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African Americans and Politics Essay

For decades African Americans have faced struggles throughout history. Most notably, African Americans were involved in slavery, suffrage, and the civil rights movement. These struggles were very visible and everyone was aware of what was going on. However, now African Americans are involved in a struggle that it not visible and recognizable. This is a struggle that is used to capitalize on wealth and prevent African American families and individuals from living normal lives.

They are involved in environmental racism. Environmental racism “refers to intentional or unintentional racial discrimination in the enforcement of environmental rules and regulations, the intentional or unintentional targeting of minority communities for the siting of polluting industries, or the exclusion of minority groups from public and private boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies. ”[1] This form of racism has been plaguing African American communities for years and most people have not taken notice.

There are many form of environmental racism; however, this paper will specifically address redlining, blockbusting, racial profiling, and housing segregation and how each has impacted the African American community. Redlining is the act of refusing or increasing the cost of services such as loans, insurance, banking, and access to healthcare to citizens based upon race. The practice involves taking a map and drawing a red line through neighborhoods where banks would not invest money. Redlining was used to segregate African Americans in the housing, workforce, and school market.

Parents had to find work in other areas of the city because there were not any resources available in the community. Because of redlining, schools became over crowded with 50 students crammed into one classroom. With the schools overcrowded, teachers were not able to provide special attention to the needy students and other students became uncontrollable. Cathy Cohen would argue that African Americans were being marginalized in the school system.

To be considered marginalized means, to have continuously been denied access to dominant resources, barred from full participation in dominant institutions, and defined as “others, “ living outside the norm and values agreed upon by society (Cohen 1999). African American students were all forced to go to one school in the community to keep them out of the White schools. Along with marginalization, Blacks were, and still are, a part of a power struggle. Blacks were seen, and will always be seen, as an inferior race. Also, Blacks have been disempowered knowingly and unknowingly. African-Americans have been taken advantage of and used to make other races feel superior.

Blockbusting was a practice used by real estate agents and developers in the United States to encourage white property owners to sell their homes by giving the impression that minority groups (such as African Americans) were moving into their previously racially segregated neighborhood. [2] When African Americans began to move into the inner city, fear arose that they were an economic threat. Blockbusting was also the cause of many White Americans moving into the suburbs. The practice of blockbusting involved an African American purchasing a home for very cheap in a predominately White neighborhood.

The real estate broker would contact the White residents and offer to buy their houses for quick cash and resell the house to an African American family for much higher. Real estate agents claimed that African Americans moving into a predominately White neighborhood would cause property values to go down and urged White homeowners to sell as soon as possible. Real estate agents indicated that the property values would go down because African Americans would not keep up their property, avoid lawn care, and if would affect the entire neighborhood.

This practice has caused major shifts in urban neighborhoods, especially Chicago, in recent decades. The Blockbusting methods were profitable and became common across the nation. For example, by 1962, when blockbusting had been in practice for fifteen years, Chicago had over 100 operators and the city had been changing an average of two to three blocks a week for several years. Blockbusting is the reason why cities such as Chicago are now predominately African American and the surrounding suburbs are predominately White. Blockbusting caused African Americans to be marginalized as well.

They were denied fair participation in the housing market. Real estate agents inflated housing prices for African Americans to gain commission. White homeowners already had prejudices about African Americans and the real estate agents only made the situation worse. The stereotypes that Black families do not take care of their property was the main reason White homeowners sold their homes. Racial profiling is “the inclusion of racial or ethnic characteristics in determining whether a person is considered likely to commit a particular type of crime or an illegal act or to behave in a “predictable” manner.

”[3] The practice of racial profiling is a huge problem in the United States. African Americans are usually the targeted victims in the act of racial profiling. It is believed that an African American driver will be more likely stopped than a White driver. Some police officers share the belief that Black drivers will most likely possess an illegal substance of committing an illegal act. However, policemen argue that they do not base their arrests on race but are greatening their probability of a successful search. Some policemen also argue that the probability of catching a Black offender is greater than catching a White offender.

Whether the statement is true or not, it places a bias on African Americans and White Americans. The belief that African Americans men are more likely to commit crimes is unfair and not true. One cannot base the behavior of all African American men on the ones that have done wrong and been imprisoned. Another belief of racial profiling is it is the cause of the racial disparities in the American prison system. There are many more African American men in the jail system than there are White men. The previous statement is mostly likely to be true.

Because some policemen hold biases and have prejudices against African Americans, it will cause more African Americans to be placed in the jail system. Another instance of racial profiling involved African Americans owning nice material possessions such as a car or a house and African Americans being in a predominately White neighborhood. For example, in an episode of Family Matters, Eddie was in his car travelling through a predominately White neighborhood and was pulled over by the police for “failure to signal. ” However, the routine traffic stop turned into nothing more than a beating for young Eddie.

The significance of the episode shows that racial profiling does exist in the United States and it takes place every day. The practice has impacted African Americans because hundreds of innocent people have been harassed and humiliated by police officers simply because of their race. The most recent national example of environmental racism occurred when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005. When New Orleans was flooded with tons of water, there were no relief efforts for days and almost a week. Many believed this was due to the fact that majority of the New Orleans population was African American.

The population was basically ignored for days until the help decided to come. Citizens of New Orleans were faced with intentional racism and were denied help for several days. This has impacted African Americans because many people died because of the heat, starvation, and disease from the water. African-Americans have been marginalized for centuries. To be considered marginalized means, to have continuously been denied access to dominant resources, barred from full participation in dominant institutions, and defined as “others, “ living outside the norm and values agreed upon by society (Cohen 1999).

Most recently, African-Americans were marginalized in regards to the outbreak of HIV/AIDS. While HIV/AIDS was once considered to be the disease of white gay men, Blacks are now the center of the epidemic. With the turn of the new millennium, the outbreak of AIDS in the Black community has soared. Black men who consider themselves to be “down low” are the center of the rising epidemic. The men have intercourse with other men while continuing to have intercourse with their female partners thus spreading the AIDS virus.

Even though the soaring rate is shocking, there has been limited response from the African-American community. One can argue that Blacks have been marginalized from the resources to treat the epidemic. However, the Black community seems to be ignoring the spreading AIDS virus and focusing more on electing a Black president and high blood pressure. While both electing a Black president and lowering high blood pressure are important issues, similar emphasis should be put on the rising AIDS epidemic.

In a sense, African-Americans have marginalized themselves from dealing with AIDS. Continuing to turn a cold shoulder to the issue will not fix the problem. Although Blacks are being marginalized when it comes to AIDS, they are also marginalized when it comes to property and social relationships. For example, when it comes to receiving bank loans, African-Americans is marginalized heavily. Some bank loan officers practice redlining which causes Black residents, whether qualified or not, to be denied loans for property.

By using the redlining technique, bank loan officers are marginalizing Blacks from being able to own their own property. Relating back to the AIDS epidemic, Black men were marginalized for having the virus. For instance, if a Black man was open about his homosexuality would be marginalized heavily. Homophobia could be a valid reason for the marginalization of Black men. With open homosexuality, an African-American could be left out from participating in activities and denied being recognized as a normal individual.

Homophobia could damage an individual’s social life and leave him feeling disempowered. [4] Along with marginalization, Blacks were, and still are, a part of a power struggle. Blacks were seen, and will always be seen, as lower than Whites. Also, Blacks have been disempowered knowingly and unknowingly, which is the center of environmental racism. African-Americans have been taken advantage of and used to gain wealth and keep at the bottom of the ladder. In short, there are many types of power struggles. One does not have to see power to know that it is taking place.

[5] For instance, being called an inferior race is a power struggle within itself. African-Americans that believe that they are actually inferior will begin to act that way. They will begin to doubt themselves and their abilities in life. Once they have it in their mindset that they are inferior, it will cause them to act that way. Housing Segregation is “the practice of denying African American or other minority groups equal access to housing through the process of misinformation, denial of realty and financing services, and racial steering.

”[6] The act of housing discrimination involves real estate agents and landlords not providing African American families with an accurate account of available housing. Housing segregation happens when landlords and real estate agents lure White Americans to available housing only in white communities, and African Americans to Black or diverse and mixed communities. The realtor and landlord usually work together in the process and will agree not to tell the African Americans about the available units in the European American communities.

This process goes back to the assumption that African Americans residents will bring down the property value of homes in the neighborhood because they will not take care of their own property. Housing segregation is intentional racism that excludes African Americans from participating fairly in the housing market. Black families should be able to live wherever they please without regardless of the demographics of the neighborhood. With all that African Americans have been through, environmental racism should not be ignored or taken lightly.

People should take heed to the practice and fight for what is right. All of the above forms of environmental racism have plagued the African American community. It has caused a major shift in the urban cities such as Chicago. Real estate agents have inflated the costs of housing for Black families moving into predominantly White areas. African American families can fight the issues by becoming more aware of their surroundings and becoming familiar with the practices. They can hire good lawyers to defend them and fight for justice.

With regards to the AIDS epidemic, African Americans have been marginalized when it comes to resources and thus leads to environmental racism. African American of the new generation, as a whole, should stand together and fight the justice that was promised to them in the United States Constitution. ———————– [1] Dictionary. com [2] Dictionary. com [3] Dictionary. com [4] Cathy J. Cohen, The Boundaries of Blackness (The University of Chicago Press) 47-48. [5] John Gaventa, Power and Powerlessness (The University of Illinois Press) 1-32. [6] Dictionary. com.


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