Earlier this week on Tumblr, I saw a fantastic metaphorical quote about America's history of institutionalized racism: "If your ancestors cut down all the trees, it’s not your fault, but you still don’t live in a forest." (Sociology professor Pam Oliver.) Today, on Reddit via DepthHub, I read a comment about a specific example of institutionalized racism I didn't know about: Apparently, all those great benefits of the GI bill after World War II were only given to the white soldiers.
See after the end of World War II, American G.I.s came home to the Bill - they got access to subsidized loans for houses in the suburbs, and access to college educations. Provided they were white. Colored G.I.s didn't get these benefits. They were, for the most part, shunted aside into menial job training programs or denied benefits altogether. But let's stick with housing.
- Firstly, ethnic neighborhood divisions aren't "natural" in America. They aren't the result of people organically choosing to live next to those who look like them. Racial segregation in America's neighborhoods is the result of a process that discriminated against minorities. The reason minorities tend to live in certain areas is because they had nowhere else to go. This discrimination was designed to create a poor urban underclass of menial workers. Back then, minorities weren't seen as capable of doing much more than thoughtless, thankless jobs. This wasn't malice - governments felt like they were being actually helpful.
- Secondly it blows away the myth that the white middle class got their by the strength of their own bootstrapping. There was an incredible amount of government help that went to white Americans. This kind of affirmative action/government help went only to whites for decades. There have always been poor white folks in America and these New Deal and post-New Deal programs were actually designed with them in mind. But when these same programs are extended to minorities, America has a collective crisis of conscience about government handouts and starts wringing her hands about white poverty.
(Emphasis from the original comment)
The whole comment is awesome, and there are citations and additional reading at the bottom.