Inequalities in American Cities

The Inequality of American Cities

        America was founded with the understanding that it would be the land of the free and the home of the brave. The founders of this country sought to separate themselves from the oppression that they had faced under the rule of the British and King George III. America was meant to be a country where everyone was created equal, that is what it says in our constitution. What happens though, when this identity does not come true, and instead the oppression is just transferred to a different group or groups? In reality American identity is not a universal truth; it unfortunately applies only to certain people. The oppression that some people feel is especially evident when looking at the history of cities. American cities have evolved over the centuries and now represent a melting pot of the American people. A unique quality of cities is that they represent an accumulation of different racial groups. Although this melting pot should allow for different groups, people, ideas and beliefs to interact with one another, instead the laws and social practices in cities promote the opposite. Many cities have long histories of inequality, and rather than fix them, the separation gap in American cities is growing even larger and the inherent problems are becoming more severe. The social interaction of a city and its elements vary entirely on the individual’s experience (Lynch 50-55). One may be able to turn a blind eye to inequality that others see on a daily basis, purely based on their individual perspective. These individualized experiences have allowed for exclusionary practices to flourish. These qualities are not unique to just one American city but are reproduced in every city across the country. There are many issues that are seen within cities but the biggest issue that cities are facing is the growing inequality in racial groups. Cities are seeing a large increase in tensions between black communities and police officers, specifically. This is a long-standing issue and these tensions are coming to a head through the Black Lives Matter campaign.

        It is important to understand that the inequality present in cities did not just appear in one day. Black Americans have faced issues of inequality going all the way back to our country’s roots. Racial discrimination is something that has been embedded in the American identity since its creation. The white elite mindset was present from the moment the first explorers arrived in America and unfortunately does not only apply to Black Americans. Before slaves from Africa were brought to America, the Native Americans faced a fate that would be all too familiar to many throughout the country’s history. When the white male settlers came to America and met the Native Americans they had a goal of assimilating them. The men viewed the Native’s lifestyle as inferior to the European way and determined that it was their duty to change their way of life. While the American colonies grew, the Natives faced a growing amount of inequality. This is the first time that people on American soil faced inequality and unfortunately this foreshadowed future discrimination. The Native American homes were taken from them and they were forced off of their ancestral homeland. As the white population grew and the Natives’ stake on the land was decreasing, the importation of slaves from Africa began. In 1619, a Dutch man in Chesapeake ordered the first African slaves to arrive in America (Berlin, 29). These slaves were immediately viewed as inferior to the Americans based on their skin color. Much of what the Native Americans went through was now happening to the slaves and the few free blacks. This visual difference would dictate the way that history would unfold going forward. This importation of African slaves forever altered the way of life in America.

        Over the next 2 and half centuries, as the country grew, so did slavery thus creating an inequality that would become deep seeded in American life. This ultimately led to the divide within the country and the succession of the Southern states to create the Confederacy (Bates 2010). Much of the Southern identity and economy was generated from the slave trade, so the potential of losing this was a threat to the fundamental ideas of the Southern American. The South was fighting to keep the establishment of slavery embedded in the American government. Little did the Southerners that they had put in place a system of oppression of Black Americans that would remain in place long after slavery was abolished.  The conditions that black slaves faced were incredibly harsh and demeaning. This diminished way of thinking about human life as lesser and not equal, created a certain view of people of different skin colors that permeated society. This viewpoint also influenced the way people of all races interacted with their cities and surroundings. Individual experiences of both whites and blacks influenced the way they viewed themselves and how they projected themselves to the world. Certain ways of living were created out of these experiences and the image of city and self developed around these practices. After the Civil War and the victory of the Union, African Americans thought that they would finally have their chance at freedom and equality. They thought that the affordances that had always been given to the white elite, would finally be given to them (Gibson 56-60).

        At the abolishment of slavery, many laws were passed with the intention of giving African Americans the same rights as the white Americans. Even though laws were passed, social practices remained deeply rooted in the American structure. With the ending of slavery, many Southern cities had to find a new source of income that was not surrounded around free labor. Southern cities attempted to create a new identity they called the “New South” (Link 2015). One of the American cities aiming to grow out of the Civil War was Atlanta. Atlanta attempted to embrace this Reconstruction period positively. This southern city wanted to show that it would integrate the people smoothly and effortlessly. The city created 5 African American Colleges in the immediate years following the Civil War. To the elite white class, this seemed like a positive step in the right direction. Even though the city created these colleges it was simultaneously sending the message that it did not want the white and black students to integrate (Link 2015). As the city grew and areas began to become designated black and white places, racial tensions began to increase rapidly (Link 2015). There was a growing amount of violence against black Atlantans. This was a new form of oppression in a more social sphere. The people of the city began to create their own sense of “city image” and the image varied depending on your race (Lynch 50). Atlanta was not the only American city dealing with oppression but while other cities went through integration smoother than the South, it was a trend that socially structured inequalities were still present.

        The violence that black Americans faced was running rampant across the country and especially in cities in the years following the Civil War. The Ku Klux Klan gained a lot of traction in southern cities and used their increasing numbers to violently attack blacks (Dixon 2004). Many blacks were lynched by white KKK members veiled in white cone top robes (Dixon 2004). This was meant to show that whites had all the power and that blacks were continuously inferior (Dixon 2004). Along with the lynches by the KKK, race riots were common and often resulted in huge amounts of violence. The Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 showed the country that the inequalities from before The Civil War were still present. On the night of September 22, 1906, the news reported that there were 4 separate acts of black men sexually assaulting white women (Burns 2009). Immediately after hearing the reports, thousands of white Atlanta residents headed to the streets and senselessly attacked any black in sight (Burns 2009). The race riot lasted 3 days and at the end of it 25 blacks were murdered with many others injured (Burns 2009). This riot gained global attention and was a shock to the world. The country that claimed all men were created equal was still practicing inequality. These acts of violence at the hands of white men went unpunished and continued throughout much of the 20th century. Unfortunately, the violence did not stop at physical violence, structural violence was also practiced on a day to day basis.

        Structurally, the city dynamic was becoming increasingly hostile. Certain spaces and jobs were off limits because of your skin color. The police force became a center of controversy over the years. After blacks were freed many of them attempted to get jobs in the police force. It would make sense to join the police force in the hopes that it would alter the way the system operated. As black men began to apply for jobs at the city police stations across the country, they were met with much resistance. The overwhelming issue was that white men who worked in the force did not want to have a colored man as their boss. The white citizens also took issue in the idea of being policed by black police officers (Watts 1973). This caused a growing tension between the blacks and police officers that is very much so present in our political climate today.

        The extreme policing practices also had to do with the growing city populations. The transition from agricultural life to an industrial lifestyle occurred after the Civil War. This transition caused a huge influx of people to move to the city. The requirement for more space and buildings in cities was important. Apartments seemed to pop up overnight in an attempt to suit the needs of the growing population. Cities were a cheaper alternative for blacks. Apartments also allowed for the concentration of blacks in one place or neighborhood. This sort of congregation became a sort of paradox. Whites feared living in the proximity of blacks while at the same time feared the congregation of blacks in one place. This fear led to the demand of more regulated neighborhoods. This regulation lead to the creation of two new government policies that were masked as a way to help the poor. The only thing these laws did not mention was that the laws were primarily for racially diverse groups (Carter, Schill, & Wachter 1998).

        The first of the two laws went into place in 1933 as a part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. One was the creation of the Federal Housing Administration which was intended to help alleviate the housing crisis that was occurring in America. In reality, and in practice, the laws actually promoted segregation on a new government level (Gross 2017). The new government policies made it nearly impossible to secure mortgages in or around African-American neighborhoods. This practice became known as “redlining”. At the same time that the government was prohibiting African-Americans to housing, the government was also incentivizing builders to “mass produce entire subdivisions for white” (Gross 2017). There was no requirement that any of these houses be sold to African-Americans. The colored Americans were being excluded from the picture. They were not given any opportunity to benefit from these new housing developments which of course were in the best parts of the city. Richard Rothstein explores in depth this practice of redlining and believes that “the segregation of our metropolitan areas today leads… to stagnant inequality, because families are much less able to be upwardly mobile when they’re living in segregated neighborhoods where opportunity is absent” (Gross 2017). Because African-Americans were pushed out, they moved in to areas that were underdeveloped. These underdeveloped areas became associated with African-American identity and because they were viewed as inferior no one ever developed property in the area. This housing inequality developed all over the country leaving blacks with few places to live and therefore fewer opportunities.

Alongside with the Federal Housing Administration, the government began to create public housing. There was a large demand for more regulated housing and so in response, cities began to create public housing. Public housing was meant to be a development that cities could be proud of and would show their desire to give people who could not afford houses the opportunity for housing. Many viewed public housing as a positive opportunity for those who could not normally afford housing. Atlanta was the first city to create public housing. In 1936, the city would build the Techwood Villages. This was an impressive development and gave housing opportunities to 600 families. This seemed like a huge step in the right direction for not only the city of Atlanta but also any city that followed suit. The downside though, is that as lower income families began to move in to the neighborhood, middle and upper class white families moved out. The more lower income housing there was in the city, the further wealthy whites pushed out into the suburbs. With the lack of investment from wealthy whites or the government, the neighborhoods remained in despair and fell apart. It became very hard for cities to help public housing developments stay afloat and in good shape (Goetz 2013).

As the 1900’s raged on, the racial injustice in cities did not come to an end and instead, continued to have a grip on American society. Rising tensions, especially in the South, led to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. This movement presented a chance for the wrongs of the past to finally be righted and for equality to be reached. During the Civil Rights Movement, people of all races came together in hopes of fixing the racial injustice of the past. Through the Civil Rights movement, some sought for equality that had been denied to them, while others fought against it. There were strong showings of police brutality throughout this movement. On many occasions, the peaceful marches were met with force from police departments. The police showed their full force and their desire to only protect a select few. This use of force added to the deep seeded distrust that some Americans already felt towards police. After the Civil Rights Movement, many of the injustices still remained only now they were hidden deeper in the system. Cities still created inequality (Harmon 87-88).

With all the struggles the black Americans had faced since their arrival in America, they still held onto the hope that justice would be served, and equality would be reached. Unfortunately, the injustice still raged on. Cops continue to be at the forefront of the injustice or perhaps it appears so because they are the most visible. Many crimes still rage on in cities and blacks seem to be the focus of many of the cases. In 1979, and for two years following, Atlanta was riddled with one of the most horrific serial killers in the country. This killer ended up being a black man named Wayne Williams and even though the evidence points to him as the killer, many question the conviction. They believe that his conviction is just a repeat of the injustice from the police and government (Atlanta Monster). In New York City in 1989, a woman went running around Central Park a little after dusk. While on her run, she was brutally raped, beaten up, and left to die (Burns 2012). Also, in the park that night was a group of about 15 Black and Hispanic boys who lived in Harlem (Burns 2012). 5 of these boys were brought in for questioning that would last for multiple hours and in some cases, they were prohibited from seeing their parents even though they were minors. After hours of interrogation with no food or sleep, many falsely confessed to being at the scene of the crime and the rape. Even with these confessions, the evidence did not point to the boys as being potentially involved. However, they still went to trial and were convicted. These boys became known as the Central Park 5 and served time in jails all across New York State. Years after the convictions and time in jail, the true serial rapist stepped forward (Burns 2012). These boys were wrongfully convicted primaril based off of their race and the assumption that they were hoodlums in a gang (Burns 2012). The tales of wrongful arrests and convictions could go on forever and are still happening today. The force that police use against blacks is an ongoing problem in spite of public outcry. Even more recently, cities have started to tear down public housing because the belief is that crime rates are higher when there is public housing. In 2011 Atlanta, which was the first city to build public housing, torn down all of its public housing (Goetz 2013). Public housing that was built is being left uncared for and in a state of disrepair and as a result the area around it begins to fail. This is not the fault of the people who live there, rather because of the failure to invest in the area.

When it is all said and done America regrettably is not actually the land of the free. It may be the home of the brave; the brave people who stand up against injustice every day, but not everyone is free. Cities are a place in this country where everything is concentrated in to a small area. The close quarters and lifestyles allow for many people of different walks of life to be in one place at one time. The downside to this concentration is that people are living different lives. The paths and edges that mark my understanding of a city could be completely different for someone else. This uniqueness is part of what makes a city great but it also a pitfall. It allows for people to stay in their own bubble and ignore the issues that are not directly in front of them. The issues that the modern day Black Lives Matter movement addresses are not new issues. They are issues that have been growing quietly for some and more loudly for others since the creation of the country. The inequalities inherent in our country still stand strong and are felt by many every day. Police brutality has not ended and if anything, it is getting worse. It is more visible now and harder to ignore. In order to  resolve the injustices we need to start by changing our cities. Policies need to be made to once and for all provide for equal education, equal living, and equal job opportunities. It is also important to educate people that expecting everyone to fit in the box that white elites have created is neither realistic nor positive. Clearly the mindset and American identity we have lived with until this point is not inclusive. We need to foster a new generation that understands the importance of inclusion and working together to eliminate the remnants of the slave state that persist even today in order to actually be a land of the free.


“Atlanta Monster.” Atlanta Monster,

Bates, Christopher G. The Early Republic and Antebellum America. Sharpe//Online Reference,

2010, ?hl=en&lr=&id=pWLxBwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd &pg=PA16&dq=atlanta1850s&ots=xKTdxHutpW&sig=m6Zl5QffiTaNi1Kucy 6foKMuNVU#v=onepage&q=atlanta 1850s&f=false.

Berlin, Ira. Many Thousands Gone: the First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. ACLS History E-Book Project, 2005,   WoC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=first slavesinamerica&ots=D6ifL7of0e&sig=w-MJNyHWA FnWy5MhjGBgzv2uKys#v=onepage&q=first slaves in america&f=false.

Burns, Rebecca. Rage in the Gate City the Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot. University of Georgia Press, 2009, atlanta&ots=cp9uGNfbf5&sig=FTct-LJQNcdkEqlK04oZFIV5FOw#v=onepage&q=1906 atlanta&f=false.

Burns, Sarah. The Central Park Five: the Untold Story behind One of New York Citys Most Infamous Crimes. Anchor, 2012.

Carter, William H., et al. “Polarisation, Public Housing and Racial Minorities in US Cities.” Urban Studies, vol. 35, no. 10, 1998, pp. 1889–1911. Sage Journals, doi:10.1080/0042098984204.

Dixon, Thomas. “The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan.” 2000, doi:10.4324/9781315700113.

Goetz, Edward. “Gentrification in Black and White.” Urban Studies, vol. 48, no. 8, Dec. 2010, pp. 1581–1604. Sage Journals, doi:10.1177/0042098010375323.

Goetz, Edward G. New Deal Ruins: Race, Economic Justice, and Public Housing Policy. Cornell Univ. Press, 2013, QBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=atlanta publichousing&ots=b0FE8jAY-S&sig=f8eZ2- SkOTdHpEbk5tMgWrnteLw#v=onepage&q=atlanta&f=false.

Gross, Terry. “A ‘Forgotten History’ Of How The U.S. Government Segregated America.” NPR, NPR, 3 May 2017, -of-how-the-u-s-government-segregated-america.

Harmon, David Andrew. Beneath the Image of the Civil Rights Movement and Race Relations: Atlanta, Georgia, 1946-1981. Garland Publ, 1996, brutality and civil rightsmovement&ots=OgELG6GShn&sig= VSdTMuP4NlWBRQm2KxMa2YRItoE#v=onepage&q=police&f=false.

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Link, William A. Atlanta, Cradle of the New South: Race and Remembering in the Civil Wars Aftermath. University of North Carolina Press, 2015, C&oi=fnd&pg=PP2&dq=atlanta 1850s&ots=FfctGumdFX&sig=ljnNK87fHrN4pDd1Z -T9dbttZxU#v=onepage&q=1868&f=false

Mcnulty, Thomas L., and Steven R. Holloway. “Race, Crime, and Public Housing in Atlanta: Testing a Conditional Effect Hypothesis.” Social Forces, vol. 79, no. 2, 2000, p. 707., doi:10.2307/2675514.

Morris, Aldon D. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement Black Communities Organizing for Change. The Free Press, 1986, pg=PR5&dq= civilrightsatlanta&ots=NRtxfkAIcY&sig=nCvRmn_Ry5lSQTRNuFeowws B9BY#v=onepage&q=atlanta&f=false.

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“Segregation.” New Georgia Encyclopedia,

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Watts, Eugene J. “The Police in Atlanta, 1890-1905.” The Journal of Southern History, vol. 39, no. 2, 1973, pp. 165–182. JSTOR, JSTOR,



No city is exactly the same. They may all have qualities that resemble one another but they are never identical. A city in the North is different than a city in the South and an American city is different than an European City. American cities are not that old but have a ton of history packed in.

Atlanta is the place I have grown up my whole life but much of its history has been hidden from me. Like many part of America, people would rather ignore the painful events that happened in the past. Atlanta very obviously does this.  This is why I chose to represent Atlanta as a city that has had a painful history.

Georgia was a colony founded with the idea that it would be a new opportunity for the prisoners in England. In order for this dream to become a reality. the Americans had to take the land for the Cherokee Indians. They did not ask for the Americans to come and yet here they were faced with losing their home. This is not something that only happened in Georgia. It occured all over the US with the Indian Removal Act. This along with the slavery that was occuring in the country at the time is an example of the superiority Americans feel they have other minorities.

Atlanta went through many different periods and yet the suppression of certain individuals has been a common theme. Atlanta, just like many of other southern cities, has an evil past. There is a painful history. Instead of learning from its mistakes or owning their past pitfalls, the city attempts to ignore the  past. This is an issue that has led to the problems that we are facing today. In order to understand where we are today we need to understand what happened in the past.

Atlanta likes to make that claim that it is a city “Too Busy To Hate”. This is not true. Atlanta is a city that would rather act like the past did not happen. I chose to represent in Atlanta this way because many of the events I chose are things I never learned about. They are events that everyone should know in order to understand the true issues that we are facing today.

We are facing many issues today that were never dealt with many years ago. In order to learn and understand how to solve the problem, we need to understand how we got here. This is why it is important to look at the past. In order for Atlanta to actually become a city “Too Busy To Hate”, they need to understand the issues that are embedded in the society.

I wanted to show the more painful history of Atlanta because it is a history that many other American Southern cities went through. The best way to understand today and learn what not to do is by looking at the past to understand our issues at hand.


[1] Brooks, Robert Preston. History of Georgia. Nabu Press, 2010, of georgia&ots=a-ZZe8fE73&sig=u9K5YCNJRPL7KHl5tFAt_F0bLcc#v=onepage&q=atlanta&f=false.

[2] REED, WALLACE PUTNAM. HISTORY OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its… Prominent Men and Pioneers (Classic Reprint). FORGOTTEN BOOKS, 2016, History of Atlanta, Georgia: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of …

[3] Garrett, Franklin M., and Harold H. Martin. Atlanta and Environs: a Chronicle of Its People and Events. University of Georgia Press, 2011, and environs&ots=anpBWldI48&sig=WxPGESJEqiA59Www0oURVEanvkk#v=onepage&q=atlanta and environs&f=false.

[4] “Atlanta.” New Georgia Encyclopedia,

[5] Garrett, Franklin M., and Harold H. Martin. Atlanta and Environs: a Chronicle of Its People and Events. University of Georgia Press, 2011, and environs&ots=anpBWldI48&sig=WxPGESJEqiA59Www0oURVEanvkk#v=onepage&q=atlanta and environs&f=false.

[6] Bates, Christopher G. The Early Republic and Antebellum America. Sharpe//Online Reference, 2010, 1850s&ots=xKTdxHutpW&sig=m6Zl5QffiTaNi1Kucy6foKMuNVU#v=onepage&q=atlanta 1850s&f=false.

[7] Leigh, Phil. “Who Burned Atlanta?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Nov. 2014,

[8] Link, William A. Atlanta, Cradle of the New South: Race and Remembering in the Civil Wars Aftermath. University of North Carolina Press, 2015, 1850s&ots=FfctGumdFX&sig=ljnNK87fHrN4pDd1Z-T9dbttZxU#v=onepage&q=1868&f=false.

[9] Jewell, Joseph O. Race, Social Reform, and the Making of a Middle Class: the American Missionary Association and Black Atlanta, 1870-1900. Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, Short History of Black Atlanta&ots=PH_nSx7rTC&sig=7a_Te_k6-8Tk9kapievjzgEgHgg#v=onepage&q=1950&f=false.

[10] Watts, Eugene J. “The Police in Atlanta, 1890-1905.” The Journal of Southern History, vol. 39, no. 2, 1973, pp. 165–182. JSTOR, JSTOR,

[11] Grem, Darren E. “Sam Jones, Sam Hose, and the Theology of Racial Violence.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly, vol. 90, no. 1, 2006, pp. 35–61. JSTOR, JSTOR,

[12] Burns, Rebecca. Rage in the Gate City the Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot. University of Georgia Press, 2009, atlanta&ots=cp9uGNfbf5&sig=FTct-LJQNcdkEqlK04oZFIV5FOw#v=onepage&q=1906 atlanta&f=false.

[13] “Segregation.” New Georgia Encyclopedia,

[14 ] Dixon, Thomas. “The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan.” 2000, doi:10.4324/9781315700113.

[15] Goetz, Edward G. New Deal Ruins: Race, Economic Justice, and Public Housing Policy. Cornell Univ. Press, 2013, public housing&ots=b0FE8jAY-S&sig=f8eZ2-SkOTdHpEbk5tMgWrnteLw#v=onepage&q=atlanta&f=false.

[16] Higgins, Jack. Without Mercy. Thorndike Press, 2005.

[17] Morris, Aldon D. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement Black Communities Organizing for Change. The Free Press, 1986, rights atlanta&ots=NRtxfkAIcY&sig=nCvRmn_Ry5lSQTRNuFeowwsB9BY#v=onepage&q=atlanta&f=false.

[18] Dyson, Michael Eric. April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King, Jrs Death and How It Changed America. Basic Civitas Books, 2008, luther king jr assassination&ots=8oz5XbAulj&sig=KGrZFmzxR71QnAodkfXYfvU1LjQ#v=onepage&q=atlanta&f=false.

[19] Abney, F. Glenn, and John D. Hutcheson. “Race, Representation, and Trust: Changes in Attitudes After the Election of a Black Mayor.” The Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 45, no. 1, 1981, pp. 91–101. JSTOR, JSTOR,

[20] Quinn, David, et al. Mindhunter. Dark Horse Comics, 2001.

[21] Goetz, Edward G. New Deal Ruins: Race, Economic Justice, and Public Housing Policy. Cornell Univ. Press, 2013, public housing&ots=b0FE8jAY-S&sig=f8eZ2-SkOTdHpEbk5tMgWrnteLw#v=onepage&q=atlanta&f=false.


The Pitfalls of the City

The Pitfalls of the City:

When considering the American landscape, there are three geographical spaces for living: the city, the rural, the suburbs. Each space has advantages and disadvantages for its residents. Each space containing unique characteristics. The cities that span across this country have the unique quality of representing both wealth and poverty. There is a juxtaposition and the definition of a city varies based on its residents. For one it can be a beautiful apartment overlooking Central Park in New York City, while another lives on the streets just outside. Two polar opposite experiences that are each defined by a city.

City Skyline GIPHY  

1 The “definition” of a city: Can there be one definition for a city? How does one create a definitive and all encompassing meaning for a place that has changed and developed over time? Merriam- Webster defines a city as “an inhabited place of greater size, population, or importance than a town or village”.  In the book, The Organic City, takes an extensive look into the development of the city through 19th and 20th century. As the city became popular “during the late nineteenth century, Americans confronted the challenge of a seemingly new urban form.  Americans [were] attempting to impose order on a rapidly changing society caught in the throes of industrialization and urbanization, the men and women interested in urban affairs embraced the notion of interdependence popular in descriptions of society and started to view the city as an organism- as an interdependent system of complementary parts or neighborhoods.” Urban Sociologist Ernest W. Burgess in 1926 also defined a city as an “organism” (pg 1). Cities are an organism in the sense that they are a system that is both dependent and also interdependent. The city influences the people while the people also influence the city. The rapid increase and development of cities develops a diverse demographic of people and industries. This results in different experiences and the inequalities of life to develop. [1]

2 Housing Divide in Cities: There is no doubt that there are class difference across not only America but also the world but there is no better place to see the clash and divide of class like housing in cities. Although there are classes that help define economic differences there is a clear racial wealth gap. The racial wealth gap between white and black homeownership in cities is significant. Through the process of privatization or “de facto segregation” is commonly thought of as private activity. This private activity is what led to highly segregated cities and the movement of upper class whites to the suburbs. In Richard Rothstein’s book, The Color of Law, he points out that the private activity and segregation would not have been possible without the government laws that explicitly promote white and black segregation. The housing segregation led to the exploitation of the blacks in cities and over time has created a huge wealth gap. The lack of attention paid to those in the lower economic bracket has allowed for the continuation of neglect to these communities and people. [2]

The Color of Law

3 Crime in Cities: In the late 1990’s there appeared to be a decrease in crime throughout American cities. This would make people believe that living conditions in cities were evening out and that the city was becoming gentrified in a positive way. This lack or decrease of crime in cities did not last long. In the mid 2000’s, there was a spike in crime in American cities. The main spike in crime is coming from the poorer areas of cities such as the south side of LA. Police in many of the poor parts of cities say that of the many factors that contribute to this rise in crime that high poverty rates is one of the key factors. People in these poorer parts of the city are joining gangs and getting guns due to the easy access. The desperation many of these people is causing many to commit both senseless crimes as well as crimes out of desperation; “Seventy-one percent of the cities surveyed had an increase in homicides, 80 percent had an increase in robberies, and 67 percent reported an increase in aggravated assaults with guns.” [3]

Police tape across city skyline

4 Housing and Crime: The mix of neighborhoods and crime in cities. The demographic of neighborhoods influences the residents as well as the crime.  A wealthy upper class tends to inhabit the nicer areas of the city while the poorer and generally black class is left with little to live off of. The poor are left in the neighbors with little and generally ignored by the city. In these areas there is a lot of crime. In a study done by the University of Wisconsin, they examine the mix of both crime and the housing crisis in many cities. The start of the problem lies with the white avoidance. [4] While the socioeconomic demographics between whites and blacks is shrinking (albeit not entirely quickly), the mix of neighborhoods does not show this. Blacks are still being segregated in housing even though it is more of a social practice. Whites have said that they would move out of neighborhoods that are 1/3 or more black. [4] This is the start of the problem. The segregation allows of the development of neighborhoods and areas that are not diverse. Without the resources being put in to the development of the poorer areas, these areas continue to remain underdeveloped. The areas that are predominately black are perceived to have more crime. This seems like a chicken and egg situation. Do these areas have more crime because they are underdeveloped? If this is the case, they will never improve if people continue to turn a blind eye to the areas in need. This is causing a stereotype of black neighborhoods to be created and perpetuated across this country. It has incredibly negative repercussions.

5 Atlanta Housing and Crime: The University of Georgia did a case study on Atlanta and crime. They looked at how crime changed the further away from the public housing you got. This is an important study because it assumes that those with a poorer background will have a higher crime rate. Public housing was a huge urban establishment in the early 1950’s where “many have evolved into warehouses for the most disadvantaged segments of the urban population, intensifying racial/ethnic segregation and the social isolation of their residents” [5] Many state the lack of attention paid to this buildings along with the people these buildings attract, that they are resulting in surrounding neighborhoods to also have the same demographic. When looking at the Atlanta crime and public housing the correlation is clear. In Atlanta, “predominantly black neighborhoods in close proximity to public housing exhibit the highest crime rates, but those further removed from public housing sites are no more likely to exhibit high crime rates than predominantly white neighborhoods.” [5] One can assume that this is not unique to just the Atlanta city but also is reproduced in the majority of cities across America.

Chicago Crime: Chicago is one of the most crime ridden cities in America. There are many crimes commit there every day. I personally have many family members that live both in the suburban and urban spaces of Chicago. There are clear areas of the city that one should not go in to alone. Getting lost in downtown in Chicago can be terrifying. This fear arises out of the distrust people feel towards the areas residents. Much of the crime in Chicago is organized crime that steams for gangs. The crimes tend to be violent. Last year as of June 30th, Chicago had already had 1,760 people shot by guns. [6] That is an incredibly high number. That is a problem. Many if not all these shootings were taking place in the most poor areas in Chicago. At this point last year, Trump also decided to send the Feds in as an attempt to prevent further crime. This violence in Chicago is not new, but rather is an epidemic that reoccurs year after year. It is horrible to think that there is an issue that people are turning a blind eye to even though they are aware of the problem. Last year Chicago, which is the third largest city in the country, had more than twice the number of murders as LA or NYC. [7] Although with the intervention of the Feds, the crime still persists. Many of the reasons why there is so much crime in Chicago is because of the racial makeup of certain parts of the city. Those living in the poor area of the city are desperate to live and do whatever they need in order survive.

Cartoon “Fleeing Violence” From the Chicago Tribune
Cartoon from Progress Illinois

Police Brutality in Cities: Police brutality is something not unfamiliar to us. There have many examples in the 21st century that reinforce the idea of unfair policing. Many of the poor policing practices and discrimination that we see today stems from the miss conduct of policing in the 1960s. In the early 1960’s there was the eruption of the Civil Rights Movement. Many blacks fighting for their rights came to clash with the police in certain areas. Police at this time used extreme force as a way to prevent protests from moving forward. This level of force was not necessarily new but now was in the public eye. The idea that police could be brutal to the blacks in this country was instilled in their practice. Out of the violence that was emerging, the US government in 1968 attempted to take action. A commission was created and the ultimate findings were that “the nation is moving toward two societies, one black and one white — separate and unequal” and as the Marshall Project, a non for profit news paper, states these findings still “ring true”. [8] The report found determined that it was not the police’s’ fault rather the fault of the black Americans. This shows the systematic issues that cities face with race and police. The blame is not placed on the government rather the individual. At time when cities were meant to be integrating, there appeared to be more racial segregation than ever. The policing issue of the late 1960’s allowed for mayoral candidates to call for a more integrated police force. [8] This integrated police force in Atlanta at the time is what some site as being the problem in the Atlanta Serial Murders. Over the years and since this report emerged, city police and the unfair violence against minorities has continued to occur. Many state that nothing has changed since the extreme brutality of the policing in the 1960’s. Many lawmakers chose to ignore the racial/class issue and instead attempt to fix the policing. This is the wrong way to go about it because most of the crime issues stems from poverty and inequality on all levels in America. [8]


8 Gender in Cities: The overarching theme of cities is that there is a huge group of people that are being ignored. They are being left out of the story. Although many of those forgotten are because of race, there are also many of the LGBTQ community that are ignored. Their stories not being told and spaces for them to thrive are not being created. A prime example of this is the police raid that occured in NYC at the bar Blue’s in the fall of 1982. [9] Although this event created a huge amount of controversy within the community and on top of that was overly violent, the media paid no attention to this. The raid essentially went ignored. This is an example of the city choosing to ignore those that do not fit its “mold”. The police were discriminating against those different from them. (sound familiar?) This phenomenon is something that blacks have been also facing in cities for years. This is also another example of the housing privatization choice who is ignored. The people in the LGBTQ community were all put in to neighborhoods by themselves. These neighborhoods are still define today. Many policies, whether lawful or not, have created policy violence and exclusion. The gentrification has only proved positive for a certain group and exclusionary to everyone else.

Blues protest 1982

9 The Atlanta Monster: Born and raised in Atlanta, I take tremendous pride in my city but there was also something missing from my knowledge about my beloved home. In 1979-81, 28 young black kids from the downtown area of Atlanta were either missing or murdered. This is an incredibly high number of murders in such a small amount of time. Few people took notice and the murders continued to occur. Finally after people begging for help, the government began to take action. People at the time recall the fear and lack of help they received. It’s hard not to think that had this occured in another part in the city with more affluent white kids that measures would have been taken almost immediately. These kids seemed to be forgotten in a time when they were in desperate need of protection. The podcast “Atlanta Monster” takes an investigative look in to the story of the kids and what transpired in the city at the time. Nearly 40 years later this is still something that goes untalked about in the city. It is almost like they are trying to cover it up, but the reality is this is happening all over the country. Crimes are being committed in cities and because they are not happening to the wealthiest or dominate group they are going ignored. Especially interesting is that at this time Atlanta had their first black mayor. One would have thought that this would have made people pay more attention to the serial killings and yet this is not what happened. This is still present in cities across the country today where people are being ignored because they are not deemed important. [10]

The Atlanta Monster Podcast cover

10 The Future of Cities: The Wired has an article that describes what cities will look like in the future. The only thing missing is that it does not talk about the demographics or the human make up of the cities. The article opens by stating “around the second decade of the 20th century, things changed. Cities started to happen on purpose. Beginning with New York City’s zoning laws in 1916, development began to occur by commission, not omission. Laws and regulations dictated the shape of the envelope.” [11] This current day article talks nothing about the past and the developments of cities rather the improvements cities will make in the future. I included this article because it shows how cities look to move forward but there is no talk about the development of the “problem” areas. How can a city move forward if it continues to ignore the citizens that need help the most. While it is important to celebrate our improvements it is important to recognize the pitfalls and attempt to fix our previous mistakes. [11]



Ferkenhoff, Eric , and Darnell Little. “The Bleeding of Chicago.” CityLab, 27 Feb. 2018,

Gorner, Jeremy. “As feds help Chicago on guns, Trump aide says city’s crime more about ‘morality’.”, 1 July 2017,

Hanhardt, Christina B. “Broken Windows at Blue’s: A Queer History of Gentrification and Policing.”, 14 June 2016,

Larson, Sarah. “”Atlanta Monster”: In Pursuit of Justice and a Hit Podcast.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 12 Feb. 2018,

Library, Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ, et al. “How a Landmark Report on 1960s Race Riots Fell Short on Police Reform.” The Marshall Project, 2 Mar. 2018,

Mcnulty, Thomas L., and Steven R. Holloway. “Race, Crime, and Public Housing in Atlanta: Testing a Conditional Effect Hypothesis.” Social Forces, vol. 79, no. 2, 2000, p. 707., doi:10.2307/2675514.

Melvin, Patricia Mooney. Organic city: urban definition and neighborhood organization 1880-1920. Univ Pr Of Kentucky, 2014,

Nodjimbadem, Katie. “The Racial Segregation of American Cities Was Anything But Accidental.”, Smithsonian Institution, 30 May 2017,

Quillian, Lincoln, and Devah Pager. “Black Neighbors, Higher Crime? The Role of Racial Stereotypes in Evaluations of Neighborhood Crime.” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 107, no. 3, Nov. 2001, pp. 717–767., doi:10.1086/338938.

Rogers, Adam. “8 Cities That Show You What the Future Will Look Like.” Wired, Conde Nast, 1 May 2017,

Rothstein, Richard. “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.” Economic Policy Institute, 2017,

Zernike, Kate. “Violent Crime in Cities Shows Sharp Surge.” The New York Times, 9 Mar. 2007,