Nature of Racism

What does Thomas Sugrue’s Sweet Land of Liberty tell us about the nature of racism?
The nature of racism can be best described as the self-interest of a group of people exceeding the best interest of another group of people. The black community is often noted as the most deeply hurt group of people due to racism that has occurred throughout history. Many times people will argue that they are not a racist, but their actions will demonstrate that they clearly have an agenda that is designed to propel their own ideas above that of others.
Unfortunately the black community has experienced the most blatant forms of racism. In an effort to reach for better living conditions the white community created an environment that was conducive to their advancement while caring little for the advancement of the colored people living around them. As whites desired a better community life they found themselves moving out to the suburbs often times into locations that forbid blacks to move into them. Sugrue discussed Levittown (chapter 7) as a place where the “whiteness of Levitt’s vast developments, and of postwar suburbia in general, was not an accident.” (201) He goes on to state “Private but legally enforceable restrictive covenants – attached to nearly every housing development built between 1920 – 1948 – forbade the use or sale of a property to anyone other than white.” (202) Whites were prospering from the leapfrogging to the suburbs and the clear racial lines were being etched deeper into society as the blacks were not allowed to make that same leap. Doing this deepened the disparity between the whites and blacks and caused racism to deepen in America.
White people who made the leap to suburbia enjoyed better schools, shopping, office space, medical facilities, parks and other amenities, which caused a negative chain reaction in the black neighborhoods. The self-interest of the whites gave them better opportunities which provided the ability to afford better houses, which left the less desirable homes available to the blacks who were not able to move out and could not afford to if they wanted to. With the increased level of income leaving a central location the people remaining in the area would have been subject to higher prices in housing, furnishings, groceries, and general supplies as the owners of the business or houses charged higher prices to sustain their same level of income. Sugrue mentions black leaders were often discussing the “intertwined problems of race, unemployment, ghettoization, and inadequate education.”(271) The fact that the whites were able to live in areas off limits to blacks immediately set up a system of racial barriers. Whites were able to obtain the better jobs since many of the business owners moved their business out of inner cities which left the blacks with no way to get to work causing a deep burden of unemployment . Further, the lack of income, work, and pride caused a sense of poor self-esteem and pride in one’s community which then became subject to the ghetto syndrome, or very run down. When a group of people feel there is no hope, and they don’t have the resources to provide for themselves, they can no longer take care of their property which decreased its values.
All of these areas were further complicated by the fact that educational opportunities were significantly reduced for the black community. Whites had better opportunities for the most advanced education, while blacks were subjected to the separate but equal philosophy, which eventually proved that separate was nowhere close to equal. The whites were concerned with getting the best education for their children in buildings that were up to date and had the top notch equipment available at the time. The teachers were the best in the field and the students had choices as to classes they wanted to take. However, the whites did not have the same regard for the black children who did not have the same facilities, opportunities, or materials in which they could learn the same information and thus be a contender for the jobs whites were after. In this case, the whites saw the plight of the blacks, but were not willing to suffer so the blacks could get ahead. This cyclical problem continues through the next generation as the poor education then leads to lack of quality employment, which produces poor living conditions, and then drives the division between blacks and whites further. The self interests of the whites were a far greater factor than worrying about equality for all and caused racism to spawn deeper into society.

One Response to “Nature of Racism”
  1. genevieve25 says:

    I would have to agree completely with your post. I think people including myself are racist without even knowing it. I also agree that until blacks obtain the same equality as whites that racism will continue to thrive throughout the United States. I liked your statement about how whites were not willing to suffer any of their own desires to help blacks reach theirs. Your description of the “ghetto syndrome” also makes sense when dealing with racism in the United States. It is extremely hard to find motivation if there is no hope.

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