In recognition of Black History Month, this blog explores historic policies and events that influenced the health and well-being of Black communities across the nation.
Many of the disparities experienced today in Black communities stem from various oppressive policies and decisions. Historically, many policies have consistently kept these communities from the resources and opportunities needed to thrive.
Following the abolishment of slavery, Jim Crow laws were adopted as a way to legalize segregation. This created legally segregated schools, and restricted when and where Blacks could work, live, eat, and use public facilities like bathrooms or hospitals.
Though Jim Crow laws legally ended in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act, the systematic normalcy of racism had a massive rippling effect to the lives of Black people that remains prominent even now. These practices of restricting Black presence in public facilities influenced the normalization of discriminating against Black people across society today, most notably in work force treatment and education.
“Fewer blacks graduate from high school (72.5 %) than do non-Hispanic whites (87.2 %) and more whites than blacks earn a bachelor’s degree (32.5 vs. 18.6 %). […] As of February 2016, unemployment rates were twice as high for blacks (8.8 %) than for whites (4.3 %).” (Source)
In the 1930s began the specific practice of “redlining,” or the action of marking (predominately Black) neighborhoods as hazardous or high-risk areas. This practice, enabled by the creation of the Federal Housing Administration in 1934, gave banks the right to discriminate against people in those neighborhoods when deciding whether to give out loans. This practice created a financial hardship in the Black community and made it difficult to achieve homeownership and generational wealth. Redlining is also the reason many of these communities still earn low-incomes.
Because of redlining, access to resources like nutritious food, transportation, and quality education are underfunded in these areas. This has slowed the economic growth of these communities.
In 1982, after 240 miles of toxic waste was spilled along North Carolina’s highway, a small Black community in Warren, NC was chosen as the new location for a toxic waste facility. The community protested this decision although their voices were ignored.
“… An Associated Press analysis suggests 2 million people live within a mile of one of the 327 Superfund sites vulnerable to climate change-related flooding, most of them in low-income communities and communities of color.” (Source)
These are only a few examples of how policies and governments have disadvantaged and negatively impacted Black communities. Black people are adversely affected by the lack of support and resources they received through discriminatory processes over time. As a result, Black communities often earn low incomes and face more health concerns.
Research shows the trauma of slavery alone has been passed down generations, so it is only fair to assume that the economic and environmental injustices that were once allowed also still impact current generations. Although these policies and practices have “ended” legally, this does not mean there was immediate improvement for those affected.
As this celebratory month comes to an end, let this be a reminder that there is still much work to be done.