Inequality remains a pressing issue for African-Americans

Los Angeles still suffers from racial bias

Isabell Rivera OW Contributor | 9/12/2019, midnight

“Ignorance,” as the old saying goes, “is bliss.” Therefore, it might be easier to think that in current times racism and housing discrimination are events of the past, and that society has come such a long way since.

Taken in totality for African-Americans and other persons of color, not much has changed in terms of societal equality. The inequality in many urban cities, such as Los Angeles, still exist. The on-going segregation in Los Angeles—spanning secondary schools to “food deserts”--has resulted in a striking difference in quality of life issues separated largely by the 10 Freeway. Neighborhoods east of that thoroughfare are predominantly Black and Latino. For decades, residents there have witnessed their fair share of high crime, inadequate educational choices, and a lack of health-care services.

Segregated neighborhoods

Black communities are still segregated and deprived from resources that White neighborhoods generally take for granted. Between 1880 and 1940, racial segregation doubled nationwide, with most growth taking place in urban cities. During the second Great Migration (after WWI), many Blacks migrated from the segregated South to industrial cities, such as Chicago, New York City, and Detroit to find work and build communities.

It wasn’t until the 1940s that Los Angeles saw a wave of African-American workers move west with their families, as a response to World War II recruitment in the defense industry. The Black population in LA rose drastically from approximately 63,700 in 1940, to an estimated 350,000 by 1965. During World War II and the resulting Black migration from the South in search of better job opportunities, Los Angeles was one of many cities that had a form of economic discrimination directed toward Blacks in the form of housing covenants (or segregation de facto) that hindered African-Americans from buying property in certain neighborhoods. It continued after the Supreme Court ruled such tactics as illegal in 1948 and after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

At the beginning of the 1930s,  the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and the Home Owners' Loan Corporation plotted to design maps with marked areas called “redlining” to separate Black neighborhoods from White neighborhoods. Banks would not provide loans to perspective Black home-buyers who wanted to move to a White neighborhood, and banks also wouldn’t loan to White real estate developers if it was close to a Black neighborhood.

The reason for the formation of the Black ghettos was to solve two major “dilemmas.” First, the mindset of White persons about so-called “Blackness” to be a threat and therefore to be “controlled.” And second, a wealth issue, as wages for White workers were rising, factory owners considered it as a threat to profitability. Therefore, Black workers were scared to negotiate rates of pay in fear of the competition in the first place, but also out of fear to lose employment due to the ongoing discrimination.

As a result, many African-Americans became excluded from the White neighborhoods, earning less income than White workers. But African-Americans also faced a decline of general labor jobs due to “economic restructuring” between the late ‘60s to the late ‘80s, which left many Blacks affected by either being unemployed or underemployed with substandard wages and few fringe benefits. This contributed to poverty and inequality in the predominantly Black neighborhoods.