Books on Structural and Personal Racism: Favorites I Read in 2018

By Karyn Pomerantz, January 2019

Selected non-fiction books that provide an analysis of racism in US history.

Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi, 2016.

stamped by kendiMy favorite non-fiction history of 2018.  Kendi traces the rise and fall of racist ideology to justify the exploitation of Africans and African Americans.  He rejects the popular belief that racial prejudice creates discrimination and argues that the ruling elites create and promote racist ideas to divide and control the population and maximize earnings.  He condemns the racists who attack black people as biologically and intellectually substandard.  More unusual is his criticism of the assimilationist perspective that accepts black inferiority but attributes it to culture, the environment, poverty, and historical factors.  He calls out famous figures from Lincoln and Garrison for holding these ideas.  Kendi maintains that black people are not deficient or inferior but are targeted by a small ruling class to create wealth.  He calls for unity among all workers and contends that white workers benefit materially and socially from a more equal society. (See a fuller review on this blog at

The Color of Politics: Race and the Mainspring of American Politics by Michael Goldstein, NY Press, 1997.

color of politics by goldsteinGoldstein, a labor historian, argues that racism underlies the political, social, and economic history of the US, describing and countering other explanations.  From colonial times and the growing power of the planters, he notes the initial alliances and relationships among the white indentured servants and free black people. The decision of these planters to enslave Africans, and their creation of white superiority (and use of violence) to separate whites and blacks enabled them to justify slavery and reduce the risk of multiracial rebellion. This divide and conquer strategy by the ruling class dominates the periods of Reconstruction, the rise of unions, the New Deal, electoral politics, and imperialist and world wars. Countering racist oppression are the unions, mostly in the communist led Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), that organized black, white, and immigrant workers together and fought for broad, class based demands.  The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had a militant multiracial membership with black officials and policies outlawing Klan members and discrimination.  The meatpacking union in Chicago expanded their workplace demands to antiracist community actions, mobilizing 1000s of members to protect black families moving into white neighborhoods. Goldstein shows how racism maintains the rule of a small elite and how mass, antiracist organizations can threaten its power.  While describing the damages caused by capitalism, he never calls for its elimination. However, he concludes by calling for “placing the principle of racial egalitarianism on the top furl of our marching banner.”

From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation by Keenaga Yamahta-Taylor, Haymarket Books, 2016.

from blm to black liberation by taylorWhile Kendi traces the evolution of ideas to justify racism and Goldstein depicts the consequences of multiracial organizing in the labor movement, Taylor offers a strategy for creating an antiracist movement and world.  This book is a must read for anyone trying to understand the structural barriers to equality and the way to break them down.

The early chapters describe the pervasiveness of police brutality, mass incarceration, unrelenting economic exploitation, and the rise of black rebellions against the police murders of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and so many others.  She acclaims the young Ferguson leaders for their militancy in the face of tanks and gas, and their rejection of cooptation by the Church, Democratic Party, and Al Sharpton (who called for pacifism and tried to kick their speakers off the podium at a march in DC).

Obama doesn’t get off easy either.  Understanding that many defended him because of the vicious racist attacks against his family and people’s baseless hope that he could make a difference, Taylor rightfully censures him for continuing imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, funding Israel, maintaining the Guantanamo Prison and torture, deporting millions, and refusing to pardon Troy Davis who was wrongfully executed.

She demonstrates that racism does not arise from the prejudices of white people or individual politicos.  From Black Lives Matter clearly places racism within the system of capitalism as a source of enormous profits for a corporate elite through cheap or free labor and as an ideological cleaver between groups of workers that Kendi (above) so brilliantly recounts.  After centuries of scapegoating blacks as criminals, low-lifes, crazy, and lazy, the ruling class easily blames black families for their disproportionately high rates of poverty and unemployment, attributing such “failures” to their culture or biology.

Repudiating these theories of personal responsibility, Taylor shows how social and economic policies enforced by employers and the government deny black individuals good housing, education, and jobs.  For example, black GIs after WWII secured only 2% of subsidized housing mortgages that created suburbs for white GIs and urban slums for black GIs.  Home ownership allowed white families to accrue 18 times greater wealth than black families that they passed down to generations while black families experienced poverty. (See Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law for a detailed history of housing discrimination, also reviewed on this blog below and at

The Latinx, black, Native Americans, and Chinese workers responded to these form of oppression with resistance and uprisings, including slave revolts, urban rebellions, boycotts, unionizing, strikes, marches, left wing organizations like the Black Panther Party and the Communist Party, black radical feminism, anti-Vietnam War protests, and voter registration campaigns.  The ruling class responded with cooptation, such as non-discrimination laws, elections, and voting rights.  President Kennedy, threatened by an upsurge in economic demands in Mississippi, secured foundation money to steer Freedom Summer activists away from anti-poverty struggles to voter registration campaigns in 1964.  However, lynchings, the Black Codes that criminalized behaviors such as loitering or disrespect of whites, convict labor, violent policing, and prison served as the means of social control.

Taylor devotes the last chapters to analyzing the rise of Black Lives Matter and how this new activism can develop into a liberation struggle. These chapters are the most controversial and important sections.

She quotes Malcolm X:

“… We have a rotten system.  It’s a system of exploitation…You can’t have capitalism without racism.”

Marx underscored how the rise of capitalism in the US and Europe created different levels of exploitation and schisms among workers.  The planters and business class gave white workers in colonial times a higher economic and social status than enslaved people, a bribe that continues today.  Objectively, black and white workers have much in common; they all labor for wages and have no actual power.

The ideology of white skin privilege implies that white people, especially men, benefit from racism and should sacrifice their somewhat better circumstances to counter it.  Taylor attacks this notion arguing that all workers experience the deleterious effects of capitalism in different degrees, and that these degrees are getting worse for everyone due to falling wages, joblessness, unaffordable housing, and increasing poverty.  While a disproportionate number of black families live under the poverty line, 19 million whites do as well.

Alternatively, Taylor calls for multiracial unity:

“Solidarity… is crucial to workers’ ability to resist the constant degradation of their living standards.  Solidarity is only possible through relentless struggle to win white workers to antiracism… Building the struggles against racism, police violence, poverty… is critical to people’s basic survival… it is also within those struggles for the basic rights of existence that people learn how to struggle, how to strategize and build movements and organizations.”

These struggles must eventually lead to more revolutionary goals and liberate the working class from capitalism and the oppression it unleashes.  It remains to be seen whether the new protest movements can move in this direction.

color of law bookColor of Law by Richard Rothstein and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond address the oppressive nature of housing policy through the legal system and its effects on impoverished people. Rothstein traces government laws that “redlined” real estate to deny housing to black families, forced them into substandard city housing in neighborhoods with poorly resourced schools, and steered 98 percent of the subsidized mortgages to white GIs returning from WWII.  Black residents lived in more environmentally toxic locations and accrued less wealth that home ownership conveys. Segregated housing ensured less contact among workers and more victim blaming.

Morris takes a micro level approach.  He spent over a year living in public and private housing interacting with the residents and landlords.  His reporting reveals the utter disruption and instability caused by rotten conditions, evictions, and the fees landlords charge.  There are many scenes of parents and kids hustling their belongings into trash bags before the movers arrive and frantically trying to find new housing.

A longer review of The Color of Law is on this blog at 

african am and latinx history by ortizAfrican American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz introduces a working class view of US history emphasizing the reciprocal effects of antiracist and anticolonial movements in the Americas, a perspective Ortiz labels emancipatory internationalism.. The Haitian revolution is one example.  Most people are aware of the impact of the Haitian insurrection on enslaved people and the plantation owners in the US.  It inspired slave revolts in the colonies and stoked fear in the planters.  (It also forced the French to sell its Louisiana territory to the US).  The uprisings led by Simon Bolivar throughout South America also encouraged abolitionists in the US as these anti-slavery campaigns also encouraged anti Spanish colonialists in South America.

Ortiz cites Frederick Douglass’ support of international solidarity:

“Neither geographical boundaries, nor national restrictions, ought, or should prevent me from rejoicing over the triumphs of freedom, no matter where or by whom achieved.”

This history demonstrates the reality of unity among workers of different countries bound together in their pursuit of freedom from colonialism and exploitation.

A short list of novels that portray personal experiences of racism.

behold the dreamers bookBehold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbu, 2017, tells the story of a family from Cameroon who moves to NYC, finds jobs, and pays thousands to lawyers to obtain green cards.  Once the financial world tanks, their economic security evaporates.  Mbu draws readers into a suspenseful tale of the effects of finance capitalism on the financiers and the immigrant workers they hire.



jesmyn ward photoJesmyn Ward has written several books about growing up in Mississippi, Salvage the Bones, Men We Reaped, Sing, Unburied, Sing. They portray the effects of poverty, addiction, family ties, and rural life on relationships and survival.  Her characters strive to connect with others, understand family dynamics, and secure a living.  Ward is an incredible, awarded writer who allows readers to enter the heads of her characters and the environment in which they live.

sour heart by zhangSour Heart by Jennifer Zhang is a collection of short stories about people immigrating from China to the United States.  It travels back and forth in time and location through the perspectives of angry young women and their relatives who experience intense poverty and isolation.  The writing is intense and often repetitive but worth reading or listening to the audio version.



year of the runaways bookThe Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota is a harrowing account of 4 people from India who escape to England in hopes of an education and employment.  They live in fear of detection by the immigration police, forced into worse housing and jobs.  It would be hard not to sympathize with any migrant trying to create a better life.  Sahota’s portrayal of their despair and friendships recall Rohinton Mistry’s classic, A Fine Balance.


heart berries bookHeart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot is a memoir of a Native American woman’s experience growing up in an abusive family on a reservation in the Pacific Northwest.  Mailhot has a unique voice; she writes in short sharp, powerful sentences that engages the reader (or listener) anxious to learn how she survives.  (The audiobook is excellent).


james baldwinJames Baldwin (anything) also places the reader in the heads of his characters as they struggle to find love in heterosexual, gay, and biracial relationships, respect, and racialized stigma.  His essays, such as The Fire Next Time, eloquently bares the mechanisms of capitalism and the racism it requires.


hate pictureby Ellen Isaacs

appearing on Counterpunch, November 7, 2018

We live in a nation totally beholden to racism. Founded on racism, built on racism, surviving by virtue of racism. From the near total eradication of Native Americans by disease, slaughter, and death marches; to the enslavement of 12 million Africans and the continued oppression, imprisonment, impoverishment and wanton killing of their descendants; to the exploitation and deportation of immigrants; to the Jews and Irish and Italians being eventually admitted into invented whiteness in order to turn them anti-black, but still maligned; to the wars fought against “gooks” and “ragheads” to increase rich men’s profits – US capitalism survives on racism. And the US that survives this way is not beneficial to any of its working people, tearing us apart from each other, impoverishing our souls and our pocketbooks, depriving us of health and learning and peace needed by all and the strength we could have in our oneness. Separated, we are likely to be led down the road to fascism.

Today we are witnessing national agonizing over the murder of 11 Jews, those only grudgingly admitted members of the white circle, although 6 million others were  slaughtered as the US did little and turned back escapees begging for refuge on the ship St. Louis. Nonetheless, we know all their names and have witnessed the funerals of these latest victims and shared the grief of their intimates. This is not regrettable, it is only in contrast deaths of the approximately 1000 killed by police each year, nearly half of whom are black or Latin (Atlantic, 5/8/18), about whom we learn little and mourn less.

Screenshot_2018-11-03 Hate crime victims in 2016

Despite these harsh words, it would be an error to seek a cause for these disparities in the sculpting of our brains or the failure of our morality. No, we live in a nation that needs racism and thus it is inserted purposefully deep into our souls in our neighborhoods, our classrooms, our media, our pulpits, our clinics, our labor unions –in most of our American experiences. This blog has many articles on the overt creation of racism (Lerone Bennett), and racism in housing, health care, immigration and migration, labor organizing and others areas our lives, things we are not taught and that are kept hidden from us.


Even today, wages and the opportunity to work remain vastly different by race. 51.3% of young black high school graduates are underemployed compared to 33.8% of whites; 23% of young black college graduates are unemployed vs. 12.9% of whites. 330,000 black high school graduates are not employed at all. ( Keep in mind that unemployment rates do not count workers who have been discouraged from looking for work for more than one year, although those numbers are tabulated, nor those who have given up after more than a year of unemployment. According to, the Labor Department even counts as employed someone who works as little as one hour a week and earns as little as $20 a week. The Federal Reserve finds that only one fifth of the difference between black and white can be accounted for by differences in education, age and location. (


2.3 million Americans are in prison, 59% of whom are black, Latin or native American – not “employed”, but providing free labor. Black and Latin workers who are acknowledged to be full time employees earn about 75% of the wages of white workers, disparities based on education, training, and differences in wages paid for the same work.


According to the Center for American Progress report Unequal Education of 2012, schools are just as segregated and unequal now as they were in 1954 when Brown vs Board of Education was decided. The average white student attends a school where 77% of students are white and 40% of black and Latin students attend schools where over 90% are non-white. Not only are students deprived of knowledge and kinship of each other, but schools with over 90% students of color spend $733 less per student per year than schools with 90% or more whites.


How do we accept these disparities in our own country? How do we not rise up against the death of over 10,000 Yemenis and starvation of half of the population? How do we explain our ability to accept the death of half a million Iraqis due to sanctions before the invasion even started? How do we turn away from the deaths of thousands of Gazans imprisoned in their illegal concentration camp? How do we explain the assignment of troops to go to the border and threaten migrating families fleeing the ravages of US imperialism? We can only explain it by racism, and without that racism this government, under Democrat or Republican, would not be able to maintain profits at home or wield its imperialist might around the world.


So let us mourn all of those who die by violence or die young or die by neglect perpetrated by the ruling class or those whom they win to carry out their racist policies. Let us celebrate  times we have fought together, in many union battles, in Selma, in Ferguson, in Charlottesville and many, many more. Let we who work, whether builder or waiter or teacher or unemployed, unite together in every way, in every struggle, in all our mourning, in all our resistance and continue together until we found a world based on equality, one that seeks to provide the fullest life for all. Not a capitalist world, for sure.

MORE ABOUT HEALTH: Structural Racism and Stress

By Karyn Pomerantz, August 8, 2017

you may be suffering from capitalism



This blog post presents the ways the ruling class of owners and financiers intentionally use racism to create profit and separate the working class.  It discusses structural racism and its manifestations in health.  Subsequent pieces will discuss how structural racism affects health because of policies in housing, education, employment and other necessities of life.

The Structures of Racism

Racism has many levels, from the interpersonal to the institutionalized. There are different ways to address each level, from developing relationships on an individual basis, to changing policies, to creating a new way to organize society without racism. How we define racism determines how we work to abolish it.  Black Lives Matter and other movements have focused people’s attention on white privilege and white supremacy. Interpersonal forms of racism include micro-aggressions, such as strangers asking people of Asian descent where they are from, retail clerks following black customers around a store, and white students rejecting the contributions of their black classmates. Mass incarceration and police violence represent more institutional forms. The historical legacy of atrocities of genocide, colonialism, and slavery, which used racism as their justification, continue to limit our ability to unite as a class, and improve our health and social relationships.

Racism is more than stereotypes and attitudes.  It is also a set of practices that exploit people and enrich others.  We need to ask who benefits from racism.  Many people say that white people are “privileged” by racism and benefit from it.  We say that people experience different LEVELS of exploitation and oppression.   Exploitation means that employees earn lower wages that do not equal the value of what they produce, leaving employers with a profit.  Oppression refers to the discrimination, repression, and marginalization specific to different groups.  A gay man may be an employer who isn’t exploited but may suffer oppression because of his sexual identity.  Black and Latin people often suffer police surveillance and excessive force regardless of their class status.

On average, white people do earn more than others, have less unemployment, live in more resourced neighborhoods, and are less likely to be victims of police violence.  However, racism did not arise from the prejudices of white people.  Colonists developed racism to justify their oppression of indigenous and African people, and keep whites from uniting with them.  Some white workers do promote and support many racist policies and ideas as we saw recently during Trump’s campaign but did not originate them.  While we need to defeat these prejudices, we cannot stop there.

We need to examine the structural factors of racism.  Who benefits from racism?  How do we organize against the root causes of oppression? This determines whether we organize together or in separate groups, whether we rely on electoral politics or organize uprisings and grassroots actions.

 Structure reveals how society is organized. This picture shows 1% of the people at the top who own corporations and banks, the next 19% who serve them, and the rest of us who works for a salary or wage or are unemployed.  There are many levels of income and exploitation within this 80%.   

 Structural racism refers to the ways that capitalism institutionalizes inequitable societal factors, such as enforcing policies that segregate schools and neighborhoods.  Structural factors describe what class holds political and economic power, controls the media and shapes messages, and determines domestic and foreign policy.  The key motivating structural features of capitalism are profit and competition.  Without competition for profit, it isn’t capitalism.        

Development of Capitalism and Racism

             From the 9th to 15th centuries, feudalism organized society.  The monarchy (kings and lords) ruled over the peasants who worked the land producing wealth for their sovereign and making just enough food and clothing for their needs.  As industrialization progressed, the monarchy aggressively pushed peasant families off the land and into the city slums.  Many worked producing clothes from the cotton that enslaved people grew.  The colonists in the US captured millions of African people to work for free harvesting cotton and tobacco. Their labor enriched southern plantation owners and northern shipbuilders, textile factories, and spurred the development of the insurance and banking industries.

            Capitalism developed in the 1700s as the main way to organize production.  Workers sold their labor in exchange for wages, earning far less than the value of what they produced. The owners took the profits that were left.  As the production increased, the capitalists required more raw materials, like cotton and rubber that they stole from other countries, such as India and the Congo.  Today we see that same practice that we call globalization.  To keep workers from uniting across countries against the capitalists, governments push patriotism and hatred of migrants and immigrants, using crass stereotypes and fear.  This persists today. 

American colonists also needed an increasing supply of labor that would work as cheaply as possible, and made a decision to build an economy based on slave labor. They settled on Africa as a source of slaves precisely because those slaves would be easily identifiable and not have knowledge of the terrain, as would Native Americans, and were abundant. White workers would be employed at low wages in northern factories or become subsistence farmers in the South, impoverished, but with more rights than slaves.

Racism did not originate because white people rejected black and Native people. Racism developed when European monarchies established colonies in the “New World” in the early 17th Century.  They sought resources and markets in North and South America, Asia and Africa.  Genocide of Native people allowed the seizure of land and its riches.  Slavery abducted millions of people for free labor to harvest the cotton, tobacco, and tea that made the US an imperial power.

The colonists needed to justify the enslavement of Africans, and convince whites that they were better off.  They gave whites wages and granted them a higher social and economic status.  This justification of exploitation and genocide created the ideology of racism that people express in micro-aggressions, stereotyping, and outright murder.   (See Lerone Bennett’s The Road Not Taken in this blog).  It encourages people to blame black and Latin workers for their own poverty and for dragging down the living conditions of whites.

Today, to protect their profits and power, the rulers try to convince us that voting will improve our lives and change who holds power.  African Americans held local, state, and federal government positions during Reconstruction after the Civil War and after the civil rights movement during the 1960s.  Despite the election of Barack Obama and other black politicians, structural racism persists today.  Owners of finance and corporations control what we earn, produce and buy, where we live and attend school, and whom we fight to enrich these owners.  They have instituted a system where black, Latin, Asian, and Native residents have less income and wealth, a worse education, less access to healthy foods, and more pressure to seek jobs in the military.  These are intentional policies that allow a very small, egregiously wealthy group to control society for their own benefit.

Structural Racism, Stress and Health

             Racism has huge impacts on our health.  There are many ways in which the profit system destroys our health on a daily basis, but one of the most effective agents of ill health is stress on the human mind and body.  Stress causes deficits in our immune systems, the main defense we have against illness, and by increasing the secretion of various hormones – some, like cortisol, even called “stress hormones” – takes its toll on many of our internal organs.

Stress is caused by everything that afflicts workers in a capitalist society.  This includes but is not restricted to (in no particular order):

  • being undervalued on the job (less valuable to the capitalists than their machinery since workers are more easily and cheaply replaceable),
  • being last hired and first fired for minority workers,
  • the fear of being laid off,
  • fear of deportation for immigrants
  • actually being laid off or fired (i.e., unemployed) and having to compete with other workers for a shrinking number of jobs,
  • overwork and underpayment,
  • wage theft
  • lower standards in work and pay for women and black and Latin men,
  • hazardous and tortuously boring working conditions,
  • rising prices and threats of losing one’s home and becoming homeless,
  • ever present threat of catastrophic illness,
  • no or little health insurance,
  • threat of bankruptcy or wiping out savings produced by catastrophic illness
  • seeing our teenagers and young adult children having nowhere to turn other than the police or military where they risk being killed and are forced to try to kill other workers,
  • the ever-present availability of addictive and life-destroying drugs,
  • stigma, fear, and alienation of people who are LGBT,
  • increased physical attacks against Muslim, Black, Latin, and immigrant people,
  • rise of neo-Nazis and Klan groups,
  • too little income to retire,
  • losing Medicaid for healthcare and disability care,
  • high cost of medications,
  • troublesome or non-existent close, personal relationships.

Health Consequences: High Blood Pressure and Low Birth Weight

Take high blood pressure as an example.  Many more U.S. black and Latin workers, as well as immigrant workers over time, have hypertension compared to white workers, where it is already epidemic.  The primary cause of this organ- and life-destroying medical condition is the horrendous and ubiquitous racist conditions (Krieger N. The CARDIA study).  To hide this simple and obvious fact, racist theorists have tried to claim that black people, in particular, have a greater inborn, genetic tendency to develop high blood pressure.  But antiracist investigators have shown, on the contrary, that high blood pressure is far more prevalent among U.S.-born black workers than among West African citizens remaining in Africa (from where the majority of black populations in the Western Hemisphere originated) and among African men and women who immigrate to the U.S. and have only been here relatively short times.

This is also true of bad birth outcomes in black women.  Women of African descent who live in the US have higher rates of low birth weight babies than women who live in other developed countries.  Black women with college degrees have sicker babies than white women who dropped out of high school. (When the Bough Breaks, Unnatural In other words, living in the U.S., with its extreme racist institutions and practices, rather than genetics, is the major cause of hypertension and birth problems among super-exploited workers.

Stress also gives rise to alcoholism, smoking, paralyzing depression, intimate personal violence, child abuse, and suicide.  Unemployment, poverty, and isolation fuel the opioid epidemic that has reduced the life expectancy of middle aged white women.  If white people had fought for drug treatment when drug use had a black face, there may have been more prevention, such as needle exchange programs.  Now that drug use affects so many whites, the government is claiming an epidemic and allocating millions of dollars for care.

Capitalist profit strivings affect every area of our lives.  The food industry relies on toxic pesticides for crops and antibiotics for livestock, both of which get into the food supply.  It creates unhealthy environments for the animals it raises for slaughter and for the workers who turn livestock into products.  The beverage industry promotes sugary drinks and blocks efforts to restrict them.  Food producers fund health associations, such as diabetes and dietitian groups, and push physical activity versus diets as interventions to promote health.  Many people turn to these junk foods to alleviate stress creating conditions ripe for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Pharmaceutical companies fund both political parties to ensure favorable legislation.  They are masters of manipulating drug marketing, pricing, and media.  They have rejected any discounts for drugs in Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act.

These industries and many others create bad health outcomes and limit the options most people have for wellness.

Structural Racism in HousingPolicies Enforce Segregation and Damage Our Health

Unaffordable housing, gentrification, and residential segregation coupled with inadequate, expensive transportation exemplify the structural nature of racism.  Previous housing policies and highway construction through black neighborhoods made it difficult for many black families to buy homes.  This reduced their amount of wealth that exists today.  In addition, realtors targeted black neighborhoods with sub-prime mortgages.  When the housing crisis hit in 2008, black homes went to foreclosure, and black homeowners lost any equity they accrued.  Housing policies also separate people into different neighborhoods preventing the development of multiracial friendships. See the May 23rd blog post, The US Government Created and/or perpetuated segregated housing – with malice of forethought  for a history of housing discrimination.  Read more in The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein.

segregation today Brookings

While overt segregation is no longer legal, segregated neighborhoods and schools are as prevalent as before if not worse.  In 2010, almost ¾ of large US cities were segregated, ¾ of black students went to schools that were segregated and under resourced.  Exclusionary zoning policies control who can live in a neighborhood by limiting or excluding certain types of housing, such as apartment buildings or less expensive housing.


The following lists some of the current housing policies federal and local governments, and private real estate companies, banks, and insurance companies implement.

  • Affordable housing does not exist, and the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget in people with AIDS are waiting for Ryan White financed housing.
  • Developers are pushing residents out of public housing, such as Barry Farms in DC where the local housing authority shut down their Section 8/voucher housing waiting list.
  • Developers promise that tenants can move back into their renovated neighborhoods. However, only about 25% do as the landlords change the criteria for renting, such as better credit scores.
  • Local laws often prohibit men and women leaving prison from public housing.
  • Government, real estate companies, and white residents excluded African Americans from living in white areas. About 700 counties in the north and south enforced sundown policies that warned blacks (as well as Chinese and Jewish families) not to be caught when the sun set.
  • In the summer of 2017 in DC, the transit agency, WMATA, raised bus fares to $2 each way, and its subway system can cost over $5 one way to the outer suburbs where many jobs are located.  They also eliminated bus routes that serve poor neighborhoods.

Housing problems affect health in many ways, from HIV to asthma.  Homelessness puts people at risk for exchanging sex for a place to live; HIV rates are high among people who are homeless.  Housing quality, including climate control, and the presence of vermin, lead, and other toxins, cause lead poisoning, breathing problems, and intellectual disabilities.  Public health sociologist, David Williams, links residential segregation to poor health through the lack of resources enjoyed by white families living in more resourced areas. These include poorer access to healthy food (food deserts), good schools, health facilities and healthcare providers, greenery, parks, and safe places to exercise.  On the other hand, there are plenty of toxic dumps and industrial facilities placed in black developments.  In fact, race predicts where environmental hazards exist.

Another blog piece will give more details about structural racism, health, and education, the environment, employment, and war.

To Read More:

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein.

Sundown Towns by James Llowen.

Unnatural Causes: Does Inequality Make Us Sick? by ITV (

Race: Power of an Illusion by PBS (pbs,org/race)

Center for Law and Social Policy, CLaSP (

The Road Not Taken by Lerone Bennett.

Social Service or Social Change by Paul Kivel (

Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici.