Racial Injustice

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Racial Injustice

Racial injustice has been part of American democracy since the country’s earliest days as a collection of colonies. The legacy of slavery lives on today in systemic racism and inequity across many facets of our society. 

The first step to combating racial injustice is to understand where it comes from, which is what the episodes on this playlist and the additional resources aim to do. You’ll learn about the history of segregation in the Jim Crow era and how the Black Lives Matter movement builds power to bring justice, freedom, and healing to Black people around the world.

Many of the systems and processes discussed in these episodes occur at the state and local level, which means there are plenty of opportunities to get involved and work toward the progress you want to see.


What will it take to achieve racial justice in American politics?

Megan Ming Francis, “The white press has a history of endangering black lives going back a century,” Washington Post (June 15, 2020).

Dorothy Roberts, “Abolishing Policing Also Means Abolishing Family Regulation,” The Chronicle of Social Change (June 16, 2020).

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963).

Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd., 1962).

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “The End of Black Politics: Black leaders regularly fail to rise to the challenges that confront young people,New York Times (June 13, 2020).

The clumsy journey to antiracism

This week, we are bringing you another interview that we hope will give some context to the discussions about racism and inequality that are happening in the U.S. right now.

We’re  joined by Tehama Lopez Bunyasi, assistant professor at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University and Candis Watts Smith, associate professor African American Studies and political science at Penn State. She was recently named the Brown-McCourtney Early Career Professor in the McCourtney Institute for Democracy.

Bunyasi and Smith are coauthors of a book called Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making all Black Lives Matter, which looks at the history of structural racism in the U.S. and gives people information and tools to become antiracists.

We talk about the clumsiness associated with changing patterns of thinking and behavior and how that’s playing out across our online and offline lives and among both individuals and companies. We also discuss the inherent messiness of the Black Lives Matter movement and why that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Additional Information

Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making all Black Lives Matter

Three Myths about Racism – Candis’s TEDxPSU talk from February 2020

24 podcasts that confront racism in America – list from the Bello Collective

State-Sponsored Segregation: Richard Rothstein

Government Created Segregation

The US government codified overt segregation in housing policy at the beginning of the 20th century. The New Deal created the Federal Housing Administration, which required all new public or government-backed housing developments to be segregated. Zoning laws and plans around the country segregrated urban areas that were already integrated, and relegated African-Americans to less desirable areas. The government sought to solve the housing crisis after WWII by underwriting the development of suburbs for whites only. It also mandated racial covenants against African-Americans to secure housing loans and created red-lining and income-based discrimination to segregate urban areas.

Unequal Access

African Americans were excluded from government programs designed to create homeownership by being denied access to purchase a suburban home and to qualify for a mortgage. The Home Owners Loan Corporation provided government-backed, low-interest loans to whites who wanted to buy a house but refused to insure African Americans' loans. After World War II, the VA provided subsidized huge housing developments for white returning soldiers by allowing them to buy homes on mortgage without a down payment. Finally, real estate developers would not receive government-secured loans from banks to build suburban neighborhoods if they sold homes to African-Americans. These economic policies created and then entrenched housing segregation.

Segregated Labor

Organized labor flourished during and after the New Deal, but only whites felt the benefits. Unions were allowed to segregate their workforces, and some unions – like the construction workers’ union – excluded Blacks outright. Blacks were routinely denied jobs held for whites and were never promoted if it meant overseeing whites. African American workers were forced to pay full union dues but only received partial fringe benefits, and the benefits of collective bargaining sometimes only applied to white workers. Being forced into lower-paying jobs exacerbated the income and wealth disparities between Blacks and whites.

Find out more:

Richard Rothstein is a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute and a Senior Fellow (emeritus) at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He is the author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, which recovers a forgotten history of how federal, state, and local policy explicitly segregated metropolitan areas nationwide, creating racially homogenous neighborhoods in patterns that violate the Constitution and require remediation. He is also the author of many other articles and books on race and education, which can be found on his at the Economic Policy Institute. Previous influential books include Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black–White Achievement Gap and Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right.

If you’d like to get a notice about the New Movement to Redress Racial Segregation, send an email to Carrie at carrie@nmrrs.org.

The Case for Black Lives Matter: Hawk Newsome

"All lives will matter when Black lives matter," says our guest, Hawk Newsome, in this passionate, challenging, and fascinating podcast episode.

The co-founder and Chair of Black Lives Matter Greater New York answers the skeptics and makes the case for a movement that has grown in scale and significance since widespread protests erupted last summer after the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

A devout Christian who has spent much of his life campaigning for racial and social justice, Hawk Newsome, discusses his views on love vs. violence, systemic racism, and how he reached out to Trump supporters during a tense rally in Washington in 2017.

The conversation transcends the simple designations of left and right and seeks to find meaningful solutions that respond to the realities faced by people and communities.

In our podcast, we mentioned this story about what Hawk does during weekends.

The Roots of the Parties' Racial Switch

Today, Black Americans are the strongest Democratic constituency and White Southerners are the strongest Republican group—but it used to be the other way around. The usual story places 1960s civil rights policymaking at the center of the switch, but an important prior history in the North and the South made it possible. Keneshia Grant finds that the Great Migration north changed the Democratic Party because Black voters became pivotal in Democratic cities like New York, Chicago, and Detroit, leading politicians to respond, including new Black elected officials. Boris Heersink finds that Southern Republican state parties became battles between racially mixed and lily-white factions, mostly for control of patronage due to national convention influence. The lily-white takeovers enabled early Republican gains in the South. These trends predated national civil rights policymaking and help explain how we reached today’s divided regional and racial politics.

Broken Promises

Leah Wright Rigueur calls America a failed state. As a polity, she says, the United States has failed Black people, falling short of its promises of equality and justice. This summer’s protests are a dramatic diagnostic of that failure — the latest in a long history of wake-up calls. But this is also, perhaps, a transformative moment, a sign of hope. Rigueur, a Harvard historian and public policy expert, discusses the importance of heeding Black protest, Black politics, and Black demands for reparations.

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