How has the history of white supremacy impacted urban life? 

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verascity eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although slavery has ended and white supremacy is no longer encouraged in the United States, the truth is that the history of white supremacy still has a strong lingering impact on the US and particularly urban communities. In part, this is because as much as we would like to deny it, white supremacists still exist; the KKK is still an active organization nationwide. However, the real impact has more to do with the way white supremacy shaped the formation of cities and policies. These continue to have an impact because they have not changed since they were created, or have not changed sufficiently.

One major example of this is transportation infrastructure. In the early- to mid-20th Century, urban planning and highway development disproportionately affected black neighborhoods. Black families were often displaced by highway construction, and neighborhoods that the highways ran through (as opposed to running to) tended to remain underfunded and undercared for. The presence of the highways contributed to pollution and detracted from community stability. They also have tended to cause problems in that people in poorer communities are less likely to own cars, but affordable public transportation rarely travels on the highways. Conversely, areas that the highways ran to tended to be more successful white neighborhoods -- for them, access via car to other successful, wealthier white areas was a priority. These separations have lasted well into the 21st Century.

Another example of lingering white supremacy can be found in many school districts. Before schools were integrated, black schools were almost universally less funded than white schools. However, after integration, the most heavily-integrated schools still tended to be poorer and less prioritized in funding (which was, in part, why Title I funds were created). In many areas, school funding is determined by local taxes; in other words, schools in poorer areas tend to receive less money than schools in wealthier areas. As a result, people living in poor black neighborhoods, who are already disadvantaged, are also not receiving an equitable education. This furthers the cycle of poverty essentially indefinitely for many families. Until we change policies such as these, white supremacy will continue to cast a shadow over our country.