Structural Racism and Social Change: New Orleans and Beyond - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

1 / 106
About This Presentation

Structural Racism and Social Change: New Orleans and Beyond


Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, Moritz College of Law. ... and is therefore often understood as the epitome of 'just' and neutral policy. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

Number of Views:170
Avg rating:3.0/5.0
Slides: 107
Provided by: laure95


Transcript and Presenter's Notes

Title: Structural Racism and Social Change: New Orleans and Beyond

Structural Racism and Social Change New
Orleans and Beyond
  • john a. powell
  • Williams Chair in Civil Rights Civil Liberties,
    Moritz College of Law. Director, Kirwan Institute
  • March 12, 2007

  • Structural Racism (SR)
  • SR Implications Katrina
  • SR Implications Beyond
  • Concluding Thoughts
  • Additional Information on SR, Rebuilding New
    Orleans, and beyond

Structural Racism
  • Racism, and the factors producing and sustaining
    it, have been theorized in many different ways.
    Primary among these are
  • Individual
  • Institutional
  • Color-blindness
  • The inadequacy of these models for describing and
    understanding the complexity of racialized
    operations of power has continually resulted in
    failed diagnoses and responses.

Structural Racism
  • This perspective suggests that the individual
    subject acts independently and consciously of
    his/her own volition to perform a racist action
    (a.k.a. discretionary).
  • Problems
  • Suggests that racism must always be rooted in
  • Often figures the subject as acting irrationally,
    that is out of synch with the majority cultures
    understanding of race and racism.
  • Often by framing race as a historical and extinct
    phenomenon which obfuscates its contemporary
    materiality, ideology, and structure.

Structural Racism
  • Institutions are organizations, or mechanisms of
    culture, governing the behavior of social
    subjects. Institutions are identified with a
    social purpose and permanence, transcending
    individual human lives and intentions, and with
    the making and enforcing of rules governing human
  • An institutional racism framework suggests that
    despite the individual intentions of actors,
    social institutions (including education,
    religion, kinship structures, punitive systems,
    and economic forms) produce outcomes that are
    specifically racialized.
  • Benefits Recognizes that a subject acts not only
    as an individual, but as a socialized person in a
    racialized culture. Accordingly, attention can be
    given not only to overt acts of individual
    racism, but also the covert racialized operations
    of institutions which are so normalized, they
    often seem undetectable.
  • Problems Cannot account for the ways is which
    neutral institutions work in conjunction with
    other institutions to produce racialized

Structural Racism
  • Color-blindness
  • Devised as a response to racism, a
    color-blindness perspective suggests that race
    should not be a consideration in interpersonal,
    representational, economic, or legal.
  • Color-blindness, as a philosophy, is deeply
    rooted in the liberal tenet of the universal
    subject and is therefore often understood as the
    epitome of just and neutral policy.
  • It has taken on a particular resonance is the
    post- Civil Rights Era in which de jure
    discrimination was eliminated to argue against
    programs such as affirmative action.
  • Problems fails to account for the ways in which
    neutral policies (de jure) are mapped onto a
    historical legacy of racial discrimination
    creating de facto disparity which often operates
    far more covertly.

A Structural Racism model attempts to account for
the theoretical shortcomings of traditional
SOURCE Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo (1997)
Structural Racism
  • How do we understand racial disparities if they
    are not explained by personal discrimination or
    explicit laws and policies?
  • Structures are sets of mutually sustaining
    schemas or relationships and resources that
    empower and constrain social action and that tend
    to be reproduced by that social action. (Sewell)
  • Structural racism is an analytical approach which
    examines the interrelationship among institutions
    as well as individuals for generating an
    understanding of the (re)production of unequal
    and hierarchical racial outcomes. An
    analytical-practical by-product of this approach
    is a call for institutional alignments through
    strategic interventions and an emphasis on
    analytical-practical monitoring because of the
    dynamic reality of what is at stake.
  • To reiterate, structural racism is both a model
    for understanding the reality of how racism
    functions and way to refigure necessary

Structural Racism
  • Shifting attention away from individuals, SR
    focuses on the way in which outcomes are
    racialized. When outcomes such as student
    achievement, wealth accumulation, health factors,
    etc. are disparate along racial lines, it is
    evidence that singular institutions and the
    interactivity between institutions are
    functioning in a racist mode, regardless of
    intent. Often, racism is not even perceivable
    within a singular institution, but rather
    operates across multiple domains to distribute
    disadvantage. De facto disadvantage is often
    produced even when there are no laws that are
    specifically racialized. De facto disadvantage
    then often results from the historical legacy of
    discrimination, making racism a very dynamic and
    potent force in the present. Racialized outcomes,
    interactivity between institutions, and
    historical legacies of discrimination, all
    represent covert operations, making the
    structural racism more difficult to diagnose.
    Structural inequalities limit the democratic

Structural Racism
  • Considerations for an SR Response
  • In order to respond to the network of power
    shaping structural racism, the interconnecting
    relational web within which individuals live and
    act must be investigated and articulated.
  • Within this network characterized by the
    fragmentation of power, multiple levels of
    leadership that cut across fields and borders
    must be identified and mobilized.
  • This indicates a need to consider the larger
    relationship between opportunity structures and
    institutional inequities.
  • Including people where they once were excluded is
    a step in the right direction, but it is not
    enough. We need to examine the policies and
    politics which led to their exclusion in the
    first place.

Structural Racism
  • An SR approach assumes public policies,
    institutional practices, cultural
    representations, and other norms work in various
    and interactive ways reinforcing and perpetuating
    racial group hierarchical inequalities.
  • An SR analysis has a two-fold emphasis,
    understanding and intervention, and FIVE
    defining characteristics
  • Interrelated functioning of institutions
  • Call for a strategic and dynamic understanding of
    these interactive cumulative relationships
    (single to complex)
  • A shift of focus from individuals to raced groups
  • Strategic interventions that challenge the
    collective routine actions of individuals
    interacting within a set of normal institutional
  • Relevance of monitoring.

Structural Racism
  • Necessity/Importance of an SR approach
  • An SR approach importance and necessity derives
    from its broadening and grounding of individual
    and institutionally-based explanations without
    disregarding them. It brings us closer to an
    understanding of reality because of its
    theoretical generality and methodological
    inclusiveness which cannot be stated for solely
    individual and institutionally-based explanations.

Structural Racism
  • Necessity/Importance of an SR approach
  • It forces us to look at results, not necessarily
    intentions. Intentions need to be considered in
    a relational way.
  • Policies neutral on their face and intent, can be
    discriminatory in their effect.
  • Institutional and public arrangements are not
    neutral in their impact and influence our private
    choice and resources.
  • Laws and institutions need not be explicitly
    racist in order to disempower communities of
    color they need only to perpetuate unequal
    historic conditions.
  • People usually make reasonable choices given
    their constraints and opportunities, but these
    constraints and opportunities are unevenly
    distributed racially.
  • We need to consider these constraints in order to
    understand the limitations placed on those

Structural Racism
  • Necessity/Importance of an SR approach
  • Current disparities are symptoms of structural
  • Nevertheless, it is only analytically possible to
    underscore SR when isolated from individual and
    institutional racism this is not because SR is
    only present when the other two are absent, but
    because in their absence we are required to
    sharpen our analytical skills in order to
    understand racial disparities.
  • Simply recognizing disparities is not enough, we
    need to examine our assumptions surrounding them.
  • Inequality is built into our current
    institutional arrangements.
  • Disparities are not a sign that the current
    system isnt working, they are a sign that it is
    working exactly as it is supposed to because it
    eschews any consideration of interrelated
    institutional effects, in general and group-wise.

Structural Racism
  • Necessity/Importance of an SR approach
  • An SR approach proposes evaluating the fairness
    of structures or institutional arrangements by
    how they function in themselves and their
    relationship with other structures and
    institutions in society and human agency.

SR Implications Katrina
  • The Challenge 1
  • More than one year after Katrina, Gulf Coast
    recovery still requires tremendous assistance and
    progress has been slow.
  • Many issues continue to slow recovery (some
  • Funds not reaching communities in need
  • Housing funds not reaching homeowners in need
  • Long term federal commitment to Category 5 levee
    system uncertain
  • Continued housing crisis in New Orleans
  • Citys population much lower than what was
  • Continued displacement for nearly ¼ million

SR Implications Katrina
  • The Challenge 2
  • Despite the great need in the Gulf for additional
    assistance, concerns exist regarding the nations
    focus on Gulf Coast recovery.
  • Public attention
  • The public does not see progress in the Gulf
    Coast recovery and feels significant funds have
    been expended, but does not fully understand why
    recovery has been slow.
  • Media attention
  • After significant press coverage near the
    anniversary, national news coverage of the Gulf
    Coast has diminished significantly.
  • News cycle moving onward (mid-terms, political
    scandals, international affairs).

SR Implications Katrina
  • The Challenge 3
  • Why this disconnect and concern about public
  • Media emphasis on waste in spending and size of
    Katrina relief package (larger than any other
    disaster response).
  • Common public beliefs
  • Gulf Coast recovery should only cost 200
  • There is a popular perception that the 109
    billion largely goes to the city of New Orleans.
  • There is a general assumption that much of those
    dollars support longer-term recovery and
  • When in fact, the bulk of the early supplemental
    funds provided much-needed emergency housing and
    other aid to families and support to provide
    clean up and other emergency activities.
  • Lastly, there is often an assumption that these
    allocations go directly to the cities and states
    though a large portion of the federal allocations
    are actually administered by the federal agencies.

From Editorial Desk of the Wall Street Journal
(August 29, 2006)
  • The post-Katrina spend-fest in Louisiana will be
    remembered as one of the greatest taxpayer wastes
    in US history.
  • New Orleans plight is not the result of federal
    underspending. Uncle Sam has spent five times
    more on Katrina relief than any other natural
    disaster in the past 50 years.

SR Implications Katrina
  • Reframing the Debate 1
  • Concern that this can endanger long term federal
    commitment to the Gulf.
  • Closing window of opportunity to learn from
    Katrinas national implications.
  • Need to reframe arguments to build greater
    support for the Gulf Coast.
  • Not just a natural disaster, but a disaster
    produced by failed policy.
  • Implicating not just the Gulf, but everyone.

SR Implications Katrina
  • Reframing the Debate 2
  • Not just a Gulf Coast (New Orleans) concern,
    impacting everyone.
  • Katrinas impact was not a geographic anomaly,
    but the result of heightened vulnerability
    created by neglectful policy.
  • These same policies have created conditions of
    vulnerability in many places throughout the
  • Creating the potential for future Katrinas.

SR Implications Katrina
  • A Failure of Policy Infrastructure
  • The impact of Katrina must be viewed as a failure
    of public policy, primarily the result of our
    nations disinvestment in the key infrastructure
    needed to support our society.
  • Physical infrastructure Allowing critical
    physical infrastructure to decay (leveesroads),
    while wasting infrastructure investments in
    undeveloped areas.
  • Social infrastructure Cuts to critical social
    programs to help connect people to opportunity,
    stabilize low income neighborhoods.
  • The result of this neglect has created conditions
    of extreme vulnerability in many urban
    neighborhoods (racialized vulnerability).

Disinvestment in Critical Infrastructure for
Urban Areas
  • Katrina directly illustrated the national trend
    of disinvestment in critical infrastructure for
    urban areas
  • Poorly maintained levy systems
  • Insufficient public transportation

SR Implications Katrina
  • Physical Infrastructure
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers rates the
    nations infrastructure investments, maintenance
    and quality at a Grade of D or Poor (Source
    2005 Infrastructure Report Card for the Nation).
  • U.S. infrastructure requires an investment of
    1.6 trillion every 5 years to maintain its
  • Only 2 of the annual national budget is
    earmarked for infrastructure spending therefore,
    funds are continually short.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers currently has a
    backlog of uncompleted projects costing 58
    billion and spanning ten years.

SR Implications Katrina
  • Disinvestment in Critical Infrastructure for
    Urban Areas
  • These trends are not unique to New Orleans and
    occur in many communities in a variety of ways
  • Disinvestment in public transit, in favor of
    expenditures on highways and roads.
  • Policies that promote sprawl in suburban areas,
    while stripping urban areas of investment.
  • Declining federal resources for urban areas,
    despite the great need to maintain existing
    infrastructure in our cities.

SR Implications Katrina
  • Social Infrastructure
  • While general conditions of economic stability
    are growing worse for many Americans, many of the
    safety net programs (critical social
    infrastructure) in the United States have been
  • Social safety net cuts in the most recently
    proposed Congressional Budget
  • Medicaid cut by 16 billion over next 10 years
  • More burden for Temporary Assistance to Needy
    Families shifted to states (estimated to cost
    more than 8 billion)
  • 343 million cut for foster care
  • 11 cut in Community Development Block Grant
    funding to cities
  • Annual housing cuts for 2006
  • 134 million cut to public housing funding in
  • Elimination of 35,000 section 8 vouchers

A Failure to Invest in Ourselves
  • A failure to invest in the social capital of our
    citizens so that they can grow to be contributing
    members of our society.
  • This parallels failure to invest in our
    neighborhoods and communities.
  • You can not expect returns without a willingness
    to invest capital.

Post Katrina Graffiti in New Orleans
SR Implications Katrina
  • Producing Extreme Social Vulnerability
  • This disinvestment and neglect has created
    conditions and neighborhoods of extreme
    vulnerability in many of our cities, this has
    national implications.
  • A 2002 United Nations Development Programme
    report defines social vulnerability as
  • the degree to which societies or socio-economic
    groups are affected by stresses and hazards,
    whether brought about by external forces or
    intrinsic factorsinternal and externalthat
    negatively impacts the cohesion of a country.

SR Implications Katrina
  • Policy Framework for Change
  • A renewed call for
  • Responsible government
  • Government action that is responsible and
    responsive to everyone, especially our most
    vulnerable populations and neighborhoods.
  • Embracing policies that affirmatively work to
    connect vulnerable populations to opportunities.
  • Investment
  • Recommitment by the federal government to
    reinvest in our nations critical physical and
    social infrastructure.
  • Producing benefits far beyond the Gulf Coast.

SR Implications Katrina
  • Linked Fates Coalition Building
  • The Institute has been working with the National
    Alliance to restore Opportunity to the Gulf
  • To raise the call for more responsible
    government, government which does not create
    conditions of vulnerability and promotes social
  • For the Gulf Coast and the nation
  • Work at this stage
  • Op-ed placements
  • Faith based organizing
  • Collaboration with local organizations, media
  • Research, white papers, public information
  • For more information http//

Beyond New OrleansStructural Racism and
Strategic Interventions
  • What are Strategic Interventions?
  • Points of pressure where collective action is
    needed (specific and general impact).
  • Points of pressure where we realized the need to
    think about our linked fate for long-term and
    lasting change.
  • How do we identify Strategic Interventions?
  • We need to identify the Veto Players/Relevant
    Actors needed for transformative change.
  • Furthermore, we need to also know who occupies
    these power positions for determining which power
    lever would have more impact (transformative
    power) acknowledging the resources at-hand.
  • Keep in mind that transformative change takes
    time and energy.

Beyond New OrleansStructural Racism and
Strategic Interventions
  • What are the implications of an SR understanding?
  • Need to realize (and think of) that institutional
    arrangements create racialized patterns.
  • Need to make visible these racialized
    arrangements and realized their
    socially-constructed nature (i.e., they are not
  • Need to be aware of not falling into a localist
  • Need to be aware of the importance to build a
    movement (capacity).
  • Need to be aware of the necessity to locate the
    relevant players/actors.

Housing Thompson v. HUD
  • Intervention Litigation-based intervention to
    link Baltimores public housing residents to
    communities of opportunity.
  • Status In remedial phase, case was originally
  • Actors Maryland ACLU, Legal Defense Fund NAACP,
    plaintiff class of 14,000 public housing
    residents, and also involves coalition of local
    and national advocates.

Housing Thompson v. HUD
  • Plaintiffs propose providing desegregative
    housing opportunities in the regions high
    opportunity neighborhoods to remedy HUDs fair
    housing violations
  • with the goal of providing nearly 7,000
    affordable housing opportunities in high
    opportunity communities to public housing
    residents who volunteer to relocate in ten years.
  • Aligned with proposals to provide support
    services for residents who volunteer for the

Housing Thompson v. HUD
  • Structural Racism Component
  • By affirmatively connecting residents to
    opportunity structures such as high performing
    schools, safe neighborhoods, and employment in
    the Baltimore region, the remedy will improve the
    life outcomes of participants. In addition, the
    remedy will allow new possibilities for
    redevelopment in Baltimores distressed inner
    city neighborhoods.
  • Lessons Learned
  • Litigation approach is both time and resource
  • Anticipate impediments
  • A coalition of local organizations is
    collaborating to provide support services to
    Thompsons participants and working to anticipate
    and void resistance from suburban residents.

Moving Forward Proposed Solutions
  • To address these inequities, we propose
    equity-based regionalism
  • An equity-based, structural approach that
    emphasizes the region as the primary geographic
    unit determining the distribution of opportunity
    and resources.
  • Equity-based regionalism focuses on KEY
    opportunity structures.
  • Equity-based regionalism re-conceptualizes these
    structures and relationships not just for people
    of color, but for ALL residents of a region.
  • Without re-conceptualizing these structures and
    relationships everyone will come up short.

Linked Fate
  • Why should those living in inner-ring, outer-ring
    suburbs, and exurbs care about inner-city
  • A region and all its residents share a linked
  • This issue is particularly important today.
  • To thrive, regions must be competitive in the
    global economy.
  • Regions cannot compete with wasteful and
    redundant services, and fragmented governments.
  • Research suggests that regions who utilize
    regional policies are economically (and socially)

Addressing Racial Tensions
  • In order to move forward and address the our
    nations racialized poverty and economic
    insecurity, we must raise awareness and address
    the racial tensions which initially created
  • We must use race as a transformative bridge, to
    improve conditions for all.
  • Race should not be used as a divisive phenomena,
    as it historically has been used.

Coalition Building
  • We need to recognize our connectedness and
    develop and implement solutions that benefit ALL
    members of society.
  • Linked-fate
  • Targeted Universalism
  • This cannot be done in isolation
  • Need diverse coalitions
  • Connect with community based organizations,
    social justice groups, local governments, the
    business community, CDCs, philanthropic
    institutions and large urban institutions (e.g.

A New Paradigm
  • Through collective imagination, we need to define
    what the future should look like A New Paradigm!
  • Explicitly stated goals and principals provide a
    common framework through which to pursue justice.
  • What is our alternative vision?
  • A model where we all grow together.
  • A model where we embrace collective solutions.
  • Where race is experienced and addressed in a
    different way.
  • No longer using race to divide and distract from
    class struggle.
  • Using race to transform our society in a way that
    lifts up all people.

Concluding Thoughts
  • What has Katrina taught us?
  • That race and poverty are intricately
    interconnected in our society.
  • Illustrated the fragile state of our low income
    urban communities.
  • Revealed our shared fate, Katrina impacted the
    entire nation.
  • The response to Katrina will impact us all.

Concluding Thoughts
  • What has Katrina taught us?
  • Demonstrated the inadequacy in resources devoted
    to meeting the needs of our inner city
  • Levies and inadequate transit in New Orleans.
  • What is lacking from your community?
  • Indicated strong need for responsible
    government (Being a good Social Citizen).
  • Responsible to the people, especially the most
    sensitive populations.

Concluding Thoughts
  • The obstacles we face can seem insurmountable.
  • Nevertheless, through a new paradigm and with
    coalition building we can make great strides in
    addressing the race and class disparities in our
  • Strategic transactional change, can ultimately
    accomplish transformation.
  • Eyes on the prize(s)!
  • Remember- We Have, and Can Make Progress!

Additional Information on SR, Rebuilding New
Orleans, and beyond.
Commitment to New Orleans?
  • Pledges to rebuilt Levies at Hurricane 5 strength
    remain unfulfilled.
  • Large parts of the City remain without
    electricity and have limited public services.
  • Almost all schools remain shut down.
  • Displaced residents soon will lose housing
  • Demolition of the homes of the displaced soon to
    begin, limited protection from eviction.
  • The Citys plan for redevelopment offers little
    guidance, support and assistance for displaced
    residents those who want to return.
  • A Laissez-faire approach to bringing back New

Core Principals for New Orleans and Beyond
  • Develop and support safe, livable communities
    that are connected to opportunities.
  • Provide sufficient financial resources to the
    entire region, while doing no harm to critical
    social programs.
  • Create an accountable and equitable regional
    approach- include public participation that
    assures effective political voice.
  • Ensure that the comprehensive public and
    environmental health and safety needs of the
    region and its residents are met.

Core Principals for New Orleans and Beyond
  • High quality educational opportunities are
    critical to the health of a region and its
  • Create a long term economic development strategy
    that produces an equitable, thriving, and
    sustainable economy.
  • Economic development strategies must also support
    local wealth creation and asset building.
  • Redevelopment must assure that equitable physical
    and social infrastructure is provided to all
    communities in the region.

High (Dark Colors) and (Light Colors) Low
Opportunity Neighborhoods in New Orleans
Economic Wellbeing
Economic Well Being Rankings (out of 331
metropolitan regions)
City-Suburban Disparity Ranking (out of 331
metropolitan regions)
Data Lewis Mumford Center
Well being is determined by household and per
capita income, poverty , professional status,
unemployment, home owners and vacant housing
Conditions for the African American Community
  • In respect to the overall condition of the
    African American community, the New Orleans
    region rates poorly.
  • Of the 21 largest regions
  • New Orleans recorded the 4th worst conditions for
    African Americans.

Lessons From Katrina SR Implications
The Challenge
  • What did Katrina illustrate? What problems are we
    trying to address in our communities, regions and
  • Two related problems
  • Extreme racial segregation and extensive racial
  • Declining opportunities for everyone, declining
    regions, stagnation and decline of the middle
  • These problems reinforce each other.

Lessons From Katrina
  • What has Katrina illustrated?
  • The Profound Connection Between Poverty and Race.
  • Growing Economic Insecurity for Middle and Low
    Income Americans
  • Regional Inequity
  • Result of Policies and Structures that Produce
    Poverty and Segregation
  • Sprawl, School Conditions, Subsidized Housing,
    Investment Disparities
  • Segregation from Opportunity
  • Moving Forward and Proposed Solutions

Storm Survivors in New Orleans Photo from
Storm Survivors in New Orleans Photo from
Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capital
  • "Almost all of them that we see are so poor, and
    they are so black."Wolf Blitzer, on CNNs
    Situation Room

Race and Class
  • Hurricane Katrina illustrated the profound
    connection between race and poverty in the US.
  • Public awareness was collectively focused on the
    abandonment in New Orleans along lines of race
    and poverty, and images reinforced disparities in
    a way that numbers could not.
  • New Orleans, and the nation are now experiencing
    a second disaster with declining public support
    and retrenchment.

  • It is important to recognize that other
    communities of color were also disproportionately
    affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,
    including Vietnamese, Mexicans, Hondurans and
    other communities of color.

Source Tides Foundation- Race Poverty The
Katrina Imperative
The Link Between Race and Class
  • What is the link between race and class?
  • Racialized structures and policies have created
    the extreme correlation of race and poverty in
    our urban areas.
  • People then assume that only those harmed or
    isolated are people of color.
  • In reality, these effects are far reaching and
    impact everyone (shared fate).
  • Also harming Whites living in opportunity poor
  • And causing regional distress, harming everyone
    in the region, even the elite.

Growing Economic Insecurity
  • Conditions of economic insecurity were
    highlighted by Katrina
  • Poverty is increasing
  • Decline of the middle class
  • Continuing conditions of economic insecurity,
    lack of health insurance, increased bankruptcy
    and housing cost increases will continue to
    propel these trends.
  • Historically, the decline of the middle class has
    triggered a misplaced racialized response
  • we can not repeat this mistake.

Is the Safety Net Being Pulled Away?
  • While general conditions of economic stability
    are growing worse for many Americans, many of the
    safety net programs in the United States have
    been diminished.
  • Social safety net cuts in the most recently
    proposed Congressional Budget
  • Medicaid cut by 16 billion over next 10 years
  • More burden for Temporary Assistance to Needy
    Families shifted to states (estimated to cost
    more than 8 billion)
  • 343 million cut for foster care
  • 11 cut in Community Development Block Grant
    funding to cities
  • and annual housing cuts for 2006
  • 134 million cut to public housing funding in
  • Elimination of 35,000 section 8 vouchers

Source National Low Income Housing Coalition and
Center on Budget Policies and Priorities
Will the Safety Net for New Orleans be Withdrawn?
  • Despite numerous pledges to rebuild New Orleans
    and help Katrina survivors, little redevelopment
    is occurring and federal/public support is
  • The Citys plan for redevelopment offers little
    guidance, support and assistance for displaced
    residents those who want to return.
  • A Laissez-faire approach to bringing back New

Months after Katrina, the Ninth Ward Remains
Racial Inequity
  • These regional inequities also correlate with
    extensive racial inequities.
  • People (and neighborhoods) most impacted from
    Katrina were more likely to be African American
    and impoverished
  • In New Orleans, nearly 80 of the population in
    flooded areas were African American
  • Incomes were nearly 1/3 lower in flooded areas
  • and 1 out of 3 displaced African Americans were
    in poverty.

Source Brookings Institute
Gender and Hurricane Katrina
  • In the aftermath of Katrina, much necessary
    attention was paid to issues of race and class
    while little focus was placed on the gender
  • Where there is race and class, there is always
    gender. Class always has a gender class always
    has a family structure. Race always is gendered,
    and gender is always racialized.
  • Professor Zillah Einstein, Katrina and Her
    Gendering of Race and Class, 2005

Women and Hurricane Katrina
  • A large number of the homeless and displaced in
    Louisiana and Mississippi are women and their
  • Households headed by women are now led by women
    without houses. To speak of poverty without
    mention of the intersection of gender only tells
    part of the story.
  • Poverty is tied to contraceptive and
    reproductive rights, teenage pregnancy, lowered
    womens wages, and inadequate daycare and
  • By not paying attention the effects of Hurricane
    Katrina on the lives of women in the Gulf Coast,
    reconstruction efforts will leave them and their
    specific needs behind.

AP/The Advocate, Richard Alan Hannon
Urban Calamities
  • Hurricane Katrina is one of the largest natural
    disasters of modern time. Its scope and magnitude
    called national attention to the Gulf Coast and
    highlighted a myriad of governmental failures and
    other physical and social vulnerabilities that
    have plagued the region long before the onset of
    the Hurricane.
  • A 2002 United Nations Development Programme
    report defines social vulnerability as
  • the degree to which societies or
    socio-economic groups are affected by stresses
    and hazards, whether brought about by external
    forces or intrinsic factorsinternal and
    externalthat negatively impacts the cohesion of
    a country.

Source United Nations Development Programme.
2002. Draft final report Vulnerability and Small
Island Developing States. University of the West
Indies Centre for Environment and Development
Urban Calamities Continued
  • Large-scale natural disasters are not the only
    events with devastating effects on urban areas.
  • Social vulnerability is characterized by
    increased growth in criminal activities, growing
    rates of HIV/AIDS infection, growing rates of
    children dropping out of school, declining age
    of prison population, declining public health,
    rotting public infrastructure, and migration of
    skilled professionals. These occurrences are
    symptoms of negative social processes resulting
    in increased social vulnerability.
  • Like the Gulf Coast, many of the continued
    problems facing American cities have devastating
    effects that stem from fiscal policies and

Source United Nations Development Programme.
2002. Draft final report Vulnerability and Small
Island Developing States. University of the West
Indies Centre for Environment and Development
More on Disparities
  • Disparities are important, but not a sufficient
    lens to understand the problems we face
  • Disparities can be a divisive frame to address
    these issues.
  • What is your point of reference?
  • Disparities do not address the decline in
    regional health and the economic insecurity that
    impacts everyone.
  • We need to not only address disparities, but grow
    opportunities for everyone.
  • We need to not just set goals of racial parity
    with Whites but improve conditions for everyone.
  • You can have less racial disparity if everyone is
    doing poorly (The Great Depression).

Racial/Regional Inequities Impact Everyone
  • How do racial and social inequities impact
    overall regional health?
  • Racial and regional inequities impact the health
    of the entire region, and impact everyone in the
  • The segregation tax (excessive housing costs)
    paid by Whites to distance themselves from low
    opportunity communities.
  • The region loses its competitive edge in the
    global economy.
  • Inequitable schools that produce an unprepared
    (undereducated) labor force.
  • Interregional economic competition that erodes
    the regions collective economic voice and power.
  • Fragmented and redundant governments, underused
    and redundant infrastructure in suburban areas.
  • An undercapitalized central city with declining
    infrastructure and resources.

A Failure to Invest in Ourselves
  • Both at the federal, regional and local level,
    inequities represent a failure to be good social
  • A failure to invest in the social capital of our
    citizens so that they can grow to be contributing
    members of our society.
  • This parallels failure to invest in our
    neighborhoods and communities.
  • You can not expect returns without a willingness
    to invest capital.

Racial Segregation and Concentrated Poverty
  • Why were African American and poor neighborhoods
    impacted the most from Katrina?
  • The dynamics of spatial inequity, combined with
    patterns of racial segregation.
  • Flood risk in New Orleans was not equitably
    distributed and followed historical patterns of
    segregation in the City.

After levee breaks, the Ninth ward rapidly floods
in New Orleans. Photo by Ted Jackson/NEWHOUSE
Evacuees sit stranded in the streets outside the
Convention Center of New Orleans in the aftermath
of Hurricane Katrina September 3, 2005.
African American Population in New
Concentrated Poverty
  • Why were most areas impacted by Katrina poor?
  • New Orleans has some of the most severe levels of
    concentrated poverty in the nation.
  • In respect to concentrated poverty, Milwaukee is
    not far behind New Orleans (ranking 9th

Effects of Policies and Structures
  • These conditions of inequity and segregation are
    a result of racialized policies and structures
    that have also
  • Promoted sprawl
  • Led to disparities between schools
  • Concentrated subsidized housing
  • Exacerbated disinvestment in critical
    infrastructure for urban and inner-city areas
  • As a result of these structures and policies,
    many people are segregated from opportunity in
    New Orleans (and most metropolitan areas).
  • Opportunity Segregation

Policies that Favor Sprawl
  • Policies that promote sprawling suburban and
    exurban development exacerbate the isolation of
    inner city communities
  • Pulling resources and people away
  • Driving segregation and regional inequities
  • Urban sprawl is an example of a phenomenon that
    impacts both regional health and heightens racial
  • Diminishes opportunity for everyone

Sprawl In New Orleans
  • Sprawling development (and suburban flight) are
    evident in New Orleans
  • Between 1982 and 1997
  • The New Orleans region lost 1.5 of its
    population, but its urban land increased by 25.
  • This development has destabilized inner city
    communities, furthering their isolation.

Source Brookings Institute and Sierra Club
Concentrated Subsidized Housing
  • Affordable housing policies also work to create
    social/racial isolation and promote concentrated
  • Policies which have concentrated subsidized
    housing in impoverished, racially concentrated
    inner city areas.
  • Exclusionary zoning that keeps out most
    affordable housing in growing affluent suburbs.
  • These trends are evident in New Orleans.

The Correlation of Poverty and Subsidized
Housing in New Orleans
Disinvestment in Critical Infrastructure for
Urban Areas
  • Katrina highlighted the national trend of
    disinvestment in critical infrastructure for
    urban areas
  • Poorly maintained levy systems
  • Insufficient public transportation

Disinvestment in Critical Infrastructure for
Urban Areas
  • These trends are not unique to New Orleans and
    occur in many communities in a variety of ways
  • Disinvestment in public transit, in favor of
    expenditures on highways and roads.
  • Sprawling development that pulls resources away
    to newly developing areas.
  • Declining federal resources for urban areas.
  • Despite the great need to maintain existing
    infrastructure in our cities.

Inequities in Transportation Policy and Spending
  • As witnessed in the aftermath of Katrina, public
    transportation is critical to low income
  • Nearly a 29 of African Americans in New Orleans
    had no access to a vehicle.
  • Many were trapped with no viable way to leave the
    city during the storm, or no viable way to reach
    employment prior to the storm.
  • Despite the desperate need for public
    transportation, government expenditures always
    favor highways and private auto travel.
  • For every 100 spent on highways, Louisiana spent
    17 on public transit.

Katrina Survivors waiting for transit to leave
the superdome.
Source U.S. Census and Sierra Club, Sprawl
Report 2001
Most Severely Flooded Areas were Transit
Dependent African American Neighborhoods
Transit Stop Destroyed by Katrina
Sprawling DevelopmentWho Pays for New
  • Development in the suburbs and exurbs create
    tremendous costs for the public sector.
  • Schools, water and sewer, fire and police
    protection, roads and sidewalks, parks and other
    public services.
  • Research in Oregon has found that that average
    new home costs the public sector 33K in
    infrastructure costs.

Declining Federal Resources for Urban Areas
  • Many of our urban areas have depressed tax bases
    due to population loss, vacant properties and job
  • While urban communities have diminished capacity
    to meet their needs, they often have the highest
    demand for public services
  • High poverty neighborhoods, maintaining critical
    regional infrastructure (downtown), high-need
    schools, and old existing infrastructure that is
    at the end of its life cycle.
  • While need is growing, federal support is
  • As evidenced by federal cuts to critical urban
  • housing, community development etc.
  • Between 2003 and 2004, federal grants to
    Milwaukee County decreased by 15.6, representing
    a loss of over 290 million.

Source U.S. Census Bureau, Inflation Adjusted
Effects of Policies and Structures
  • What are the cumulative effects of these policies
    and structures?
  • Opportunity segregation
  • Social Isolation
  • Limited access to opportunity structures
  • Creation of high and low opportunity communities
  • Often coexisting with severe racial disparity
  • What are opportunity structures, how do we define
    and measure opportunity?

Defining Opportunity
Opportunity Structures
  • Individuals exist within this interconnecting
    relational web of opportunity structures.
  • Opportunity structures are the resources and
    services that contribute to stability,
    advancement and quality of life.
  • Opportunities are distributed geographically-
    inner city residents are walled off from
  • Thus, where you live is as important as what you
    live in!

The Dynamics of Opportunity in New Orleans
  • These trends of opportunity exclusion are evident
    in the New Orleans region.
  • Low opportunity neighborhoods in New Orleans
  • Were more likely to be African American
  • Were more likely to be flooded
  • How will these neighborhoods be rebuilt?
  • Will they be high opportunity communities or
    replicate pre-Katrina inequities?

High (Dark Colors) and (Light Colors) Low
Opportunity Neighborhoods in New Orleans and
Flooded Areas (Red)
Other Structural RacismIntervention Examples
  • Education
  • Choice is Yours (Minneapolis)
  • Health Care
  • SEIU/MAC West (Chicago)
  • Resources/Infrastructure
  • Fix it First (Michigan)
  • Multi-racial coalition-building
  • Texas 10 Percent Plan
  • K-Mart Unionization (Greensboro, NC)

Education The Choice is Yours, School Mobility
in Minneapolis
  • Intervention School mobility program designed as
    part of a remedy to a school funding adequacy
  • Status Despite initial problems attracting
    participants, the program is widely popular now
    with students (and inner city students are
    performing as well as their suburban counterparts
    in their new schools).

Education The Choice is Yours, School Mobility
in Minneapolis
  • Background
  • The Choice is Yours is a school choice program
    for families qualifying for free or
    reduced-priced lunches who live in the City of
  • The program allows students to access suburban
    public schools as well as magnet schools (and
    provides transportation).

Education The Choice is Yours, School Mobility
in Minneapolis
  • Structural Racism Component By connecting
    students to low poverty suburban schools, the
    program remedies the economic and racial
    segregation facing inner city students and
    impacting their educational outcome.
  • Lessons Learned
  • Issues of Scale The program is successful, but
    its reach is limited (impacting 2,000 students).
    What happens to the 43,000 students left behind?
  • Linking Interventions The program could be more
    impactful if linked with the regions housing
    mobility program (which is currently being
    pursued), thereby expanding the scope/scale of
    the intervention.

Health Care SEIU, MAC West and Hospital
Disinvestment in Chicago
  • Intervention Organizing an advocacy initiative
    to stop hospital closures and patterns of
    disinvestments in hospitals located in
    communities of color.
  • Status Initiative successful in stopping a
    hospital closure on Chicagos south side.
  • Actors MAC West (faith based social justice
    coalition) and SEIU (labor advocates).

Health Care SEIU, MAC West and Hospital
Disinvestment in Chicago
  • Working collaboratively with Service Employees
    International Union (SEIU), MAC has worked on a
    successful campaign to address the undermining of
    a significant anchor institution.
  • Their work identified racialized redlining by
    Advocate in their spending and investment
  • the coalition is now advocating for a Community
    Reinvestment Act style of health care legislation
    for IL.

Health Care SEIU, MAC West and Hospital
Disinvestment in Chicago
  • Structural Racism Component Hospitals are
    critical anchor institutions with wide spread
    implications for their nearby neighborhoods,
    impacting economic opportunities and also the
    availability of health care (and likelihood of
    finding primary care physicians) in these
    communities of color.
  • Lessons Learned
  • The power of coalitions by linking social
    justice/faith based advocates and union
    organizing advocates, the initiative was able to
    build upon the strength of both groups to
    successfully lobby to stop the planned closure.

Resources/Infrastructure Fix it First
  • Intervention Reversing the historical trends of
    public sector disinvestment in critical
    infrastructure for Michigans urban areas.
  • Status Although some resistance was encountered
    initially, the program is still continuing and
    fewer resources are being spent to promote
    sprawling suburban growth.
  • Actors Social justice, smart growth, and
    environmental advocates (and the State Governor).

Resources/Infrastructure Fix it First
  • Background
  • Advocates lobbied for the States new Governor to
    reform the States spending patterns on key
    infrastructure that discriminated against urban
    areas, while promoting sprawling growth and
  • The Governor was able to enact the policy quickly
    as an executive order.
  • Resulting in the Fix it First Transportation
    Policy The state of Michigan has reprioritized
    transportation spending to refocus support into
    existing infrastructure and expansion projects
    have been put on hold as repairs to existing
    roads are prioritized first
  • 19 suburban transportation projects were canceled
    as part of the initiative.

Resources/Infrastructure Fix it First
  • Structural Racism Component Changing
    infrastructure spending patterns not only brings
    resources back to urban communities but also can
    impact urban sprawl (slowing the primary source
    of disinvestment in urban areas).
  • Lessons Learned
  • The power of coalitions Once again a coalition
    with unusual allies (social justice advocates and
    environmental advocates) was instrumental in
    promoting change.
  • Grabbing the lowest hanging fruit on the tree
    The intervention worked to create policy change
    quickly by identifying a potential political ally
    and action that could be implemented easily via
    an executive order (i.e., creating policy change).

Texas 10 Percent Plan
  • Intervention Re-thinking admission procedures
    and requirements followed by Texas public
    universities. By law, every high schools top
    10 senior students are automatically guaranteed
    enrollment to Texas public universities (one
    vote by a White-Conservative-Republican made the
    Plan possible).
  • Status Currently being used and studies have
    shown that student quality has not been
    negatively affected. In addition, the students
    accepted through the 10 Percent Plan have
    attained higher GPAs than students accepted
    under the test-based criteria (i.e., before the
    10 Percent Plan).
  • Actors Latino legislative leaders, Civil Right
    activists, grass-root organizers, and scholars.

Texas 10 Percent Plan
  • Structural Racism Component The strategic
    intervention entailed a re-thinking (or being
    able to see differently) what is taken for
    granted today with extreme repercussions for life
    prospects test-based criteria for university
    acceptance. A simple shift (that took a great
    amount of effort) to accepting all top 10 senior
    students, became inclusive across racial and
    socioeconomic lines.

K-Mart Unionization (Greensboro, NC)
  • Intervention Unionizing K-Marts distribution
    center at Greensboro, NC because these workers
    received the lowest salaries for comparable
    K-Mart jobs.
  • Actors Distribution centers workers and The
    Pulpit Forum.
  • Structural Racism Component Lower wages and less
    benefits for the same type of job within the same
    company. The only difference was that
    Greensboros distribution center was majority
    non-white, but it was also affecting those whites
    working there.

Texas 10 Percent Plan K-Mart Unionization
  • Lessons Learned for both of these two examples
    Political Race The project of political race is
    a direct challenge to a White discursive
    structure. It does not depend on the
    substitution of another discursive framework,
    such as class-based inequality, but looks instead
    to the places where race, politics, culture, and
    economic intersect. Political race is not
    something you are its something you do. Its a
    decision you make. (107)

Lessons Learned From Example Interventions
  • The power of coalitions
  • All of the interventions required a coalition of
    groups (often of non-traditional allies) to
    create success, but resources are needed to
    create and support these coalitions.
  • Different methods produce change
  • Litigation based interventions are both costly
    and time consuming, other approaches may also be
    appropriate, such as influencing policy through
    executive decision (as was done in Michigan),
    public organizing (Chicago and Greensboro),
    legislative intervention (Texas), among other
  • Bringing interventions to scale
  • By linking interventions (for example linking
    housing and education initiatives) in
    Minneapolis, a program can be more fully brought
    to scale and become more impactful.

Lessons Learned From Example Interventions
  • Using interventions to catapult other
  • Both the Chicago and Michigan examples provided
    spring boards to launch other advocacy
    initiatives (interventions).
  • Expect and anticipate resistance and for
    structures to readjust
  • Thompson provides a good example of an
    intervention designed to anticipate resistance
    and which is open to deal with changing
  • the remedy is intended to be goal based, not
    process based in order to adjust to the changing
    conditions in Baltimores housing market that may
    create re-segregation.

Some Recommended Readings
  • Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo (1997). "Rethinking
    Racism Toward a Structural Interpretation."
    American Sociological Review, Vol. 62, No. 3
    (Jun.), pp. 465-480.
  • California Newsreel (2003). http//
  • Cashin, Sheryll D. The Failures of Integration
    How Race and Class Are Undermining the American
    Dream. New York Public Affairs,2004.
  • Feagin, Joe. Racism and the White Power
    Structure The Willie Horton and Sister Souljah
    Cases. In White Racism The Basics. New York
    Routledge, 1995.
  • Goldberg, David, Racial Americanization,
    AmeriQuests, Vol. 1, No. 1, (2004).
Write a Comment
User Comments (0)