The hood persists through classic processes of anti-Black caste: boundary maintenance, opportunity hoarding, and stereotype-driven surveillance. Today, government at all levels overinvests in affluent white space and disinvests in Blackness, with the exception of excessive spending on policing and incarceration. Segregation is at the heart of structural racism in America. In theory, the US Constitution and civil rights laws demand equal protection and treatment of Black Americans. In practice, American law and public policies have encouraged rather than discouraged segregation. Horizontal competition between communities of abundance and communities of need sets up a budgetary politics in which affluent spaces and people usually win. Politicians and non-descendants of all colors have participated in ghetto myths to justify containing descendants in high-poverty environs, or prisons, and to justify shrinking government, except the military and law enforcement. Fortunately, a revolutionary awakening has begun to disrupt this tired politics. A growing, multiracial coalition believes that Black Lives Matter. But the structures and policies that undermine Black lives, and divide the American house against itself, endure.
Segregation and its mechanics of racialized favor and disfavor undermine opportunity for everyone. The American system of residential caste works only for the few who can buy their way into gold-standard neighborhoods that enjoy the best of everything. Everyone participates in this racialized system of opportunity for the few. The American way means trying to get into “good” neighborhoods and schools and avoid “bad” ones. Movers know, though they may not say it out loud, that what is really going on is avoidance of poor Black people in large numbers. Extreme segregation persists in metropolitan areas where large numbers of great migrants landed.
The processes of residential caste and structural racism also operate, though perhaps less visibly, in less overtly segregated places. Poverty-free havens and poverty-dense hoods would not exist if the state had not designed, constructed, and maintained this physical racial order. Intentional state action to create and maintain the racialized order included government-encouraged racially restrictive covenants, exclusionary zoning, Negro-cleansing “urban renewal,” intentionally segregated public housing, an interstate highway program laid to create racial barriers, endemic redlining, and intentionally disinvesting in basic services for Black neighborhoods. Individuals making choices about where to live may not recognize or acknowledge how much the state, through investment and disinvestment, shapes racial patterns and perceptions.