Exploring Blackness in the Urban Environment: Housing, Evictions, and Neighborhood Dynamics

Type: Virtual Panel
Theme: Black Geographies Specialty Group Curated Track
Sponsor Groups: Black Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 10
Organizers: Muriel Marseille
Chairs: Muriel Marseille

Call for Submissions

Hello Geographers:

The Black Geographies Specialty Group is looking for panelists to participate in a conversation on Exploring Blackness in the Urban Environment: Housing, Evictions, and Neighborhood Dynamics.

We look forward to hearing from you. Please reach out if you have any questions.


Black Geographies Specialty Group


Race has served as a spatial ordering agent in American urban environments since its founding. The obvious result is, of course, residential segregation. Ta-Nehisi Coates, a notable scholar, in referring to Chicago neighborhoods said, “If you sought to advantage one group of Americans and disadvantage another, you could scarcely choose a more graceful method than housing discrimination. Housing determines access to transportation, green spaces, decent schools, decent food, decent jobs, and decent services. Housing affects your chances of being robbed and shot as well as your chances of being stopped and frisked. And housing discrimination is as quiet as it is deadly. It can be pursued through violence and terrorism, but it doesn’t need it. Housing discrimination is hard to detect, hard to prove, and hard to prosecute. Even today most people believe that Chicago is the work of organic sorting, as opposed to segregationist social engineering (Coates, 2014).”

These points are further developed in Richard Rothstein’s book, “The Color of Law,” where the legal scholar delineates the legal and urban planning policy framework upon which today’s U.S. housing market is based. Rothstein details a system of social engineering perpetrated by entities at all scales of American life. This system was designed to reinforce and maintain a racial and consequently a socioeconomic hierarchy that prioritized quality of living for white Americans and forcibly retarded quality living opportunities for nonwhite citizens. This system was perpetuated at the federal, judicial, state, regional, municipal, and neighborhood level. The top down discrimination at many times came from the sentiments of the president of the United States down to the citizenry. The top down discrimination came from the rulings of the Supreme Court down to the lower courts that legalized discriminatory behavior. The top down discrimination came from federal agencies that oversaw banking, housing, transportation, slum clearance, and suburbanization. The top down discrimination came from business entities that refused nonwhites employment or limited that employment to custodial duties. This system was kept in place at the local level through law enforcement, planning authorities, housing associations, and covenants. This system was kept in place by the entire real estate industry.

This societal framework has repercussions that do not just go away with the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act or even with the recent evolutions in accessibility to affordable housing. The stigma associated with this framework affects profoundly to this day not only black geographies but all of society. It is part of the fabric of this country and is socially constructed, socially produced, reproduced, and reinforced. The legacy of it is intergenerational, as Rothstein points out. It affects all aspects of black life: social, economic, cultural, and political.

The discrimination in the housing markets that was so blatant from Reconstruction until the passage of the Fair Housing Act created negative multiplier effects that are not going to disappear instantaneously. They are complex and as is such have been the focus of problematization for social science scholars. This panel discussion presents an opportunity for scholars to share their research on housing in the city relating to such questions as:

-How do local actors articulate, navigate, and/or disrupt social change within the context of America’s urban housing infrastructure?
-How are negotiations and renegotiations of racial meaning and Blackness embedded in the housing policy framework?
-How are local narratives surrounding neighborhood dynamics created and reproduced?
-How can we contextualize economic processes as they relate to the urban environment and black geographies?
-How might we understand Blackness as it relates to evictions in the context of American urban housing infrastructure?

In this panel session, we are interested in understanding and exploring how the physical infrastructure/spatial determinants of the city environment affect the Black urban experience and Black community dynamics.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Discussant Richard Wright Dartmouth College 15 11:10 AM
Discussant Rachael Baker Urban Praxis Workshop 15 11:25 AM
Discussant Akira Rodriguez PennDesign 15 11:40 AM
Discussant C.N.E. Corbin Portland State Univeristy 15 11:55 AM
Discussant Nemoy Lewis University of Toronto 15 12:10 PM

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