The making of the American Ghetto

  This week let’s use the crowdsource to the making of the American Ghetto.

There are many things to speak to this week, but something important to consider is: What does the word ‘ghetto’ actually mean – in contrast to the colloquial way we use it in the US – and how does this map onto how the readings speak about urban housing policies, population flows, residential segregation, (dis)advantages faced by certain communities, and urban development  more generally in the early and middle of the 20th C.

Though you may use either reading, I think you will find the Ross and Byrone piece more helpful here.

REMINDER: You are not posting to the blog for this assignment.  You will include your thoughts and responses in the comments section of this post.

Comments due by 12noon, Monday 2/13/17.

For more general information on the weekly crowdsource, click here.

Crowdsource, Topical


  1. The word Ghetto can have different meanings to different people, its actual meaning is a section of a city, especially a thickly populated slum area, inhabited predominantly by members of an ethnic or other minority group, often as a result of social or economic restrictions, pressures, or hardships. Whereas in today’s world when using the word ghetto, it is usually in the pretense of stereotyping a person by their race as well as the way they look, talk, and act. When talking about making America ghetto it quite clear it was an inside job, the government implemented extreme measures on society especially regarding housing as stated in the article under the “The FHA and VA: Homeownership Programs Shape Urban Growth” they made it mandatory for neighborhoods to stay the race living in that area as it states “the federal government — explicitly endorsed a policy of racial segregation as a means of protecting the value of government insured homes” (pg32). What the government did was contract people when purchasing their homes forbidding them to sell their property to any one of a different social or racial class. This idea or racial segregation and separation was so strong that that in1941 a half mile concrete wall was built in Detroit to keep African Americans living in the city from entering the suburbs. Then there was the “Negro Removal” which forced “African Americans out of areas that were located too close to a city’s central business district or privileged white neighborhoods. Hispanics, too, were sometimes the victims of urban renewal.” (pg38). What this did was force minorities into these cities, into these overcrowded areas creating these slums with no government assistance pushing them into a corner and not offering help allowing them to live in such horrible conditions thus creating the ghetto.

  2. The word ‘ghetto’, as defined by Merriam Webster, is “a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure”. The colloquial use of the word ‘ghetto’ represents a negative connotation towards minorities and stereotypical behaviors of those living in run down parts of town. Both meanings of the word influenced the dispersion of people and the development of urban areas. In the early 20th century, the urbanization of increased the population as people flooded in for economic and social gains. Soon after industrialization occurred and more people moved to the city in order to find work. With the increase of people, there was less space for everyone and the boundaries of the city expanded into neighboring areas to the city. Residential segregation and stigma occurred, specifically in Brookline, Massachusetts as the suburban community opposed the expansion of cities into their territory. This created a divide between the city and suburban communities as poor immigrants living in cities were seen as intrusive and hindering the freedoms and independence of Brookline residents. The Boston residents used their negative perceptions of the city and its inhabitants in their argument against the possible destruction of the “native American life” maintained by the suburbs. Segregation was also seen when various companies and factories moved their locations from the city to the suburbs. This separated the city from the suburbs and lessened the value of the city as jobs were moved away from them. People who were financially capable then moved to the suburbs and left the poor immigrants in the devalued and overcrowded city. The city was also seen as undesirable when it came to housing polices such as the Federal Housing Administration whose agency manual discouraged helping people in cities become homeowners as they feared they would not have the economic stability to prevent the agency from running into trouble with “credit risks and homeowner defaults”. This shows the bias that exists when it comes to cities which prevented them from being homeowners and having the same opportunities as people in suburban neighborhoods. Cities were at a disadvantage by constantly being segregated from the opportunities only given to those in the suburbs. They were also segregated racially as minorities were left excluded in cities while whites fled the city and had the opportunity to live in the suburbs away from the rundown city. Government programs also encouraged this divide through the construction of highways to separate the suburbs from the city and creating zones and the urban renewal program. The urban renewal program brought the most damage to urban communities as the program promised to make conditions better and provide housing but actually destroyed businesses and homes while forcing people out of the city and into suburban neighborhoods. It seems like these policies look to make urban communities look bad so they can push more people into the ideal suburbs. Overall, urban communities and minorities were stereotyped and thought of only as second class citizens who could not join the suburbs which were filled with prosperity, nonviolence, cleanliness, and representative of America, everything which the minorities of the city did not embody. The events of the 20th century were what developed ghettos and their negative perceptions that continue to divide cities from the suburbs.

  3. The first meaning of the word ghetto was used to describe a poor or slum area of a city. Now the meaning has evolved into also describing someone’s personality or an action. Ghetto areas of a city refer to low income, poor parts with high level of crime, more likely to house minorities and/or immigrants. I agree with Daniel that the makings of Americans ghetto was an inside job by the government to keep patterns of residential and racial segregation high, and to keep minorities out of big cities. The government’s goal was always to keep the top at the top and the bottom at the bottom. This is proven throughout Ross and Byron’s article while talking about things like tax favors and subsidies. They mention mansion subsidies “that offers welfare for the rich…two-thirds f the programs subsidies go to people who make more than $200,000 a year” (Ross & Byrone, 36). Their reasoning behind this is that wealthier pay higher mortgages so they need more government help, which in my opinion is ridiculous. If they could not afford the ‘mansion’ they want they shouldn’t be living there. This disadvantages the middle class and renters largely because there’s less money for them $1,150 for the middle class and nothing for rent payers. Money here is clearly not distributed well. Daniel mentioned the “negro removal” which relates largely to the gentrification in Brooklyn today. Although its not cut and clear parts of Brooklyn that are closer to Manhattan or big businesses like the Barclay’s center. In relation, they tore down public housing to build the Barclay’s center and I believe those people are still fighting to be placed somewhere else. I don’t want to repeat hat Daniel said because I feel like he descried the making of America’s ghetto perfectly. A combination of government policies, institutions and businesses has successfully pushed minorities into outskirts of cities and to this day has left ghettos alive to this day.

  4. Like Daniel said in his comment, the word Ghetto has drastically different meanings, depending on the person who is using the word. Today, society often describes ghetto as being poor, or dirty. Maybe even if you have to work a low class, minimum wage job. Many people underestimate that these so called ghetto people are enduring serious hardships. The term ghetto actually means a group of people, typically a minority community, who live in a specific neighborhood due to social, legal or economic pressure. One of my favorite photographers Bruce Davidson was photographing a women back in the 70s. The girl lived around 101 st in upper Manhattan. Someone refereed to her neighborhood as a ghetto, and she responded, “What you call a ghetto, I call a home. ” This quote is a prime example of how people often develop negative connotations based solely off of looks. As the old saying goes, font judge a book by its cover. There were alot of important figures who came out of these so called “ghettos.” A major reason why a majority of the people living in these communities are poor and fall below the poverty line is due to the fact that they are not given equal opportunities. These people are often looked past and they struggle to get by. On top of the minimal opportunities, the population is ever growing, making it even harder to make a living in that particular are. I believe that the government, as well as our selves is to blame for the establishment of the American Ghettos.

  5. Ghetto as a noun means: part of a city, especially a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups. As a verb it means: put in or restrict to an isolated or segregated area or group. The way my peers use the term is to describe something as “hood”. When you say, “That shit is ghetto!” it means it’s of low value or poor.

    Based on chapter 2 of the Ross and Byrone’s “Evolution of Cities and Suburbs”, some cities did not have transportation, they were considered to be “Walking Cities”. Everyone that worked in the city lived in the city due to the lack of transport. Urbanization caused migrants to leave the poverty and unexpected economic changes of life in the countryside for the promise of jobs and educational opportunities found in the city. The sudden influx of new residence affected the cities. Overcrowded housing and undeveloped sanitation system caused major public health epidemics. After the 1800’s transport innovations such as street cars, trolleys electric commuter trains allowed residents to move to the out areas of the city away from the city center. Thanks to the invention of the elevator in the 1880’s American cities grew upwards rather than outwards.

    Population flows were affected by the Great Migration (1910-1940’s) where millions of poor african american people and white people from the rural south made their way to Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and other big cities in the north. Due to automobiles people could live even further from the city. Under developed suburban land was attractive to manufacturers looking for space for assembly line factories.Trucking industries led to warehousing and distribution outside the city. Since the middle class moved to the suburbs many open air plaza type shopping centers were built and affected inner city stores. 1950’s and 60’s had a large decrease in retail sales for inner cities. Detroit was first to lose department stores in the city followed by Baltimore, Toledo and Fort Worth. The 1934 Housing Act established the FHA aka Federal House Administration to help middle and working class families buy homes. This act forced banks and mortgage lending institutions to give loans to people who were not eligible. FHA protected 80% of the value of approve properties. If the homeowner could make payment the FHA insured the lenders 80% reducing the financial risk greatly. This helped urban development, because the FHA was redlining, which meant that they refused to insure loans in the inner city even for qualified buyers.

    It was risky business and the government funds did not last for long. The FHA specifically endorsed racial segregation in order to protect the value of government insured homes. The FHA’s Underwriting Manual states, “If a neighborhood is to retain stability, it is necessary that properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes.” (Page 33) FHA’s racial steering sent black and white home buyers to different neighborhoods. (Pg. 33)
    They were afraid that racial integration would lower local property values. Civil Rights Communities against the FHA led to a change in their discriminatory practices. FHA reversed to approve home loans in the inner city which failed due to loans given to unqualified buyers and immoral lenders who cheated buyers into taking loans they couldn’t repay. The collapse of the mortgage market in the early 2000’s was more so the fault of private lenders. Low density zoning is the cause of racial imbalance; for example NYC violated the federal Fair Housing Act by setting racial quotas on public housing projects to force blacks and hispanics away from predominantly white housing projects. The housing markets limited minorities from parts of a city with the practice of racial steering and caused the growth of racial ghettos and chinatowns. Hence why most major cities still have these ghettos. These ridiculous housing policies were the cause of residential segregation it’s what keeps racism and poverty alive, even in cities like NY.

  6. As mentioned previously, the term “ghetto” has various different meanings epending on who you ask. I believe the general meaning most people have of a ghetto is a “poor, displaced, and uncultured population.” I believe that the meaning of this word has not changed all that much. When immigrants first began moving into the states, big cities became increasingly overcrowded and locals became significantly more agitated that their neighborhoods were being taken over by these poor, dirty, uncultured people. This drove them out of the cities into the suburbs, which on one hand helped immigrants expand & gave them more area to move, but also allowed for even more overcrowding because people got too excited over new places they could stay at. On top of that, as Ashley had mentioned in her comment, the factories moved away from the immI grants who were trying to work there in the first place! So, not only were these people living in terrible conditions, but the oNE opportunity they had for work was taken from them. On top if this, the government did a poor job in helping these people. They claimed to have done a lot but, just as they say today, nothing really HAD been done. All they did really was separate these people from the suburbs with highways, making it even MORE impossible for these immigrants to get jobs. I feel the meaning has not changed because people still think of ghetto as a way to describe poor, dirty, and uncultured group of people and not much as been done to stop this from happening. The government destroys public housing to build stadiums and malls, leaving those residents on their own in search for a new home. And with gentrification on the rise, there are even more situations like these occurring in cities more and more, making it nearly impossible for people to catch up.

  7. A ghetto as previously stated is a section of a city, especially a thickly populated slum area, inhabited predominantly by members of an ethnic or other minority group, often as a result of social or economic restrictions, pressures, or hardships. Urban policies have long been a deterrent to low income parts of the population. Gentrification is a way the government helps keep the ghetto’s intact. The urban renewal displaced many minority residents to newly built high rise ghetto’s which in fact separated them from the white community. Also dual migration and other government policies helped get the middle/upper class into the suburbs and the lower class into the cities which is another way of gentrification. Government policies and the tax code helped this process unfold. (48/49) Racial steering is another gross way the government used to put certain groups of people where they want them. Racial steering is the easiest way to separate different communities and start the building of a ghetto. Also as Ashley stated, segregation began with company towns which are another deceptive technique corporations used to keep their workers in check, and out of unions. Federal highway programs led to massive problems that the government knowingly overlooked. Federal highway programs especially in places like Miami where the I-95 “ripped through the center of Overtown”(36) This displaced 40,000 majority black residents. The building of these highways destroyed many communities and effected so many lives. The making of the American Ghetto is all planned. It really seems as if the government for some odd reason seems to like minorities separated from whites.

  8. “Ghetto,” a term I had to Google around 3 years ago, means “a part of a city, especially a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups.” However, it wasn’t commonly used in a way that it’s supposed to be. When people say the word “ghetto” nowadays, just like Nicole said, is referred to an action, behavior, or way of thought of the people who live in the ghetto. I guess it could be equated in a way that confident and opinionated people would sometimes be referred to as “New Yorkers” and the stereotyped “Canadians” who say sorry even though they were the ones wronged. “Ghetto” when used though comes with a bad connotation like crime, bad language, poverty, undisciplined actions, etc. that are often associated with the people who are from the ghetto. In short, the city.

    The cities and the inner cities – with its overpopulation, poverty, unsanitary methods because of the inefficient plumbing system, scarcity of resources because of the high demands, etc. – are more often associated with high levels of crime. To make the “better men” flee away from the troubles of the city, government policies were made. There’s the 1934 FHA that was clearly catering only the favored race by prohibiting the buyers to sell their properties to a different race. Throughout, only 2% of the homes built by FHA were sold to the minorities. (p33) Racial steering and redlining were also government policies that ensure the favored race that they won’t be mixed with other races because infiltration of others in white neighborhoods cause the value of the properties to go down. Minorities purposely did not receive help from the government to enhance their lives because of discrimination. (p34-5)

    I was driving by Garden City on the way to my favorite buffet in Long Island. I had to take the local streets because the highways were busier than usual. It was Valentines weekend. I was turning my head as I drove because I was literally driving by MANSIONS and at some point I wanted to stop and step outside the car to take photos of the beautiful homes when I realized that it might look weird… because I’m not white and it was obvious (because of the class discussion) that the neighborhood I was in is at least 90% white families. It was amazing how I got to witness what we were talking about in class but also disgusted knowing how it came to be. Maybe it’s different now, at least no more racial segregation and racial steering, and companies promote equal opportunity hiring or financing, etc. It might take long before I won’t feel weird to step in that Garden City neighborhood that I can only view from afar but at least the Americans are making an effort to make the gap between the Garden City people and the ghettos closer, if not to erase it altogether.

  9. We begin this chapter with the knowledge of “hidden governmental policies,” which gives us an insight to certain policies that have created dispersion and segregation between different racial communities, and have led to inequality and distance between racial groups over the years. This has forced some communities to grow and others to diminish. According to Edward C. Banfield, there are three natural forces that determine urban growth or decline. Demographic (population growth forces city to expand outwards; Technological (transportation determines how far business and residents can expand) and economic (those who are “well-off” have the necessary means to live under good standards away from congestion and crime). As technological advances have succeeded, the city began to take different forms and began to ran under different means, therefore growing into urbanization. With the industrial age we see the expansion of factories, consequently new job opportunities, in which people begin to migrate and overcrowding begins, this is during the late 1700s and early 1800s. We start to realize that every event is a domino effect, soon those more privileged who can afford certain transportation begin to migrate outwards to the suburbs, “this known as the “Great Migration,” from 1910 to the 1940s. Every event that follows each other helps us understand the reason why the city works the way it does today and why it has taken such shape. Also we can see how certain neighborhoods begin to form and because of these policies, that promote segregation of minorities and racial groups, that there is a formation of the stereotyped form of city which is the “ghetto,” in which today has a specific meaning and negative association because of the history behind the formation of this word.

    The three natural forces are not the only ones that dictated how cities grow or develop but also the “hidden policies,” some positive polices were the Housing Act of 1934 which expanded ownership to middle and working class, or FHA Loan insurance which covered 80% protection for a home, this way there was less risk of loss and also lower down payments. Although most of these programs aided those who lived in the suburbs. FHA decided it would be better not to have “credit risks” in areas that seemed to be undesirable, like Daniel Matos mentioned, it also it promoted segregation by stating that “properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes” (p.32). Seeing these hidden policies unfair, public outrage and despair spoke and these policies changed in 1949, although critics state the FHA was not at fault but the fraud credit system was, that soon lead to foreclosure of many homes and also to tons of families in the streets.

    As we see so many attempts to separate racial groups, be see the arising of not just city life but a specific form of it, which is the “ghetto.” The lack of space and movement, and the polices that force specific groups to live with one another, the despair of inequality and segregation all lead to conflicts which seem to be specifically highlighted and seem to be the only ones that categorize the ghetto. These natural forces created a positive growth in suburban life but an urban life full of disparity and imbalance.

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