Segregation

Courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal

While Milwaukee is often cited as the most segregated metropolitan area in the U.S., it’s hardly unusual. In most American cities, people of different races live in different neighborhoods and there’s a general pattern: neighborhoods near the center of a city are home to African-Americans and people of color, while the surrounding suburbs are majority white. But why?

On the afternoon of April 13, 2014, Dontre Hamilton was lying on the ground near a bench in a Milwaukee city park. A police officer on patrol walked over to Hamilton and asked him to stand up. Their encounter would end in disaster.

Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society

The late Lloyd Barbee is perhaps best known as the lawyer and state legislator who fought to desegregate Milwaukee’s public schools. A new book lays out just how broad Barbee’s fight for justice was.

Beyond education, Barbee pushed for open housing, women’s rights, and decolonization. He would often sign his letters with the quote - “Justice For All.” And that’s the title of the new book, Justice for All: Selected Writings of Lloyd A. Barbee.

The book is edited by his daughter -- another civil rights attorney -- Daphne Barbee-Wooten.

Milwaukee has become known for its segregation, the racial, ethnic and class dividing lines that keep people from living and interacting with each other. But what about spaces of integration? Do they exist and, if so, what can we learn from them?

John Sturdy / Milwaukee Magazine

Milwaukee is known as the most segregated city in America. But often, that designation raises more questions than it answers. 

Growing up in Milwaukee, Reggie Jackson saw the signs of segregation all around him, even when he didn't recognize them. Going to public schools in the city, Jackson says he didn't have class with any white students until he started commuting to high school, a subject-specific school on the south side of town.

While Milwaukee may be considered the United States’ most segregated city, our neighbors just south of us aren’t too much better. Chicago is consistently ranked as one of the most segregated cities in the U.S., and much like Milwaukee, its history is rooted in government sanctioned racism.

For decades, racially restrictive covenants forced black Chicagoans to live in a designated area of the city known as the Black Belt. The use of these covenants was struck down by the Supreme Court in the late 1940s, but that wasn't the end of their impact.

African-Americans experience a significant drop in their blood pressure after they move out of highly segregated neighborhoods and into more integrated neighborhoods, researchers report Monday.

A study involving more than 2,000 African-Americans found that those who moved from the most-segregated neighborhoods to less-segregated neighborhoods later experienced lower systolic blood pressure, a factor in heart attacks and strokes.

In 1933, faced with a housing shortage, the federal government began a program explicitly designed to increase — and segregate — America's housing stock. Author Richard Rothstein says the housing programs begun under the New Deal were tantamount to a "state-sponsored system of segregation."

The government's efforts were "primarily designed to provide housing to white, middle-class, lower-middle-class families," he says. African-Americans and other people of color were left out of the new suburban communities — and pushed instead into urban housing projects.

There's a compelling question at the heart of a report released this week by the Metropolitan Planning Council: If more people — especially educated professional white Americans — knew exactly how they are harmed by the country's pervasive racial segregation, would they be moved to try to decrease it?

Kenishirotie, flickr

Studies show that the metropolitan Milwaukee area is the most segregated in the country. While the city of Milwaukee is majority minority, the surrounding suburban areas are largely white, and some groups contend that it’s this way by design. Back in 2011, The Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council filed a complaint against Waukesha County, alleging housing discrimination on the basis of race.

Sixty-three years after the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, many schools across the country either remain segregated or have re-segregated.

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that when it comes to school segregation, separate is never truly equal.

In the aftermath of the Great Depression, the U.S. government set out to evaluate the riskiness of mortgages — and left behind a stunning portrait of the racism and discrimination that has shaped American housing policy.

Now a new digital tool makes it easier than ever to see that history in high-resolution.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Scenes of West Baltimore's troubled neighborhoods do raise natural questions. One is why they seem heavily segregated generations after legal segregation ended.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Dustin A. Cable, University of Virginia, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Reference Data by Stamen Design

For all the good that Milwaukee has going for it, the city continues to deal with the reality that it is the most segregated city in the country.

There's a new approach to deal with racial segregation in Milwaukee - a contest.

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