Institutionalized Racism in the United States of America

Racial disparity and prejudice continue to be urgent issues in the United States. Many members of the African American community are in a disadvantaged position due to the history of discrimination and injustice inflicted upon them in previous centuries. This essay will argue that racism in America is profoundly institutionalized and historically affected the employment, housing options, schooling, and health of the minorities in the country.

Although the abolition of slavery granted freedom to all African Americans, many of them remained subject to the will of the white employers. Thus, many black workers were forced to work for landowners without fair payment. Peonage laws stating that convicts must “hire himself or herself out to any citizen” of the country were often exploited (Muller 372). White farm owners falsely accused their black laborers of fraud in order to force them to work off their debt and leave them without compensation (Muller 372). Furthermore, employment options were substantially affected by the emergence of black codes in some southern states. According to the Constitutional Rights Foundation, the codes defined labor contracts that black servants could have with white “masters,” giving the latter significant power over their workers reminiscent of slavery. Eventually, the use of black codes, peonage practice, and the lack of other opportunities compelled African Americans to move to northern states during the movement known as the Great Migration (Alexander et al. 2250). Overall, the employment opportunities for freed African Americans were limited due to institutionalized discrimination.

After the abolition of slavery, African Americans who worked for white landowners and lived on their property were left without homes. This situation led to the rise of the sharecropping practice when landless black farmers became tenants and shared the crops they grew with their white landlords (Alexander et al. 2251). African Americans who chose to move to the northern states were also limited in their housing options as many Americans supported segregated neighborhoods. The mechanisms preventing black immigrants from moving into white communities included redlining and restrictive covenants (Smith 363). Redlining was a practice of denying services to certain areas, with funding being withdrawn from predominantly black neighborhoods and loans being refused to their residents wishing to move (Smith 363). Furthermore, restrictive covenants were used to prohibit minorities from renting or buying property in prospering white communities (Smith 358). Unable to get a conventional mortgage, African Americans were forced into contract buying, never gaining full ownership of their house until the end of the contract, and under constant threat of eviction (Moore). Thus, minorities in America were widely discriminated against on the real estate market.

Moreover, African Americans were discriminated against in other areas of life, including education and healthcare. According to Stern (69), Jim Crow laws facilitated racial segregation in all public spaces, including educational institutions and healthcare facilities. Thus, minority students were not allowed to attend the same schools as white students, forcing them to receive education in low-achieving, underfunded institutions. Similarly, African Americans were forced to seek health advice from underqualified specialists as they were refused treatment in well-funded facilities. Overall, racial segregation had a profound impact on education and health within the black community.

In summary, contemporary racial disparity stems from the centuries of slavery and the following discrimination of African Americans in the United States. Various laws and legislations were put in place in order to limit the opportunities of minorities to find employment and housing and to receive high-quality education and healthcare. The history of institutionalized racism in employment, housing, schooling, and health should be taken into consideration when discussing the separation of races today.

Works Cited

Alexander, J. T., et al. “Second-Generation Outcomes of the Great Migration.” Demography, vol. 54, no. 6, 2017, pp. 2249-2271.

Constitutional Rights Foundation. “The Southern “Black Codes” of 1865-66.” Constitutional Rights Foundation, 2021, Web.

Moore, Natalie. “Contract Buying Robbed Black Families In Chicago Of Billions.”, 2019, Web.

Muller, Christopher. “Freedom and Convict Leasing in the Postbellum South.” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 124, no. 2, 2018, pp. 367-405.

Smith, Greta. ““Congenial Neighbors”: Restrictive Covenants and Residential Segregation in Portland, Oregon.” Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 119, no. 3, 2018, pp. 358-394.

Stern, Shai. ““Separate, Therefore Equal”: American Spatial Segregation from Jim Crow to Kiryas Joel.” The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, vol. 7, no. 1, 2021, pp. 67-90.

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