With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

From Segregation to Gentrification

Seattle and Detroit are two cities with similar population sizes (684K and 677K respectively). Thirty-five is the median age of residents, with a home ownership rate of 46.6% in both cities. Both have a vibrant downtown district located adjacent to large bodies of water.

But that’s where the major similarities end.

Seattle is one of America’s top economically competitive tech-innovation ecosystems. It has more than 415,000 employees, 6% job growth and a poverty rate of only 12% (compared to a national rate of just over 14%). Median household income is more than $80K and growing at 13%. Median property values are $530K and growing at more than 12% annually. The most populous demographic groups are white (66%), Asian (14%) and black (7%).

Detroit sits on the other side of the economic spectrum, struggling to find new economic stability after the city declared an $18B bankruptcy in 2013. With a population size similar to Seattle, the Motor City employs only 220,000 with a 1.7% decline in job growth. The poverty rate is near 40% and median household income hovers around $26K. Median property values remain steady at just over $42K. The most populous demographic groups are black (80%), white (9.5%) and Hispanic (8%).

While these two cities appear polar opposite in the extreme, economic forces operating in each city disproportionately impact poor people of color in remarkably similar fashion. Studies of market forces and public policies in each city reveal surprisingly consistent systemic outcomes for communities of color. These outcomes are familiar refrains for many major metros across America....

Discriminatory lending practices have a long history in the United States dating back to the Reconstruction era, when the 14th amendment in 1868 compelled local policymakers and industries to accept black people and other nonwhites as US citizens and treat them with equal protections under the law.

The response was instead an institution of Jim Crow with codified public policies and systemic private practices that established and sustained separate and unequal societies.

Despite the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v Board of Education, Dr. Martin Luther King was still battling segregationists when he was killed in 1968, 100 years after newly freed black people were given citizenship rights under the constitution....

Read entire article at Medium