Analysis of “The American Apartheid: Segregation and Making of the Underclass”

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The 1993 text American Apartheid: Segregation and Making of the Underclass

The 1993 text American Apartheid: Segregation and Making of the Underclass by Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton argues that the current racial segregation in the United States was institutionally manufactured, and is unlikely to end in the near future. The authors main message is to educate the public by revisiting the subjects of racial segregation and other race issues, implying that this topic should lay the foundation in any discussion regarding the current situation in black neighborhoods, where the urban underclass originated. Additionally, Massey and Denton (1993) explore some of the popular works and authors that have attempted to demonstrate the factors that cause poverty in the underclass black neighborhoods. However they emphasise that most of the authors fail to mention the issue of racial segregation, and even those who do, merely provide any facts. To explain this relationship the authors provide a timeline of the events that have happened from before the Second World War to the elimination of the word "segregation".

Formation of the Underclass

Massey and Denton (1993) put forward their arguments by explaining the formation of the underclass characterised by bleak chances of both economic and social excellence. First, the text insists that black segregation is not comparable to the segregation of other races because it goes way beyond discrimination. The residential segregation that began a long time ago with racism has seen the formation of poor urban areas comprising of only black Americans. Features of this environment include physical and social deterioration, education failure, unemployment, and poverty, among others (Massey and Denton 34). Consequently, the long-term exposure to those and other factors led to a society characterised by poverty and poor education. The authors support that claim by stating that segregation was designed to produce structural rather than individual effects.

Explanations for Poverty in Black Communities

Massey and Denton (1993) explain some of the reasons that fellow scholars have attempted to present as explanations to poverty in black communities. Some argue that poverty is a culture that developed through social immobility and high levels of unemployment among black Americans leading to hopelessness and an ultimate delve into eternal poverty. Additionally, some authors argue that poverty among such communities arrived with their immigration, while others blame the readily available welfare. However, Massey and Denton (1993) discredit those arguments by pointing their paucity to include the issue of residential segregation. Another evidence presented is the conscious construction of the ghettos through indirect strategies such as: developing residential areas in the suburbs only for the whites and leaving urban areas for settlement by black Americans.

Evidence and Conclusions

Finally, the text concludes its list of evidence by referring to the Kerner Commission which presented racial separation as a primary reason for the ghetto riots in the 1960's (51). Instead of solving the residential segregation issue the government implemented other policies, like Fair Housing (54).

Thus, Massey and Denton present their arguments in an effective and practical way proving that poverty, being the major aspect of the underclass, is a result of the racial and residential segregation. The authors' choice of presenting a timeline of events that have occurred in the past and are building up to the present situation demonstrates the credibility of those arguments. Additionally, supporting evidence they present, as the Kerner commission report, is not just their opinions but documented facts. The text uses those facts to demonstrate a relationship between segregation and poverty among the underclass in a convincing manner.

Work Cited

Massey, Douglas, and Nancy Denton. American apartheid: Segregation and the making of the underclass. Harvard University Press,1993.

August 21, 2023



Race and Ethnicity Racism

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