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Ten U.S. actions that have destroyed African American progression

Updated: May 1, 2023


In the United States and Canada, redlining is the systematic denial of various services to residents of specific, often racially associated, neighborhoods or communities, either directly or through the selective raising of prices. While the best known examples of redlining have involved denial of financial services such as banking or insurance, other services such as health care, have been denied to residents. Reverse redlining occurs when a lender or insurer targets particular neighborhoods that are predominantly nonwhite, not to deny residents loans or insurance, but rather to charge them more than in a non-redlined neighborhood where there is more competition. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a $200 million settlement with Associated Bank over redlining in Chicago and Milwaukee in May 2015. The three-year HUD observation led to the complaint that the bank purposely rejected mortgage applications from black and Latino applicants. The final settlement required AB to open branches in non-white neighborhoods, just like HSBC. Redlining has contributed to the long term decline of low-income, inner city neighborhoods and the continuation of ethnic minority enclaves. Compared to prospering ethnic minority areas, historically redlined or other struggling black communities need targeted investments in infrastructure and services in order to prosper.


The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the G.I. Bill, was a law that provided a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.s). It was passed by the 78th United States Congress and signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944. The original G.I. Bill expired in 1956, but the term "G.I. Bill" is still used to refer to programs created to assist U.S. military veterans.

Benefits included low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business, one year of unemployment compensation, and dedicated payments of tuition and living expenses to attend high school, college, or vocational school. These benefits were available to all veterans who had been on active duty during the war years for at least 90 days and had not been dishonorably discharged.

By 1956, roughly 7.8 million veterans had used the G.I. Bill education benefits, some 2.2 million to attend colleges or universities and an additional 5.6 million for some kind of training program. Historians and economists judge the G.I. Bill a major political and economic success. By 1946, only one-fifth of the 100,000 blacks who had applied for educational benefits had registered in college.

Furthermore, historically black colleges and universities came under increased pressure as rising enrollments and strained resources forced them to turn away an estimated 20,000 veterans. HBCUs were already the poorest colleges and served, to most whites, only to keep blacks out of white colleges. HBCU resources were stretched even thinner when veterans' demands necessitated a shift in the curriculum away from the traditional "preach and teach" course of study offered by the HBCUs. Banks and mortgage agencies refused loans to blacks, making the G.I. Bill even less effective for blacks.


Under the Rockefeller drug laws, the penalty for selling two ounces or more of heroin, morphine, "raw or prepared opium," cocaine, or cannabis or possessing four ounces (113 g) or more of the same substance, was a minimum of 15 years to life in prison, and a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.

One main criticism of these drug laws were that they put young minority males and females behind bars for carrying small amounts of drugs on them. These laws were a part of the "war on drugs" era and were meant to go after drug kingpins, however it started to target lower level people as a means of keeping the streets clean. Elaine Bartlett and her story told in the book Life on the Outside critically depicts the effects of the Rockefeller Drug Laws and its policy on drug dealers.

Even despite the steady drop in crime rates that took place in the 1990s, the effects of the Rockefeller Drug Laws were the most transparent where "high arrest rates and prison commitments for drug offenses continued to fill prison cells." Another criticism of the Rockefeller drug laws has also been its distinct targeting of young minority males for as of the year 2000, black and Hispanic males made up over 90% of the population incarcerated for Rockefeller Drug Laws.


FBI records show that COINTELPRO resources targeted groups and individuals that the FBI deemed subversive, including the Communist Party USA, anti–Vietnam War organizers, activists of the civil rights movement or Black Power movement (e.g. Martin Luther King Jr., the Nation of Islam, and the Black Panther Party), environmentalistand animal rights organizations, feminist organizations, the American Indian Movement (AIM), independence movements (such as Puerto Rican independence groups like the Young Lords), and a variety of organizations that were part of the broader New Left.

The program also targeted the Ku Klux Klan in 1964. the official COINTELPRO label took place between 1956 and 1971. Beginning in 1969, leaders of the Black Panther Party were targeted by the COINTELPRO and "neutralized" by being assassinated, imprisoned, publicly humiliated or falsely charged with crimes. Some of the Black Panthers affected included Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, Zayd Shakur, Geronimo Pratt, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Marshall Conway. Common tactics used by COINTELPRO were perjury, witness harassment, witness intimidation, and withholding of evidence. In April 2018, the Atlanta Black Star characterized the FBI as still engaging in COINTELPRO behavior by surveilling the Black Lives Matter movement. Internal documents dated as late as 2017 showed that the FBI had surveilled the movement.


CHICAGO (Reuters) - Predatory lending aimed at racially segregated minority neighborhoods led to mass foreclosures that fueled the U.S. housing crisis, according to a new study published in the American Sociological Review. Predatory lending typically refers to loans that carry unreasonable fees, interest rates and payment requirements.

Poorer minority areas became a focus of these practices in the 1990s with the growth of mortgage-backed securities, which enabled lenders to pool low- and high-risk loans to sell on the secondary market, Professor Douglas Massey of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and PhD candidate Jacob Rugh, said in their study. The financial institutions likely to be found in minority areas tended to be predatory, pawn shops, payday lenders and check cashing services that “charge high fees and usurious rates of interest,” they said in the study.

“By definition, segregation creates minority dominant neighborhoods, which, given the legacy of redlining and institutional discrimination, continue to be underserved by mainstream financial institutions,” the study says. Subprime lending refers to loans made to consumers with poor credit and others considered higher risk.

They tend to have a higher interest rate than traditional loans. The study, which used data from the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, found that living in a predominantly African-American area, and to a lesser extent Hispanic area, were “powerful predictors of foreclosures” in the nation. Even African-Americans with similar credit profiles and down-payment ratios to white borrowers were more likely to receive subprime loans, according to the study. “As a result, from 1993 to 2000, the share of subprime mortgages going to households in minority neighborhoods rose from 2 to 18 percent,” Massey and Rugh said. They said the U.S. Civil Rights Act should be amended to create mechanisms that would uncover discrimination and penalize those who discriminated against minority borrowers.


Not what you may be thinking. Although not a direct decision based on race alone. The unintentional racial consequences can not be ignored. More than crime. More than accidents. More than cancer, heart disease and AIDS. Abortion has taken more Black American lives than every other cause of death combined since 1973. In the United States, the abortion rate for Black women is almost 4 times that of White women. On average, 900 Black babies are aborted every day in the United States. This tragedy continues to impact the population levels of African Americans in the United States.

National Statistics More than 19 million Black babies have been aborted since the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in our country. Black women have a significantly higher abortion rate than Whites and Hispanics. 36.0% of all abortions in the U.S. in 2014 were performed on Black women, however, only about 13.3% of the total population is Black . African-Americans are no longer the nation’s largest minority group. Today, Hispanics have outpaced Blacks in population growth. For every 1,000 live births, non-Hispanic Black women had 391 abortions. Non-Hispanic White women had 120 abortions per 1,000 live births.


The mass imprisonment of people of color was an “unintended consequence” of the 1994 crime bill, to quote the New York Daily News paraphrase of Hillary Clinton. This is flatly, glaringly false, as the final, ugly chapter of the crime bill story confirms.

Back in the early 1990s, and although they were chemically almost identical, crack and powder cocaine were regarded very differently by the law. The drug identified with black users (crack) was treated as though it were 100 times as villainous as the same amount of cocaine, a drug popular with affluent professionals. This “now-notorious 100-to-one” sentencing disparity, as the New York Times put it, had been enacted back in 1986, and the 1994 crime law instructed the US Sentencing Commission to study the subject and adjust federal sentencing guidelines as it saw fit.

The Sentencing Commission duly recommended that the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity be abolished, largely because (as their lengthy report on the subject put it) “The 100-to-1 crack cocaine to powder cocaine quantity ratio is a primary cause of the growing disparity between sentences for black and white federal defendants.” By the time their report was released, however, Republicans gained control of Congress, and they passed a bill explicitly overturning the decision of the Sentencing Commission. (Bernie Sanders, for the record, voted against that bill.)

The bill then went to President Clinton for approval. Shortly before it came to his desk he gave an inspiring speech deploring the mass incarceration of black Americans. “Blacks are right to think something is terribly wrong,” he said on that occasion, “… when there are more African American men in our correction system than in our colleges; when almost one in three African American men, in their twenties, are either in jail, on parole, or otherwise under the supervision of the criminal system. Nearly one in three.”

Two weeks after that speech, however, Clinton blandly affixed his signature to the bill retaining the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity, a disparity that had brought about the lopsided incarceration of black people. Clinton could have vetoed it, but he didn’t. He signed it.

But it did happen. There it is, Bill Clinton’s signing statement on the website of the American Presidency Project. Yes, the 100-to-1 disparity was finally reduced in 2010, but we liberals still can’t ignore what Clinton did back in 1995. Every historian who writes about his administration will eventually have to deal with it.


The stop-question-and-frisk program, or stop-and-frisk, in New York City, is a New York City Police Department practice of temporarily detaining, questioning, and at times searching civilians on the street for weapons and other contraband. This is what is known in other places in the United States as a Terry stop. The rules for stop, question, and frisk are found in the state's criminal procedure law section 140.50, and are based on the decision of the US Supreme Court in the case of Terry v. Ohio.

12,404 stops were made in 2016. The stop-and-frisk program has previously taken place on a much wider scale. Between 2003 and 2013, over 100,000 stops were made per year, with 685,724 people being stopped at the height of the program in 2011. The program became the subject of a racial profiling controversy.

The vast majority, 90% in 2017, of those stopped were African-American or Latino, most of whom were aged 14–24. Furthermore, 70% of all those stopped were later found to be innocent. The racial disparity persists even after controlling for precinct variability and race-specific estimates of crime participation.


The goal is worthy: when a child is born out of wedlock, establish paternity and make sure the father helps support his offspring. The record is sorry: as of 1989, only one in four unwed mothers had a child-support order in place, compared with three in four divorced mothers, and even fewer actually received payments. Now, enforcement is tightening up. If mothers apply for welfare they are pressured to name the father.

Increasingly, for divorced and never-married fathers alike, support payments are deducted from paychecks right along with taxes. But the child-support system, well suited for collecting from middle-class divorced parents, runs into special problems when parents on welfare are involved. Many fathers of welfare children "are not disconnected from their children," said Bernadine Watson of Public/Private Ventures in Philadelphia, a nonprofit research group studying programs for such fathers.

"Their problem is that they are very poorly equipped for the labor market." If they are to pay meaningful child support, many absent welfare fathers will need the same kind of compensatory schooling and job training that are now being offered to many mothers. But such programs are scarce and their effectiveness is unproved, said Ronald B. Mincey, a poverty expert at the Urban Institute. Question of Incentives. The way the welfare system handles support payments can reduce the incentive for some mothers to name fathers, or for fathers to pay.

By Federal law, when the mother is on welfare, support money goes to the state and Federal governments. Only an extra $50 a month is added to her welfare payment. "They feel like they're just paying the state," Ms. Watson said of the fathers. Hence, both parents may prefer that the father contribute money on the side. Raising the amount passed to the mother would make cooperation more attractive for both parents. But it could also reduce the mother's incentive to get the entire payment by working her way off welfare. Irwin Garfinkel of Columbia University, an authority on child support, said he opposed an increase in the amount passed on to mothers. "I see no reason to think we have to create big incentives for fathers to pay," he said. "We have to make sure that enforcement is strong, and everybody knows it."

Inflexible child-support laws also causes problems for fathers who work sporadically. A support order requires a father to pay whether he is working or not. Some end up owing the state tens of thousands of dollars and face jail for nonpayment. For men who can hardly command more than the minimum wage, such debts and legal threats can become overwhelming. Many fathers disappear, or work only in jobs where wages will not be garnished. An inflexible support obligation can also deter fathers who want to help but need extra training so they can qualify for better-paying jobs.

If they stop their low-wage work to spend a year or two in school or job training, their arrears and legal troubles will mount. Encouraging Training In experiments around the country, fathers have had support obligations suspended while they train for better-paying jobs; the mother still receives her welfare grant. Even better, some experts say, would be a new approach to setting obligations. Courts usually set support at a fixed amount per week, reflecting the father's current income. When the father is poor the amount may be as low as $10, and adjusting it often requires cumbersome legal procedures.

It would make more sense to set obligations as a percentage of the father's income that would automatically change with his earnings over time, Dr. Garfinkel said. This, he said, could reap more money in the future, as the father's income rises, as it usually does even in welfare cases. On the other side, when the father's income drops, large, uncollectible arrears would not pile up. For true "deadbeat dads" this might eliminate some of the pressure to find a job and pay support. But Dr. Garfinkel contends that any losses would be more than offset by more frequent declarations of paternity, the crucial basis of all future collections.

The system would seem less threatening, he said, so fathers would be more likely to cooperate. Advantages for Both Parents Counselors who work with young unwed parents stress other reasons for cooperating, too. They try to help mothers see that romantic relationships may break up, that years later they may wish they had established paternity and were collecting support. They point out to fathers that legal paternity helps assure access to their children and gives the children the benefit of knowing who their father is.

"We play to the pride they have as fathers," Ms. Watson said. Dr. Garfinkel and others have proposed more radical changes in the system, combining strong enforcement with a Government guarantee that every mother will get a minimum payment, whether it was collected or not. Such an assured benefit, argue, would make it easier for mothers to climb off welfare. Critics say such a guarantee would reduce the incentive for fathers to pay their fair share. The idea is now before Congress.


Institutional racism (also known as systemic racism) is a form of racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. It is reflected in disparities regarding wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, among other factors.

The term "institutional racism" was coined and first used in 1967 by Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) and Charles V. Hamilton in Black Power: The Politics of Liberation. Carmichael and Hamilton wrote that while individual racism is often identifiable because of its overt nature, institutional racism is less perceptible because of its "less overt, far more subtle" nature. Institutional racism "originates in the operation of established and respected forces in the society, and thus receives far less public condemnation than [individual racism]". They gave examples.

The concept of institutional racism re-emerged in political discourse in the late and mid 1990s after a long hiatus, but has remained a contested concept that has been critiqued by multiple constituencies. Institutional racism is the differential access to the goods, services, and opportunities of society. When the differential access becomes integral to institutions, it becomes common practice, making it difficult to rectify. Eventually, this racism dominates public bodies, private corporations, public and private universities, and is reinforced by the actions of conformists and newcomers.

Another difficulty in reducing institutionalized racism is that there is no sole, true identifiable perpetrator. When racism is built into the institution, it emerges as the collective action of the population.

Persistent negative stereotypes fuel institutional racism, and influence interpersonal relations. Racial stereotyping contributes to patterns of racial residential segregation and redlining, and shape views about crime, crime policy, and welfare policy, especially if the contextual information is stereotype-consistent. Institutional racism is distinguished from racial bigotry by the existence of institutional systemic policies, practices and economic and political structures which place minority racial and ethnic groups at a disadvantage in relation to an institution's racial or ethnic majority.

One example of the difference is public school budgets in the U.S. (including local levies and bonds) and the quality of teachers, which are often correlated with property values: rich neighborhoods are more likely to be more 'white' and to have better teachers and more money for education, even in public schools.

Restrictive housing contracts and bank lending policies have also been listed as forms of institutional racism. Other examples sometimes described as institutional racism are racial profiling by security guards and police, use of stereotyped racial caricatures, the under- and misrepresentation of certain racial groups in the mass media, and race-based barriers to gainful employment and professional advancement. Additionally, differential access to goods, services, and opportunities of society can be included within the term institutional racism, such as unpaved streets and roads, inherited socio-economic disadvantage, and "standardized" tests (each ethnic group prepared for it differently; many are poorly prepared).

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