT

The impetus for the civil-rights movement, the movement to desegregate the South, actually began before Mrs. Rosa Parks's heroic refusal in 1955 to give up her bus seat to a white person. The initial stimulus was the May 17, 1954, decision of the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that the 1896 Plessy decision was unconstitutional. Black soldiers returning from World War II and the burgeoning black middle class praised the decision and proclaimed that the Brown decision must usher in a new social order.

No sooner had the decision been made, however, than the nation was shocked by the grisly murder of a young teenager, Emmett Till, in Sumner, Mississippi. That murder dramatized the fact that no change in the law would change the customs of Southern whites, and the case demonstrated how the circumstances of blacks in the South were radically different from those of blacks in the North. According to Emmett Till's uncle, Emmett had been bragging to some black youngsters outside a rural store. He claimed to have white friends, even white girlfriends, in Chicago and showed photographs of his friends. Emmett had just arrived in Sumner and was trying to impress those young boys to gain their friendship. One of the boys apparently said to Emmett, "I bet you won't go into that store and say something to that white lady." Till accepted the challenge, went in, purchased some candy, and in leaving said, "'Bye, baby." Late the same night, two or more white men knocked at the door of Emmett's grandfather, Mose Wright, and took the boy away in a car. When Emmett Till was found, he had been mutilated and beaten beyond recognition, with a bullet hole through his temple. The picture of Emmett Till's disfigured body was published in Jet magazine by Johnson Publications, a black publishing firm, and black people throughout the nation saw the picture. Till's mother insisted on an open casket. Two men were charged with the murder, but both were found not guilty. Black people recognized that a change in the law was not enough. More had to be done.

Emmett Till was a Northern urban kid who had grown up and apparently gone to school with some liberal whites, and although the commingling of whites and blacks in the North could lead to violence, in some circles it was tolerated. Because the issue in the North was residential separation, it was easy for a black person to find himself in a predominantly black school, though generally there were at least a few white students. More important, however, was the fact that the over-whelming majority of the teachers were white ( Jones 1985, p. 180). Those teachers and other professionals usually lived outside the school districts in which they taught. Although they insisted that black schoolchildren obey them, they did not insist that blacks be subservient and inferior. As teachers, they were proud of their successful black students. Northern blacks thus developed self-esteem, a sense of "somebodyness," a belief that they were the equals of others. That attitude was reinforced in black urban enclaves. In the South, however, every contact a black person had with a white person required a demonstration of black inferiority and even fear. The idea of being equal to whites was generally unthinkable, that is, if the idea was to be put into action. Northern blacks were always warned by their relatives when they went to the South that the rules were different there, that not obeying them could place everybody in jeopardy and could even lead to the loss of life.

Emmett Till was a tough urban kid, not unlike many of the gang members of the 1990s, and the fact that he was not afraid of his captors and refused to stop fighting back made them angrier. He obviously did not know that what he did in the North could get him killed in the South. He had not been warned, or he did not heed the warning.

Emmett Till's murder and the injustice of the final verdict produced mounting frustration. Thus, on December 1, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks told a bus driver who asked her to give her seat to a white person, which was the law, that she would not. This galvanized the entire black population of Montgomery, Alabama. The black community organized a bus boycott, and soon the buses were empty. The leadership was surprised (Raines 1977). Black people were fed up. They had always been angered by such demands and customs, but as Christians they had been taught to accept them and hope for change. Now, however, former soldiers and their families who had been patriotic and had sacrificed during World War II had become intolerant. Segregation did not mean biracialism to them. Instead it meant abuse and insult. A social movement had started.

Soon a brilliant young black Baptist minister would join the movement, and even though he was only twenty-six years of age, he would become the leader. That leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., defined the enemy as segregation. Segregation, King insisted, "scars the soul of the segregated. . . . It not only harms one physically, but injures one spiritually." It is a system, asserted King, that "forever stares the segregated in the face saying you are less than, you are not equal to." Segregation denies a human being the right to express his or her true essence; therefore, it must be destroyed. King declared that nonviolence would be the movement's strategy and philosophy. Nevertheless, violence erupted immediately. Whites were resisting, but the Montgomery Improvement Association won its victory when the Supreme Court declared segregated busing unconstitutional. King and his leadership cadre immediately set about the task of desegregating other public facilities in Montgomery. The movement had begun, and from that point on other struggles would erupt spontaneously across the South, all of them devoted to desegragation.

As African-American college students observed the activities of Dr. King and his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), they agreed to continue the process of desegregation. Dr. King was desegregating downtown department stores in Montgomery; they would desegregate lunch counters. It was the custom in the South not to serve blacks at lunch counters in the various dime stores, especially the Woolworth's chain. On November 1, 1960, four students from the local black college took seats at the lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. They asked to be served, and when the management refused, they resolved to stay. After a day or two, violence broke out. A group of young white toughs and some older adults began to pull them out of their seats and beat them. The police were called in, but they refused to arrest the perpetrators of the violence. Instead they arrested the victims, those who were involved peacefully in what became known as sit-ins. As a result of the police actions, Southern blacks noted again that not only were the citizens of the South opposed to their rights, so were public officials. Segregation had to be destroyed "lock, stock, and barrel, top to bottom, left to right" (Carmichael 1971) because it also corrupted public officials and officers of the law whose sworn duty it was to protect the citizenry. From this point on segregation was the enemy, and going to jail to end it became a badge of honor.

The issue of segregation on buses involving interstate travel remained a problem even after the Montgomery victory. Therefore, it was not long before groups of Freedom Riders were mobilized to test the Supreme Court decision's relevance to interstate travel. The Freedom Riders included blacks and whites, a fact that should not be forgotten. The Freedom Rides began in May 1961 and were immediately confronted with violence. Buses were bombed. Freedom Riders were beaten unmercifully at several destinations, and some were permanently disabled. The perpetrators were indiscriminate: they beat blacks and whites. Their hatred seemed greater for whites— "nigger lovers," they were called then. The Freedom Riders expected to be protected by the FBI, but J. Edgar Hoover, the director, made it clear that his agency had no intention of protecting those agitators. The failure of the federal government to uphold the law in this instance finally communicated to black people and some whites that the existence of segregation had corrupted not just local public officials but even officials of the federal government. The fight had to begin at the top.

The next major chapter in the effort to desegregate the South took place in Albany, Georgia, in 1961. Failing in their desegregation efforts there, King and the SCLC launched a new project to protest segregated lunch counters in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. King was jailed. While in jail, he wrote his philosophically brilliant "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." Although Birmingham's white business leaders agreed on a desegregation plan, King's motel was still bombed. Medgar Evers was shot to death in neighboring Jackson, Mississippi, and four young children were murdered in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Blacks learned that even if they could get local public officials and businessmen to change segregationist policies, some Southern whites, perhaps even the majority, would not accept change. They also learned that among the majority there were those who were willing to use violence. Blacks had to have protection from another source.

In 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began its Freedom Summers Project in Mississippi. Mississippi was considered by blacks the most dangerous state in the South, and it lived up to its reputation. On Sunday, August 4, 1964, Mississippi claimed the lives of James Chaney, Michael Swerner, and Andrew Goodman—the latter two were white. All three were members of SNCC's Freedom Summer Project. Their only offense was that they had volunteered to teach black youth, work with the rural poor, and register blacks to vote. If it was not apparent during the Freedom Rides, it was now apparent that Southern whites would kill anybody, whites included, who opposed their way of life.

Blacks now had a growing collection of concerned Northern whites. Swerner's wife commented that it was unfortunate, but apparently whites had to die before other, complacent whites would listen. The parents of the two young white students, Swerner and Goodman, talked about the martyrdom of their children. They were proud but grief-stricken. They insisted that the monstrous evil of segregation must be destroyed. Black members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and SNCC were furious. Some of them had been personal friends of James Chaney, who was black. They blamed the governor of the state and the federal government for what happened in Philadelphia, Mississippi, during the summer of 1964.

As a result of those murders, SNCC and SCLC mobilized a march to Montgomery. Near the end of their march, however, they were attacked by mounted sheriff's officers wielding clubs. Men and women, as well as young adults and children, were beaten.

In summary, the central focus of black struggle in the South from 1955 to 1965 was desegregation. Blacks insisted on desegregating public transportation facilities, public eating establishments, public water fountains, public bathrooms, and public institutions of higher education. As a result of the violence they experienced, black Southerners learned that desegregation required more than protests, it required changes in the law at the national level. A civil-rights bill was required. Certainly a change in the law was required, but even that was not enough. In order for changes to be implemented, government officials had to demonstrate a willingness to protect and defend the rights of African Americans.

It was not long after Selma that Watts, an urban ethnic enclave near Los Angeles, exploded, beginning a series of race riots that developed spontaneously throughout the latter half of the 1960s. Stores were torched and looted. Surveying the destruction in Watts, Dr, King and SCLC decided that it was time to take their movement north. What they were not aware of was that their desegregation strategies would not solve the problems of Northern blacks, because the central problem for that group was not segregation. To understand this, it is necessary to contrast the evolution of the black middle class in the South with that in the North.


DESEGREGATION VERSUS INTEGRATION

A biracial system similar to that in the South never surfaced in the American North. As a result, blacks there depended almost completely on whites for employment. Northern whites, furthermore, had not come to depend on black labor, with the possible exception of domestic labor. Domestic labor, however, did not produce wealth; it was a symbol of surplus wealth. In addition, Northern whites who wanted to remain physically (residentially) separated from blacks did not feel any need to employ them, with the exception of menial labor jobs. With the influx of European immigrants, Northern whites preferred to hire the sons and daughters of Europe rather than the emancipated slaves of the South (Blauner 1972; Jones 1985). Indeed, from the turn of the century to the beginning of World War II. Northern blacks never established a foothold in the manufacturing industries of the North ( Jones 1985). According to Blauner, even in ancillary industries such as meatpacking where blacks initially gained a foothold because of the unhealthy working conditions they were actually displaced by European immigrants during the 1930s.

Given their background, the problem for the black middle class in the North was different from that for the black middle class in the South, and the leadership of the civil-rights movement knew it. At one point, Dr. King said that "the struggles of the past decade were not national in scope; they were Southern; they were specifically designed to change life in the South" (1968, p. 70). Northern blacks had only been segregated (de facto) residentially. Otherwise they could ride public transportation and eat at many of the major restaurants, although it was understood that some owners would discourage blacks from coming by being discourteous. The major concern of Northern middle-class blacks, therefore, was not formal desegregation but discrimination and unequal access. They insisted that they should get the same quality of goods or service for their money. Their major concern was reflected in their insistence on greater job opportunities. They rejected the idea of caste barriers in employment, and they insisted that promotions be tied fairly to evaluation, irrespective of race. They rejected job ceilings and the idea of determining job status on the basis of race. These kinds of problems could not be solved by civil rights marches. They could not be solved simply by desegration or changing the law. Such changes would help, perhaps, but what was required was to get the federal government to establish civil-rights policies that would declare such acts as violations of the law and then, even more important, connect those policies to some kind of enforcement device so that private corporations and governmental agencies would comply with the law. This is exactly what the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in combination with affirmative action, did.

THE FAILURE OF INTEGRATION: THE URBAN POOR

Soon after the Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Executive Orders 11246 and 11375 were issued. Those orders led to the policy of affirmative action (Black 1981). Affirmative action policies essentially required that all city, state, and federal agencies, as well as any private corporation that contracted with the federal government, make every reasonable attempt to increase the proportion of minority workers in their workforces. Affirmative action was to be a device to address the effects of past discrimination. It did not take long to realize, however, that mostly middle-class blacks were benefiting from affirmative-action policies (Wilson 1987). The reason for this was twofold. First, middle-class blacks were the only ones who had competitive resources (such as skills they had acquired from higher education), owned businesses, or had parents who as a result of their professional status (doctors, dentists, ministers, etc.) were able to provide a competitive advantage for their children. Second, the American economy underwent structural changes that created more opportunities for professional, technical, human service, and clerical staff. As these opportunities increased, affirmative-action policies increased the likelihood that some of those jobs would go to black Americans. It was not long, however, before it also became apparent that neither affirmative-action policies nor the structural shift in the economy would aid black Americans who were poor and unskilled. In fact, as the economy shifted from a majority of manufacturing industries to a majority of service industries, a segmented labor market developed. A segmented labor market generated differential rates of mobility for differing class segments of the same group (Wilson 1978; 1981; 1987).

It is not surprising that when Mayor Richard Daly of Chicago and Martin Luther King, Jr., met early in 1966 and King complained about the slum housing of poor blacks in that city, Daly responded, "How do you expect me to solve the problems of poverty and joblessness overnight?" King had no answer. He would quickly leave Chicago and the North after unsuccessful attempts both to help the impoverished and to desegregate Cicero, Illinois. It is to Dr. King's credit, however, that he recognized that the problems of the poor had not been solved and that a Poor People's Campaign was required.

Oblivious to the needs of the poor in the black community, Northern blacks who had turned a desegregationist movement into an integrationist movement (those Sowell [1984] incorrectly labels as people with a civil-rights vision) pursued integration with a vengeance. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became the law of the land, affirmative action was to be its guiding policy and equal opportunity and equal access the measure of fairness. It was not long, however, before civil-rights advocates recognized that something was amiss not only for the Northern black poor but also for the middle class. For example, although data from the 1970 census showed that black male college graduates in 1969 received a slightly higher average income than did comparable whites, other data demonstrated that the majority of black college students did not graduate from college. In fact, when Fleming (1985) researched this issue and compared the performance of black colleges with limited resources to that of predominantly white urban universities with considerably more resources that attracted black students with higher SAT scores, she found that the black colleges produced more intellectual and psychosocial development among black students than did the white colleges. Further, she found that typically white colleges produced "academic deterioration" among black students and concluded that better facilities and more institutional resources do not necessarily translate into a higher-quality college or university education (Fleming 1985. p. 186). She added that similar findings were reported in desegregated or so-called integrated public schools (Knowles 1962).

The fact is that whether or not schools are integrated, the situation confronting black children in most Northern and Southern public schools is catastrophic. Indeed, for the most part integration has failed black children. Once they enter school, they fall quickly behind their white counterparts on most measures of intelligence and scholastic achievement (Coleman 1966; Denton 1981). In fact, the longer black children remain in school, the further they fall behind. Denton (1981) reports that compared to white children, black children are three times as likely to be labeled mentally retarded, twice as likely to be suspended for discipline and attendance problems, and twice as likely to drop out of high school (White 1984, pp. 102–103). Black students who remain in school on average are two to three years below grade level in the basics—reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Educational integration consequently has often led to less growth and, even worse, the actual deterioration of the academic potential of black students in institutions of higher education. In those situations where deterioration does not actually occur, stagnation does (Black 1981).

These kinds of problems compound in later life such that black students have only "half as much . . . chance as a white child of finishing college and becoming a professional person," twice as much chance of being unemployed, and a one in ten chance of getting in trouble with the law (and, if these students are young males, a one in four chance of involvement with the criminal justice system); finally, as they age, black students have a life expectancy that is five years shorter than that of white adults (White 1984, p. 103).

Without an adequate education, black males become less employable, less marriageable, and more criminal.

Wilson (1981, 1987) examined the combined indicators of unemployment rates, labor-force participation rates, employment-population ratios, and work experience and concluded that not only do these indicators reveal a disturbing picture of joblessness, they also indicate that a growing percentage of young black males are not marriageable, that is, cannot contribute to the support of a family. Examining rates of teenage pregnancy; crime and violence, especially homicide; and increases in substance abuse, Wilson argues that many of these young men are more likely to become predators than responsible workers.

Further, according to Wilson, poverty has compounded in black urban ethnic enclaves. He demonstrates that there has been a significant increase in what he refers to as extreme poverty areas (i.e., areas with a poverty rate of at least 40 percent) in the black urban ethnic enclave. Wilson contrasts the growth of these areas with low-poverty areas (census tracts with a poverty rate of at least 20 percent) and high-poverty areas (with a poverty rate of at least 30 percent). The number of extreme poverty areas, he emphasizes, increased by a staggering 161 percent.

Wilson also demonstrates that the black community is losing its vertical class integration. Black middle-class and stable working-class families are choosing to live in the suburbs, and as they do, the institutions they used to staff, support, and nourish decline in number and importance.

The eventual demise of ethnic enclaves in urban areas has been experienced by all ethnic groups in America; for Europeans the process has taken from four to six generations. For blacks the process began in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Of course there was resistance to residential integration, as mirrored in the hostility that exploded in Cicero, Illinois, in the 1960s, and it continued in the 1990s. Although blacks residing in white suburbs are often racially harassed, residential integration is gaining momentum even as some whites move out of suburbia to exurbia or back to the city.

It should be noted, however, that the process of ethnic enclave decline for blacks is fundamentally different from that for European ethnics. Europeans settled in urban areas at a time when urban job opportunities were increasingly plentiful. Most of the jobs were in manufacturing and did not require skilled labor. And since Europeans were preferred over blacks, the sheer numbers of jobs allowed them to lift a whole mass of people out of squalor. As economic stability increased, European ethnics began the process of preparing themselves for increased mobility within the American occupational structure. To do this, education was critical—educational institutions are essentially preparatory institutions. In sum, the occupational and economic success of European ethnics required a stable economic base first, education second, and occupational success third (Greeley 1976). The circumstances of black Americans (a sizable segment of whom were denied stable employment opportunities in the North) were totally different, particularly in urban areas and especially in the North.

European ethnics were preferred over black laborers. Consequently, while European ethnics were reaping the benefits of full employment, blacks were denied equal access to the labor market, undermining their ability to establish a stable economic base. And for those who would come later, after manufacturing jobs actually began to diminish because of the restructuring of the economy, there world be nothing but long-term unemployment. These groups would eventually form the black underclass as one generation of unemployed workers would quickly give rise to another. European ethnics were described by the sociologists of the 1920s and 1930s as socially disorganized (Thomas and Zananiecki 1927). Their communities were plagued by crime, delinquency, gangs, prostitution, and filth, but the availability of employment opportunities in the 1940s and 1950s allowed many to "lift themselves up by their own bootstraps."

The jobs that are available to blacks now because of the growth in the service sector of the American economy are either jobs that do not pay enough for a person to support a family or require considerable education and training, and so black urban ethnic enclaves are likely to undergo a different kind of transformation than did the European ethnic enclaves of the early 1900s. The middle class will be increasingly siphoned off from such enclaves, leaving behind a large residue of the most despondent and dependent, the most impoverished, the most violent, and the most criminal elements. Without new institutions to play the role of surrogate parents, without some kind of mandatory civilian social service corps, blacks in those communities may become a permanent underclass. A residue was also left behind by European ethnics, but it was much smaller and therefore much less problematic. As the black middle class leaves, it leaves its ethnic community devoid of the leadership or resources needed to regain its health. And as the numbers of female-headed families increase, the middle class will eventually have left the majority of black people behind. Integration, then, has undermined the health and the integrity of the black community.

The counterposition is now being proffered by many people, organizations, and school systems throughout the United States. This can be seen in the proliferation of segregated black programs where black youngsters are being taught only by black teachers. In this context, race clearly is the critical issue. Gender however, has also become an issue. In many of these schools, black males insist that only they can do the job. Since black women have had to bear the burden of rearing children alone for so long, there is no doubt that they can use some help. One critical problem remains for people of this persuasion, however, and that is the continuing trend of black middle-class and stable working-class flight. Can the black community stem the tide? It is not suggested here that the black middle class can solve the problem alone but rather that it must provide the leadership, as it did in the segregated black institutions of the South, and that government must pay for it. Can the exodus be diminished?

Possibly, the passage of anti-affirmative action legislation and the increased reliance on standardized testing in higher education may alert the black middle class that the opportunities for their children are diminishing. Already they are starting to send their children to historically black colleges and universities in record numbers. This is a major shift in black higher education, and the number of available admissions is limited. As their children's opportunities decrease, maybe they will come to see that in America the opportunities of black Americans will always be dependent upon the amount of pressure that blacks as a people can bring to bear on the system.

In the last few months of 1998, several anti-affirmative action programs were passed—Proposition 209 in California and Initiative 200 in Washington, for example. These initiatives were passed despite the demonstrated benefits of affirmative action for the broader society.

(see also: Apartheid; Discrimination; Equality of Opportunity; Ethnicity; Prejudice; Race; Segregation and Desegregation; Slavery and Involuntary Servitude)


references

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Albert Wesley Black, Jr.

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