Residential segregation is defined as the separation of neighborhoods based on race. Kevin Boyle’s book Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age illustrates a famous example of residential segregation, and the problems that came along with it. Residential segregation was supported largely by an apparent wealth gap, a lack of opportunities for social mobility, and basic racism. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 and families like the Sweets were both obstacles of residential segregation.
Since the end of slavery, until the present, there has been an obvious wealth gap corresponding with race. Because people of color generally don’t make up a large part of the country’s wealth, separating neighborhoods by race often resulted in extremely uneven average income of neighborhoods. School districts with residents who have lower incomes do not have the same resources as school districts with higher class households, and so residential segregation directly affects the quality of education. This is yet another example of the false pretenses of the expression “separate but equal”. Segregated neighborhoods make it harder for colored children to get a proper education.
The social mobility of black people in the early 20th century was extremely difficult. Not only was it challenging to gain wealth by getting a proper education and well paying job, it was next to impossible to change social rankings. Because of this, when Sweet was able to make enough money to buy a house in a wealthy white neighborhood, people had trouble accepting it. Lack of social mobility in the colored community made it easier to enforce residential segregation because there weren’t all that many black people moving up in the ranks.
There were many forces supporting residential segregation in the early 20th century, but probably the most central and the most abstract, is simply racism. As long at there’s prejudice in the United States the racs will not have equal rights. That applies even today.
There have been several movements toward getting rid of residential segregation since the story of the Sweets family. Arc of Justice took place in the 1920s, but residential segregation was never really addressed until after World War II. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 worked to minimize discrimination on buyers and sellers based on their backgrounds.
Even though social mobility was virtually nonexistent for the black population in the early 20th century, the small number of families who slipped through the cracks posed a threat to supporters of residential segregation.
Residential segregation, in a milder form, still exists today. I’ve heard it called residential racism, or residential prejudice. Real estate agents and people in the housing market are less likely to sell to a black family of the same credentials as a white family. Black families are also often denied knowledge of small details hat a white family gets to know. Arc of Justice shows residential inequality and segregation supported bya wealth gap between the races and because of a lack of social mobility. Both of those forces support housing inequality still today.