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Persistence of Inequality and Segregation
Segregation persists in the United States despite the historical evidence of the struggle for equality. For instance, the civil rights movement (1954-1968)’s main agenda was to demand the rights for African Americans and other Americans that were segregated in the basis of race. Today, the effect of segregation is evident in neighborhoods, schools, and the justice system (Forret 105). Segregation persists despite the call for equality in the Declaration of Independence, which states, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”. Chang argues that segregation and oppression continue because of “justificatory innocence and willed inaction” (7). In his view, these “allow structures that produce inequality and segregation to persist (7). Chang proves this to be true by examining diversity, tolerance of hate speech, and the effect of gentrification.
Chang states that diversity serves the Whites at the expense of all races. In the essay, “Is diversity for white people? On fearmongering, picture taking, and avoidance”, Chang questions the purpose of diversity. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines diversity as range of many people or things that are very different from each other. The definition of diversity is consistent with the presence of many races in the U.S. According to Chang, diversity helps the white people than any other race. He writes, “Diversity allows whites to remove themselves while requiring the Other to continue performing for them.” (8). In this statement, Chang means that diversity has led to a system where the whites use other races at places of work. Chang’s view is consistent with the effects of capitalism, where the owners of the means of production exploit the working class (Feldner 11). Diversity has helped in perpetuating the exploitation of other races by the whites. For instance, most of the Multinational Corporations based in the U.S were started by the Whites, for example, Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg, Apple by Steve Jobs and Microsoft by Bill Gates. These technological giants outsource a significant number of services from other countries such as India and China, thus utilizing racial diversity. Consequently, outsourcing cheap labor outside the U.S produces inequality and segregation. One might argue that other races also compete favorably, and diversity serves them well. This is true to some races such as the Asians, but majority of African Americans are left to serve as workers with the exemption of a few such as Oprah Winfrey of the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Chang shows that tolerance of hate speech is the effect of justificatory innocence and willed inaction. In the essay, “What a time to be alive: on student protest”, Chang explains the effect of tolerance of hate speech to the persistence of inequality and segregation. Chang quotes Mari Matsuda, a law professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law, at the University of Hawaii, who said, “Tolerance of hate speech is not tolerance borne by the community at large. Rather it is a psychic tax imposed on those least able to pay.” (11). The statement means that hate speech targets the weak in the society, that is, those who do not have the ability to stop or respond to derogatory statements. The targets are those from low socioeconomic status who lack the financial ability to file cases. After quoting Mari Matsuda, Chang digs into the ideas of resegregation. He writes, “Resegregation happens through design and through apathy. It also grows through our blindness — whether willed, imperceivable, or ﬁxed through the best of our intentions — to the deep connections between us all. Silence over resegregation has led us to this historical moment.” (11). In this statement, Chang uses the word, “apathy”, which refers to the feeling of not being interested in something, to explain how tolerance of hate speech allows inequality and segregation to persist. Those who remain silent over resegregation contribute to the persistence of inequality. Chang implies that people those who are resegregated should protest far and wide. Those who choose to remain silent should note that social problems are addressed through speech. Chang gives the evidence of student protests against hate speech. Therefore, Chang uses the evidence of tolerance of hate speech as a cause of inequality and resegregation.
Chang states that Hollywood has contributed to cultural inequality, which causes the persistence of inequality and racial resegregation. In the essay, “The odds: on cultural equity”, Chang gives the evidence of entertainment industry perpetuating inequality and resegregation. He writes, “Hollywood may indeed be run by the most liberal whites in the country — some of them have written and acted and produced with the deepest of empathy. But they can never be a substitute for people who can tell their own stories best.” (17). Here, Chang argues that the people who can tell their own stories are better than the liberal Whites at Hollywood. Hollywood is famous for producing educative and informative entertainment movies, but this cannot end inequality and resegregation. The people who experience inequality and resegregation know the problem better than the liberal Whites. Even though Hollywood depicts the presence of resegregation in some of the movies, they do not have as much effect as the people who can tell their own stories. Chang implies that the industry is not effective in addressing the issue of inequality and resegregation in the society. Instead, the entertainment industry allows the persistence of inequality. In fact, the existence of inequality and resegregation is profitable to entertainment companies, because they will always have a story to tell, not to help in ending the problem, but to entertain the viewers. Furthermore, Chang uses pathos, which is the appeal to the reader’s emotions about the effect of Hollywood in perpetuating inequality and resegregation. The reader feels sympathetic towards the segregated groups, thus preparing the ground for change.
Chang states that gentrification leads to the perpetuation of segregation. Gentrification refers to changing an area to meet middle class standards. Chang argues that gentrification contributes to inequality and segregation. Even though gentrification leads to economic and cultural diversity, Chang questions the issue of compatibility between upgrading an area and diversity. He writes, “They also force us to look beyond the boundaries of the city, into how entire regions are being reshaped into new geographies of inequality…. Gentriﬁcation is key to understanding what happened to our cities at the turn of the millennium. But it is only half the story. It is only the visible side of the larger problem: resegregation.” (39). The statement means that gentrification creates new regions of inequality. One might argue that gentrification brings about economic growth and development, thus improving the living standards of people. While this is true, the critics should note that gentrification benefits a few investors who come to the city for self-interest. The few individuals proper economically, while the majority, who are the working class, remain poor. Furthermore, gentrification brings the owners of the means of production closer to the laborers. In the lure of improved housing, the working class spend the rest of the life working for the owners of the means of production, thus contributing to the persistence of inequality and segregation.
Chang examines diversity, tolerance of hate speech and gentrification to prove that segregation and oppression continue because of justificatory innocence and willed inaction, thus allowing the structures that produce inequality and segregation to persist. On diversity, Chang gives the evidence of Whites using other races to fulfil their (Whites’) self-interest. This is in line with the effect of capitalism, whereby the working class have only their labor to sell. On tolerance of hate speech, Chang proves that silence on social injustice perpetuates inequality and resegregation. Chang’s point is consistent with Martin Luther King Jr’s believe that the oppressed should stand up for their freedom, because freedom is not given voluntarily by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed. Chang uses student protests to prove that speaking up helps in reducing inequality and resegregation. However, silence perpetuates social problems because everyone seems satisfied with the status quo. Furthermore, Chang proves that cultural inequality depicted in Hollywood movies contributes to inequality and resegregation. Lastly, Chang emphasizes the effect of gentrification on resegregation. He proves that the cities bring about new geographies of inequality in the name of constructing the middle class. Therefore, Chang effectively proves that inequality and resegration persists because of justificatory innocence and willed inaction.
Chang, Jeff. We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation. , 2016. Print.
Feldner, Heiko, and Fabio Vighi. Critical Theory and the Crisis of Contemporary Capitalism. Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.
Forret, Angela. “We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation.” Library Journal, vol. 141, no. 15, Sept. 2016, p. 105.