African American History Forum
Discrimination Not Yet Defeated
Discrimination not yet defeated
By Dennis D. Parker and Susan Goering
December 26, 2008
Barack Obama's election to this country's highest office powerfully shattered a centuries-old racial glass ceiling. But we must not be tricked into thinking that this inspiring milestone means we have dismantled all structures of racial discrimination in America, or that we can take a breather from the tireless fight for racial justice.
Fighting against individual acts of intentional discrimination is important, but the real cause of persistent segregation is institutional discrimination. In Maryland, racial bias was long explicit; institutions were segregated by state law. And Jim Crow had a strong grip, because the very institutions that determine how well we live our lives - the education, housing, employment and criminal justice systems - still bear the legacy of long-entrenched and intractable patterns of racially conscious decisions.
For instance, decades of institutional segregation in housing and education still trap children and families in inferior schools and under-resourced neighborhoods. Much current public housing was built as "Negro" housing - and is still occupied almost entirely by black families. And beginning in the 1930s, the Federal Housing Administration underwrote white flight to the suburbs, while redlining African-American families into the poorest, most segregated parts of cities. Though progress has been made - and Baltimore schools have even seen the beginnings of a reversal of white flight in recent years - upending decades of segregation and deprivation does not happen overnight.