Institutional Discrimination in America

For about 250 years we had slavery in America, 90 years of Jim Crow, 60 years of separate but equal, and 35 years of racist housing policy. All these years of racism and discrimination has brought not only individual discrimination between one person and another, but also institutional discrimination carried out by social institutions. One of the worst policies introduced by a social institution, that still affects us today was, the Federal Housing Administration that was introduced in 1934 and lasted until 1968.

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A practice that denies mortgages based on race and ethnicity. This brought us housing segregation that is still a huge problem. Until we cooperate together and admit our faults, America will continue to not be equal forever.

Not only does institutional racism affect housing and public schooling, but it affects politics, healthcare, jobs, and so many other sectors. Many people believe since slavery was abolished and hate crimes are illegal, racism no longer is an issue. But just because something is made illegal, does not mean it is not happening. For example, people are still murdering, raping and millions of cases are not solved, and no justice is provided. Just like systemic bias is treated. Here are some examples of institutionalized racism, A study from CNN on wrongful convictions among three types of crimes (murder, sexual assault, and drug crimes,) show, that black people are more likely to be wrongfully convicted than white people and are also likely to spend longer in prison before being exonerated for their crimes and 58% of prisoners are black or Hispanic despite making up one quarter on the U.S. population (Vega 2017). Another huge issue that stems from these uneven incarceration rates, is that in many states, felons are not allowed to vote do that means more than 1 out of every 10 black men cannot vote. One more fact from the National Education Association, 74% of black students and 80% of Latino students attend schools that are more than half-minority populations. This is segregation and it is an effect that stemmed from the Federal Housing Administration Mortgage Insurance requirements in 1965.

How did this all start? After World War II and all the vets came home, the FHA helped finance military housing. They alleviated the home ownership crisis according to an article off Boston fair housing. But what they also did was isolate residential developments that we call the suburbs today. They, stripped the inner city of many of their middle-class inhabitants, thus hastening the decay of inner-city neighborhoods. Loans for the repair of existing structures were small and for short duration, which meant that families could more easily purchase a new home than modernize an old one, leading to the abandonment of many older inner-city properties (Fair Housing Center). They also practiced a policy of redlining which denies and limits financial services to neighborhoods based off of its racial or ethnic makeup. There was even a wall built to separate the blacks and the white so the FHA appraisers, could approve mortgages on white people’s properties so they can invest, and their children can have good lives and good futures.

People of color where left out of the new suburbs and shoved into urban housing projects. According to the National Public Radio, Today African-American incomes on average are about 60 percent of average white incomes. But African-American wealth is about 5 percent of white wealth (Domonoske 2016). Why do you think this is? The good old housing policy! Middle class families usually invest in the equity of their homes, so they gain more wealth. White families used their home equities to send their kids to college, give them good health care, and give their wealth to them as well. So, none of these resources where given to African Americans because they were prohibited from being in the suburbs! Our federal government created this segregation and people do not know about this history. This practice of redlining still exists, an article by the Hill, reported that AT&T discriminated against low-income areas in Cleveland not bringing them top broadband capabilities.

A theory that was introduced by Emile Durkheim, mechanical solidarity, is a social integration of members who have similar beliefs. The members of these societies have a collective conscience that makes them cooperate. This was happening in these white suburban communities. They where living around, communicating, working, and working for only other white people. It was a euphoria for the racist white person, and it was completely legal. White people all had the same experiences, same values and they did not want things to change and once things did start to change, they moved out of the communities and the prices for homes just would go up.

After Martin Luther King was murdered, Congress passed a Fair Housing Act of 1968. A policy meant to bring equal housing opportunities regardless of race, ethnicity or religious beliefs. But over the next 50 years, this act was rarely enforced. Today, it is still much harder for black families to get a mortgage or home loan than it is for a white person. In a report by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, racial bias in the housing market was evidenced by the rate at which homebuyers were shown available housing. The report found that renters and homebuyers of color were shown and told about less home’s white homebuyers (2012). It is a basic right that should be offered to every single person in this country regardless of their race or ethnicity.

Another major thing that gets affected by this institutional discrimination, is our public schooling that is paid by property taxes. People who live in better, nicer neighborhoods, have access to the best schooling with better paid teachers, better supplies and equipment, and many more resources. This is a huge problem because kids are not being taught equally and it is only getting worse. According to an article by Vox, Black children are now more likely to grow up in poor neighborhoods than they were 50 years ago (Chang 2018).

Research says that growing up in segregated, poor neighborhoods will affect so much of your life. It can determine your education level, your income, your happiness, health and even your life span. This is all a result from redlining and the Federal Housing Administration. People still to this day have no idea about segregation today and its history and where it came from. Just like Durkeims’ theory of mechanical solidarity, white people are too comfortable with being just around each other. Nothing will change until we admit our faults as a country and come together to create an equal world for everyone.

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