"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I’m a 27 year-old Mexican female with a lighter complexion. Though I didn’t think it at the time, I grew up in poverty, but my parents and their parents grew up in far worse conditions. My parents lived among gangs and gang violence. They had to learn to survive in an environment that was unjust towards them, and they spent years scraping their way out.
Today, my dad is a small business owner and my mom received her Master’s degree to become a therapist for the homeless community after rising from homelessness herself.
As a sociology minor in undergrad, I learned that it takes three generations for a family to escape the conditions they were born into. My mom’s mom spent most of her life in poverty, is an immigrant, and today proudly works for Costco. She does not own her home, nor has she received any higher form of education. My dad has owned a home twice – the first time with two of his brothers, and the second with his wife which he lost during the 2008 recession. My mom is currently working on buying her first home. My dad has never received higher education, while my mom accomplished hers later in her life.
I am lucky and I am privileged because of their struggles.
I was born a citizen. My mom was not.
Because I have their support, in many ways that go beyond financial, I have been able to rent my own apartment for the past few years. Whenever I struggle financially, I am able to get their help, whereas my parents spent their lives also supporting their parents.
I received a Master’s degree and have been to two private schools, even though I have a lot of loan debt now. My parent’s emphasis on education my entire life, while they worked hard to support me, laid down the path for me to achieve higher education degrees. My mom’s mom was trying to survive, so she emphasized work to her children and didn’t understand the benefit of education. My dad’s parents were unable to support him financially, so he had to start working at a young age to survive.
Now that my mom has been in a better place financially, she bought and fully paid off a brand new car for me four years ago, so I have reliable transportation. She is working on buying her first house and intends to put it in my name, so I will have always property and stability.
I have never been to jail. Nearly everyone on both sides of my family have been to jail more than once. Both sides of my family grew up in bad neighborhoods. When my parents were able, they made sure I grew up in a good neighborhood.
I went to a good school. Most of my family members did not, and many among my generation didn't either.
I have never been stopped by the cops. I owned a beat-up red 2000 Honda Civic for a while, which was then sold to my mom’s mixed Hispanic boyfriend who’s bald. He was stopped multiple times. Then one of my male friends owned the car for a time. He is not bald, but is also mixed Hispanic and has darker skin than me. He was stopped multiple times.
I have two parents. My mom mostly only had her mom growing up. My dad didn’t really have either of his parents for different reasons.
Despite these privileges, there also ones I don’t have.
Though I have two parents, my parents are separated. During critical years of my preteen to teen years, my mom was homeless, and then we moved around constantly. I did not grow up in a single stable home.
I am one of the first in my family to receive higher education degrees, which means that I lack role models in my family. There is not a path set for me where I can benefit from the successes of others. I’m limited in who I can learn from on how to succeed in life. Only in the past few years have my parents been fulfilling this role.
This also ties into the limited connections and networks I have. The few I have gained have come from school.
I have inherited nothing. My parents were at a greater disadvantage, because not only did they not inherit anything, they had to work to support their parents. Since all of my grandparents are immigrants, they didn’t come here owning land, which means my parents had no land or property to inherit, which means neither do I. My mom is currently working on that.
I don’t see people of my race widely represented in media.
I aspire to be an author, yet only 7% of American authors are a person of color.
I don’t often see people of my race in high positions in America.
I write all this to point out that I am starting at the level playing field three generations after my grandparents came here. All of my cousins benefit from the struggles of our parents and their parents. My parents started behind everyone else, and their parents even further back.
A system in America has disadvantaged my entire family, thus disadvantaging me.
I write this to show my own history in America, which is reflective of a greater American history regarding race.
Here’s a timeline of race and inequality in America:
- 1700 & 1800s: Alien Land Laws only allowed whites to own farmland.
- 1790: Naturalization Act allowed only “free white persons,” which included European settlers, to become naturalized citizens. California law eventually comes to classify Mexicans as White, and thus able to be naturalized.
- 1830: The 1830 Indian Removal Act forcibly relocated American Indians to go west of the Mississippi River in order to make room for white settlers.
- 1848: At the end of the Mexican- American War, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo annexed 55% of Mexico, parts of present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. Any Mexicans choosing to remain in those territories were given citizenship.
- 1854: In the case of People v. Hall, the California Supreme Court chose to deny Chinese, alongside Native and African Americans, the status to testify in courts against whites.
- 1862: The Homestead Act gave away 270 million acres of what had been Indian Territory to overwhelmingly white settlers.
- 1863: Slavery is abolished, yet many freed slaves went back to work for their previous masters because of lack of opportunities available to them.
- 1865: Lincoln signed an initiative for 40 acres of tillable land to be given to freed slaves. After Lincoln’s murder, Andrew Johnson responds to white backlash, and within a year of thousands of freed slaves receiving land, they were evicted. Ex-slave owners were given $300 compensation for their loss of property (their slaves were their property), the compensation that was supposed to go to freed slaves.
- 1870: The Naturalization Act of 1870 allowed naturalization to aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent, but denied naturalization to other non-white groups, particularly Asian.
- 1877: Jim Crow laws were enacted in the South to enforce racial segregation. “Black Codes” were established to fine or arrest Blacks for working in any occupation that wasn’t farming or domestic servitude.
- 1882: The Chinese Exclusion Act, a law set to last ten years, severely limits Chinese immigration to America by excluding specifically Chinese laborers, and prevent any Chinese person from becoming a citizen. It’s a law based on class and race. This is the first time the U.S. restricts immigration.
- 1896: In Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court rules for “separate but equal,” thus further endorsing segregation.
- 1904: The Extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act continues restricting Chinese Immigration, but this time without an end date.
- 1914: First World War begins
- 1917: In an effort to reduce immigration, the Immigration Act of 1917 barred anyone from the Middle East to Southeast Asia from entering the country. European immigration was allowed for those who could pass a literacy test (which took two decades to make), and who were fleeing persecution. Certain classes of immigrants were still allowed entry.
- 1918: First World War Ends
- 1921: Tulsa, a black affluent neighborhood known as “Black Wallstreet,” is looted and burned to the ground by whites.
- 1924: The Immigration Act of 1924 capped quotas of entry based on the nation’s 1890 census. Only those nationalities who were present in 1890 would be allowed entry, which particularly excluded Chinese immigrants, but also affected Eastern and Southern Europeans.
- 1929: The Undesirable Aliens Act of 1929 criminalized crossing the border outside an official port of entry, and was primarily designed to restrict Mexican immigration.
-1930: 9 % percent of Mexican men, 60% of southern and eastern Europeans, 80% of northern and western Europeans had naturalized.
- 1934: Under the New Deal, the Federal Housing Administration allows mortgage credit, which enables many to become homeowners for the first time. Redlining came into effect, which excluded black and integrated communities, who were considered high risk, and thus ineligible for home loans.
“Between 1934 and 1962, the federal government backed $120 billion of home loans. More than 98% went to whites. Of the 350,000 new homes built with federal support in northern California between 1946 and 1960, fewer than 100 went to African Americans.”
The Social Security Act was established and guaranteed millions of workers an income after retirement. However, it specifically excluded agricultural workers and domestic servants, who were predominately African American, Mexican, and Asian.
The 1935 Wagner Act gave protections to workers by creating unions that allowed them to bargain with their employers and gave them certain rights, thus allowing many to move up into the middle class. Agricultural and domestic service jobs were excluded. This act permitted unions to exclude non-whites and deny them access to better paid jobs, union protections, and benefits such as health care, job security, and pensions.
- 1938: The New Deal’s Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) introduced a 40-hour work week, banned child labor, and established a federal minimum wage and overtime requirements. It excluded domestic, agricultural, and service occupations, primarily held by African Americans and other non-whites.
-1939: Second World War Begins
- 1942: The Bracero Agreement, lasting from 1942-1964, recruited men from Mexico to come work on farms and other war industries.
- 1942: President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized Japanese internment camps for Japanese Americans living within 100 miles of the west coast.
- 1943: The Zoot Suits riots take over Los Angeles, and eventually extend to other cities. Zoot suits were associated with Mexicans, and anyone wearing one was brutally attacked by U.S. servicemen and stripped of their clothing. Blacks and Filipinos, even those not wearing zoot suits, were also attacked.
- 1945: Second World War Ends.
Japanese internment camps ends.
- 1952: The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 eliminated racial exclusions to naturalization.
- 1954: Jim Crow laws ended.
- 1964: Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in the areas of employment, education, voting, and public accommodations.
Affirmative Action is initiated to improve opportunities for African American students who had been previously been discriminated against for entry into higher education.
The Hart-Cellar Act for immigration replaces the highly discriminatory “national origins system” to allow each country to receive the same annual cap for immigrants. The new system implemented prioritizes family reunification (75 %), employment (20 %), and refugee status (5 %), which led to unprecedented numbers of non-European immigration. The system favored highly-educated workers who came seeking employment opportunities, but the law excluded “unskilled” workers seeking employment in agriculture, construction, and domestic service. This has fostered a growing population of illegal immigrants who gain employments in those fields, but lack the legal means to immigrate.
- 1968: The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin or sex, thus making redlining illegal.
- 1971: War on drugs begins, which sets tough-on-crime policies. Communities of color are disproportionately targeted.
- 1978: In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that quotas in colleges may not be used to reserve spots for minorities, but race can still be a decision for college acceptance to produce a diverse student body.
- 1986: Immigration Reform and Control Act provides amnesty for 2.7 million long-term residents to receive legal permanent status.
- 1990: Black and Latino mortgage applicants are 60% more likely than whites to be turned down for a loan, even after controlling for employment, financial, and neighborhood factors.
White neighborhoods are the most segregated with 86% of suburban whites living in neighborhoods with a black population of less than 1%.
College enrollment stats by race:
22% of Hispanics
25% of Blacks
37% of whites
Subprime loans for housing, which start cheap but acquire substantial interest, targeted African Americans, who made up 52%, while whites made up 26.1%.
In Adarand Constructors v. Pena, the Supreme Court ruled that federal affirmative action programs were unconstitutional unless they fulfilled a “compelling governmental interest.”
- 2001: New York City adopts “stop and frisk,” which allowed police to stop and search anyone in public.
Affirmative Action did not allow schools to have quotas, so students of certain races were given bonus points to be considered for schools. The Supreme Court says this is no longer allowed.
Data for stop and frisk based on risk began being recorded. 160,851 NYPD stops were recorded:
140,442 were innocent (87 %)
77,704 were Black (54 %)
44,581 were Latinx (31 %)
17,623 were white (12 %)
83,499 were aged 14-24 (55 %)
- 2008: During the 2008 recession and the housing collapse, spurred on by giving out subprime loans that acquired higher interest over time, Blacks lost 53 % of their wealth as opposed to whites who lost 16 %.
- 2011: At the height of stop and frisk, 685,724 NYPD stops were recorded:
605,328 were innocent (88 %)
350,743 were Black (53 %)
223,740 were Latinx (34 %)
61,805 were white (9 %)
341,581 were aged 14-24 (51 %)
- 2014: College enrollment rates for ages 18-24:
35% of Hispanics
33% of Blacks
42% of whites
64% of Asians
Stats by race for those who hold a Bachelor’s degree:
15% of Hispanics
22% of Blacks
41% of whites
63% of Asians
- 2015: The effects of the War on Drugs are still felt strongly.
Blacks are four times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana charges.
Blacks make up nearly 30% of all drug-related arrests, despite accounting for only 12.5% of all substance users.
Blacks are nearly six times more likely to be incarcerated for drug-related offenses than whites, despite equal substance usage rates.
Almost 80% percent of people serving time for a federal drug offense are Black or Latino. In state prisons, people of color make up 60% of those serving time for drug charges.
In the federal system, the average black defendant convicted of a drug offense will serve nearly the same amount of time (58.7 months) as a white defendant would for a violent crime (61.7 months).
- 2016: Median White household wealth ($171,00). Median Black household wealth ($17,600)
- 2017: A study finds that since 1989, when applying for jobs, whites receive on average 36% more callbacks than Blacks, and 24% more callbacks than Latinos. The percentage of callbacks has not changed for Blacks, but it has risen for Latinos.
Though redlining has been banned for 50 years, the effects are still felt today. Nearly two-thirds of neighborhoods deemed “hazardous” in the 1930s are still inhabited by mostly Blacks and Latinos. These neighborhoods have greater economic inequality. In contrast, 91% of neighborhoods that were classified as “best” remain middle to upper class, and 85% of those residents are white.
A study from 2011-2018 found that police commit more traffic stops against Blacks than whites. There was less discrepancy between races at night when the identity of the driver is obscured, giving evidence to the fact that racial bias in traffic stops exists.
Black poverty rate is 20.7 %, versus white poverty rate at 8.1%. Median household income for whites is $70.6K, versus for Blacks it’s $41.7K
Denial rates of homeownership loans by race:
- 2019: A 2019 study looked at the CEOs of Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies and found only 8.7% of the 675 companies in the study had CEOs of color. Of that 8.7%, Middle Easterns and Asians made the majority, then Hispanics, and lastly Blacks.
- 2020: Today,
Unemployment still remains higher for Blacks than whites, with Covid still showing those disparities at 16.8 % for Blacks and 12.4 % for whites.
Only four Fortune 500 companies have Black CEOs.
The 116th Congress, which came into session after the 2018 midterm elections, is the most diverse ever with only 57 Blacks of the current 535 voting members.
Stats of children who earned a college degree whose parents only finished high school:
9.2% American Indian/ Alaska Native
Homeownership by race:
Fatal police shootings of race in proportion to racial population:
30 deaths per million Blacks
22 deaths per million Hispanics
12 deaths per million Whites
4 deaths per million Other
Of the 352 instances where police fatally shot unarmed people:
145 of those people were white
123 were Black
63 were Hispanic
21 were designated "other" or "unknown."
— that's a rate of 10.7 white deaths per 10 million, and 30.1 Black deaths per 10 million.
This is not nearly a comprehensive outline of every racial event, law, or study that has happened in America. It's a broad outline that shows where we've been and how we came to where we are today.
For the best resource on understanding where we are today, I recommend the first link in my sources below.
25 simple charts to show friends and family who aren't convinced racism is still a problem in America
Zoot Suit Riots
Meta-analysis of field experiments shows no change in racial discrimination in hiring over time
Redlining was banned 50 years ago. It’s still hurting minorities today.
5 Facts About Latinos and Education
Fair Housing Act
What Are Civil Rights
Naturalization Act of 1870
Jim Crow Law
RACE - The Power of an Illusion
Police: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Systematic Inequality and Economic Opportunity
Ending the War on Drugs: By the Numbers
Annual Stop-And-Frisk Numbers
How A Theory Of Crime And Policing Was Born, And Went Terribly Wrong
America's Long Overdue Awakening to Systemic Racism
If you don’t believe systemic racism is real, explain these statistics
A large-scale analysis of racial disparities in police stops across the United States
Making a Non-White America: Californians Coloring outside Ethnic Lines, 1925
Beyond “White by Law”: Explaining the Gulf in Citizenship Acquisition between Mexican and European Immigrants, 1930
Tulsa Race Massacre: Was 1921 the first aerial assault on U.S. soil?
Tulsa's 'Black Wall Street' Flourished as a Self-Contained Hub in Early 1900s
Explained: Racial Wealth Gap
How racial bias works - and how to disrupt it
What We Get Wrong About Affirmative Action
Immigration Laws and Enforcements
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo