Inequality and the Black Middle-Class: Racializing Space with Housing and Highways

Authors: Naiima Khahaifa*, University At Buffalo
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Urban Geography
Keywords: African American, Middle-Class, Neighborhood
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon D3, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Critical geography has done much to elucidate the connections between the real estate industry, urban planners, and government institutions that established white hegemony within the city building process. Their concerted efforts engendered an urban development scheme that resulted in the spatial marginalization of African Americans, and concentrations of urban poverty that proliferate today. This analysis generally examines the intersections of race, space, and class to gauge the extent to which systemic racism continues to exacerbate the spatial confinement of ethnic minorities resulting in perpetual patterns of residential segregation and poverty. As Katherine McKittrick has noted, however, much of this work leaves “firmly in place our already existing knowledge system that calcifies the racial codes attached to black and poor and marginalized communities and spaces of absolute otherness” (2011: 954). This paper unpacks the history of federal housing and highway reform in Buffalo to explore how these codes might be disrupted. In particular, I focus on a black “middle-class” neighborhood on the dis-invested East Side of Buffalo, NY vivisected by highways in the late 1950's. Findings are based on a review of relevant literature and historical census data analysis. My paper explores this secondary data to begin to pursue a study of how a “black sense of place” (Ibid.) survived in Hamlin Park, even as Buffalo’s East Side overall faced mass disinvestment and depopulation.

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