Racialized Categorical Inequality: Elaborating Educational Theory to Explain African American Disparities in Public Schools
Geoffrey L. Wood
The causes and effects of African American disparities in public education are often misunderstood and misinformed. Current educational theory focuses on individual achievement by students in a vacuum, rather than exploring the ways in which racialized categorical inequality has affected generations of African Americans across a variety of settings and institutions. Instead of elaborating on the myth of a color-blind or race-blind society, I will examine historical dimensions of race, racism, and racial inequality by exploring systemic, institutional mechanisms of inequality, which will provide a more accurate, evidence-based narrative. Synthesizing key theories of critical demography, historical categorical inequality, systemic racism, and other related themes, this essay develops a theory of racialized categorical inequality. This new paradigm incorporates key tenets of earlier work, while examining historical evidence and current events to discover how well the new paradigm could assist in the development of a research agenda that could improve understanding of African American disparities. Following this discussion, I make three recommendations for future research. First, use the racialized categorical inequality paradigm as a starting point for research questions, methodological considerations, and the interpretation of findings. Second, pay closer attention to race, racism, and racial inequality when examining African American experiences in public education. Third, researchers and research agendas should not make the erroneous ideological assumption that we have become or are moving toward becoming a race-blind or color-blind nation, as historical evidence builds a convincing case against this.
Keywords: racial inequality, African Americans, educational disparities
The disparities of African American students versus students of other racial or ethnic backgrounds in public education is a topic which is underspecified and understudied. Despite the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling outlawing separate but equal schools more than a half century ago, public schools in America are still far from equal. Although there is much contemporary rhetoric calling for race-blind or color-blind policies moving forward, the history of African Americans is filled with overwhelming examples of racism, prejudice, discrimination, and segregation. In many American cities, schools are deeply segregated by race, neighborhood, income, and wealth. In fact, public school students largely receive educations of different quality depending on local school district funding, location, and resources. While social class and its influence on neighborhoods remains an important area of study when exploring reasons for distinctions in public schools, race and racism sit at the core of American institutions and are the primary driving factors in the lives of generations of African Americans. The purpose of this work is to examine racialized categorical inequality and how this has impacted African Americans in public schools by reviewing existing work in this area, and then offering a more nuanced approach.
Previous work looking at disparities of African Americans in public education has concentrated on both individual and institutional approaches to the issue. Several of these approaches will be explored and discussed to discover how they may better inform current African American experiences in public schools. Earlier scholarship on critical demography argued for the importance of including racism when examining the concept of race. Hayward Derrick Horton (1999) contended we cannot look at race and its resulting impacts without exploring how racism has contributed to the social construction of race. Although socially constructed, race and racism have a powerful reality in African American educational outcomes. Geoffrey L. Wood (2017) extended this discussion by arguing for the importance of critical demography as a mechanism for detailing public education disparities. Rather than concentrating on individual student achievement outcomes, critical demography offered the ability to look at power and social structure differentiation, which have historically impacted African Americans in public schools.
Charles Tilly (1998) provided another promising approach on historical categorical inequality, and this could be applied more usefully to the African American experience in public schools. In a theory incorporating multiple levels of analyses, Tilly argued that once dichotomous and separate categories are set historically, these categories were then reified through individual and institutional interactions to create durable inequality. Other scholars contended that these patterns of inequality in income and wealth were both pervasive and historical. Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro (1997) examined differences in White and Black wealth over twenty years ago, while Shapiro (2017) has argued recently that disparities in wealth between Whites and nonwhites continues to grow at an unprecedented pace. Early scholarship by Derrick Bell (1992) and continued by David Gillborn (2015) have noted the continued importance of race and racism in public school disparities for African Americans. Further work by Cedric Herring (2004) examined the relevance of skin color in how racial categories are defined, and then how these categories are used to label individuals in the supposedly color-blind era. In addition to recent scholarship on race and racism and its direct impact on educational disparities, Robert B. Reich (2015) and Thomas Shapiro (2017) have continued the discussion of social inequality more generally and the ways in which race and racism have remained defining, often utilized characteristics for African Americans.
The evidence and scholarship on the topic of racial disparities in public education is not new, but remains unfocused. Work continues to advance in this area in siloed disciplines, which have failed to connect the pieces of the story. This article will explore these educational disparities more thoroughly by examining details within the relevant literature on the topic, to discover how these can be linked to form a more comprehensive theory. Following a review of the literature, I discuss pertinent connections to current events impacting African Americans in public schools will be discussed with the goal of connecting theoretical underpinnings with empirical evidence. After exploring evidence, I discuss how we interpret our findings as well as exploring directions for future research in this area.
In earlier work, Horton (1999) outlined the distinctions between conventional and critical demography, and then argued that critical demography was more important in discovering nuanced historical processes affecting African Americans. While conventional demography has relied on static variables, trends, and estimates of changes in population parameters, critical demography is explanatory, predictive, and explores dimensions of power and social structure. Although events are not packaged for quantitative analyses as conventional demographers would prefer, contextual and relational nuances remain important for structural explanations of how and why. Also, conventional demography relies on assumption on the ways in which society should work, but critical demography examines issues of social structure differentiation and power (Wood 2017).
Critical demography can further be extended as an explanatory paradigm when examining historical dynamics of race and racism. It is impossible and careless to evaluate our public schools through a lens where power is excluded as a factor. Social differentiation and power have set the stage in our public schools since the founding of this country, and these pieces are critical for both diagnosing and solving problems in American public schools (Wood 2017).
Public schools prescribe standardized tests to determine how well individual students are learning. Similar to conventional demography, with respect to analysis of the data, these tests attempt to show which schools are performing well, and which ones are doing poorly. However, this level of analysis is at the individual level, while institutional factors are ignored. Rather than comparing individual students on test results, it is imperative to look at levels of variation in income and wealth of neighborhoods, and how this might impact school outcomes. It is not a question of individual achievement, but of differences in social structure and power among the schools in question.
America has a well-known history of residential segregation by race. A critical demography lens allows exploration of these high levels of racial residential segregation and its impact on public education. Although school resources come from a variety of governmental sources, most school funding comes from property taxes, based on local real estate property values. Property values vary a great deal by neighborhood in that homes located in the suburbs, typically occupied by whiter, wealthier families, tend to have higher property values than those located in inner-city neighborhoods, occupied by poorer, minority families (Wood 2018). Income and wealth differences in richer suburbs versus poorer urban neighborhoods have an amazing effect on the funding local schools receive. Students in urban schools do poorly on standardized tests when compared with their richer suburban counterparts, not because the individual students are inferior, but because the gap in resource allocation between urban and suburban schools is so large. Data is collected at the state and federal level with respect to educational outcomes, however this data is collected with little regard to the role of racism, gender bias, historical experiences on parents’ education and occupation, disparities in household income due to unequal treatment in the labor market or values of homes based on residential segregation by race (Wood 2017).
Horton (1999) has argued convincingly that we cannot understand the concept of race without understanding the role of racism, and this is as true for residential segregation by race as it is for public school segregation by neighborhood. These pairings are remarkably similar in both power and structure. As race cannot be properly understood without examining the power of racism in historical socioeconomic perspective, race in public schools cannot be addressed without first uncovering the history of racism, its impact on the social structure, and the resulting different levels of power that social structure differentiation produces in American society (Wood 2017; Wood 2018).
Historical Categorical Inequality
When considering the historical development of race and racism in public schools, Tilly (1998) explored the ways in which individual patterns were set, and then incorporated into institutional processes. He argued paired unequal categories set inequality in place and this inequality allowed organizations and institutions to use these patterned sets for decision making. Much like conventional demography discussed earlier, status attainment research focused on individuals, and tended to ignore contextual, social structure, and power relations (Tilly 1998). Tilly argued against status attainment models, as Horton (1999) argued against conventional demography for, similar reasons. The role of paired unequal categories to set categorical inequality is congruent with examining the ways in which power and social structure shape outcomes in critical demography.
In the case of segregated neighborhoods and public schools, these categories of inequality formed over time and were then used to determine how resources would be allocated. Tilly stressed such categories resulted in an unequal distribution of rewards and privileges from the moment the categories were conceived. Once these categories were set, Tilly further argued four mechanisms allowed categorical inequality to develop: exploitation by elites, opportunity hoarding by non-elites, emulation, and adaptation. Over time, organizational processes and societal decisions on access to resources would be assigned based on these positions. In fact, Tilly argued durable inequality depends largely on the institutionalization of categorical pairs, rather than on individual racism (Tilly 1998; Wood 2017).
Tilly contended the institutionalization of categorical pairs set the stage for durable inequality in the following ways. Paired and unequal categories were developed, which consisted of asymmetrical relations across a socially defined line, with the usual impact of unequal exclusion of each network controlled by the other. In the US experience, the most salient historical asymmetrical relation for African Americans has been and continues to be the color line. Once formed, these categories take on a life of their own: they can be replicated and used across a number of venues with little cost to institutions or society in implementing them. Exploitation by elites occurred when powerful, connected people command resources to increase their own return, while limiting outsiders through exclusion processes. Much of the history of African Americans has been one of racism, discrimination, segregation, and systematic exclusion. Opportunity hoarding by non-elites occurs when members of a categorically bounded
network, that is, White middle-class and working-class people, acquired access to a resource that was valuable, renewable, or subject to monopolistic control, preventing others from accessing the resources. People in wealthy and powerful positions tended to use the first of these, while people in middle-class and less powerful roles opted for the second. In Tilly’s work, his focus was on social class cleavages with respect to exploitation and opportunity hoarding. However, these can easily be adopted to historical differences of race as the mechanisms are similar.
At an institutional level, emulation and adaptation led to further reified categories of inequality. Emulation occurred when these models were copied from one setting to another or across existing social relations. Adaptation happened as daily routines and structures were modified over time so categorical inequalities became embedded in more organizational and societal structures. Historical experiences in these categories gave participants different and unequal preparation for performance in an organization. Much of what observers interpreted as individual differences that create inequality were actually the consequences of categorical organization. For these reasons, inequalities by age, citizenship, class, educational level, ethnicity, gender, race, and other apparent contradictory principles of differentiation form through similar social processes and were to an important degree organizationally interchangeable (Wood 2007). Further, the basic mechanisms, which generated categorical inequality, operated over multiple unequal outcomes such as income, wealth, power, prestige, and race. The intersections of these mechanisms created much of the distinctions we see between unequal categorical groups. Tilly concluded durable categorical inequalities were not formed by individual decisions like racism, prejudice, or discrimination, but instead were formed by the interrelationships of social ties, networks, organizations, and finally societies, which base decisions on differential access to resources on categories (Tilly 1998). So, in the case of segregated neighborhoods leading to the differential outcomes in public schools, Tilly’s work offers a convincing narrative on how early decisions became embedded into institutional mechanisms.
Other Pertinent Theories
Building on earlier critical race theory by Bell (1992), Gillborn (2015) examined the importance of intersectionality as a component in studying how race and racism work in tandem in the area
of education. Although the focus of his research was the intersections of race, gender, and disability and its resulting impact on education, Gillborn argued that racism remains of primary
importance for critical race theory scholars in three interrelated ways. First, he contended empirical primacy, as a central axis of oppression in the everyday reality of schools, was crucial. Gillborn contended that while other factors matter, racism and racialized dialogues continued to take center stage when exploring historical trajectories of African Americans in education. Second, Gillborn argued for the relevance of personal/autobiographical primacy, and stated how critical race scholars viewed themselves and their experience of the world, matters for critical race theory scholarship. Finally, Gillborn stated the need for political primacy, as a point of group coherence and activism, in its ability to mobilize. He concluded that to continue the conversation on the importance of race and racism in education, we must discontinue to support the mainstream assertion that racism is irrelevant (Gillborn 2015).
In related work, additional literature discussed schools as sorting machines, through the lens of categorical inequality (Domina, Penner, and Penner 2017). Thurston Domina, Andrew Penner, and Emily Penner contended that despite their perceived equalizing nature, schools are social sorting machines, creating categories that serve as the foundation of later life inequalities. This work builds on earlier work of Tilly and others and extends the theory of categorical inequality to education, focusing particularly on contemporary American schools. They discussed how schools create a range of categories or tracks, and then use these categories to create barriers. Once barriers are created, schools adopt and reinforce these categories through the use of existing mechanisms, which then serves in building categorical inequality both at schools and beyond. Edward Bonilla-Silva (2017:8) continued this line of reasoning by arguing often SAT scores and academic achievements were discussed in racial terms, when in fact these were socially constructed on how race was defined and reified to reinforce racial order.
In his examination of the impact of race on racism, Joe R. Feagin (2001) argued for six tenets of systemic racism theory. These were the White racial frame, the extraordinary costs and burdens of racism, resisting systemic racism, undeserved impoverishment and undeserved enrichment, social reproduction of wealth, and rationalizing racism. Feagin contended systemic racism tends to promote and reward whiteness, and that this was especially true in the educational arena. He argued each of the tenets can be seen in public schools. Perhaps, the White racial frame and distinctions of reward by race were the most obvious, but these tended to work together to create an elite construction of society that reproduced systemic racism (Feagin 2001).
Other work sought to explain the American stratification system by looking at the development of historical categories and the consequences these categories have for inequality over time (Massey 2007). In his work, Douglas S. Massey (2007) argued that once a surplus is created, then categorical distinctions set inequality in place. Then, mechanisms of exploitation and opportunity hoarding allow for the development of prejudice and discriminatory actions. As this continued, powerful groups were able to use both cultural and social boundaries to create barriers and then segregated groups of people into a socially inferior position. Similar to work by Horton and Tilly, Feagin's idea of the importance of power and social structure differentiation cannot be overstated.
Although work by Charles indell Patton (2015) emphasized the importance of historic opportunity hoarding in employment by Whites, he contended that these impacts could be extended to both the criminal justice system downstream, and even to the educational system upstream. He further examined the impact of segregation and jailing on the Black employment rate. In this, he focused on earlier theories of historical materialism, social closure (Parkin 1979), and durable inequality theory by Tilly. Using historical evidence on Black employment rates from the 1940s forward, he concluded that black employment rates, segregation by neighborhood, and jailing of Blacks were well connected to opportunity hoarding by Whites.
Finally, other scholarship looks at how race and skin complexion are co-mingled into the African American experience as we move into a potentially color-blind era. In an edited volume,
Cedric Herring and his colleagues explored how skin color matters for structural decisions made, which directly and indirectly affect the racialized stratification system in America (Herring, Keith, and Horton 2004). Herring argued that most Whites in the United States believe that race is no longer a factor, because people receive what they earn on the basis of talent and effort (Herring, Keith, and Horton 2004). So, while society focused on individual differences in skin color as a source of difference, at the same time, these were dismissed as causing any structural inequality decisions worthy of note. Bonilla-Silva (2004) contended that the US is moving away from a biracial society and toward a tri-racial one, with a layer of honorary Whites in between. He further argued that this creation of a three-tier society will not create a color-blind one as some think, but will instead deepen divisions between those at the top and bottom of the hierarchy. Although predictions by Herring and his colleagues and Bonilla-Silva are now fifteen years old, we have seen the ways in which individual distinctions based on skin color, perceived blackness, and the usual prejudice and discrimination present at both individual and institutional levels continue to divide our society.
Synthesis into Racial Categorical Inequality
Although Horton (1999) and Tilly (1998) examined the impact of power and social structure on potentially differential outcomes for African Americans, each did so from a different starting point, yet arrived at similar places. In the development of critical demography as a paradigm to augment or even replace the static, functional nature of conventional demography, Horton focused on the ability of critical demography to describe racism, rather than just race alone. For African Americans in the past and today, race and its accompanying racism remains the salient determinant factor of life chances. Rather than focusing on the status quo, Horton stated that new ways of thinking about power and social structure were needed to advance the scholarship in this area. Tilly took an historical approach, examining how categories are formed and then take on a life of their own both at the individual and institutional levels of analysis. Tilly’s arguments on the ways in which exploitation, opportunity hoarding, adaptation, and emulation worked as mechanisms in the development and enhancement of categorical inequality are important in discussing how racialized categorical inequality has grown and become reified in America.
Scholarship drawing on critical race theory and its impact on education, schools as sorting machines, how historical social stratification has developed in the United States, the interconnectivity of categorical inequality with employment and the prison system and its potential applicability in education, and the importance of skin color both culturally and structurally in the color-blind era allow for the consideration and development of a new theoretical paradigm. After reviewing and considering relevant literature on the disparities of African Americans in public education, it is prudent to consider if it is possible to develop
a more nuanced theory of racial categorical inequality. Although some promising work has begun in educational theory, it could still be elaborated further through considering racialized categorical inequality and its impact on public education outcomes.
The importance of well-established and entrenched boundaries between unequal groups resonates across the literature explored. For African Americans, the color line—race and racism—remain at the core of their experiences at multiple levels. Whether we look at differences in social reproduction of wealth by families over time, unequal treatment in housing, public education, employment, or the judicial system, the experiences of African Americans resonate well with racialized categorical inequality. The history of African Americans is one where racism and power combine, often with horrible outcomes. Once systems of categorical inequality were created on the basis of race and racism, individual prejudice and discrimination grew. As initial unequal treatment accelerated, the creation and reinforcement of mechanisms of institutional discrimination coupled with racism, quickly led to cultural and structural condition toxic to generations of African Americans.
In developing a racialized categorical inequality paradigm, it is important to look at the explanatory power of the theoretical underpinnings: how these theories best fit the evidence. In the next section, historical and current events will be discussed to discover how components of this new paradigm fit. Experiences of African Americans differ greatly from those of their White counterparts. One cannot look exclusively at public education without exploring both events occurring downstream and upstream from decisions made the educational arena. It is hoped these historical examples and evidence will allow for the initial testing of the explanatory potential of a theory where race and racism are linked with differential power and social structure dynamics at
multiple levels of analysis. This is not the end of the consideration of the worth of racialized categorical inequality, but rather the beginning of new scholarship which may better inform the life chances of African Americans.
HISTORICAL EVIDENCE AND CONNECTION TO CURRENT EVENTS
The history of African Americans has been one of pain, sacrifice, triumph, and hostility. Initially, Africans came to America not by choice, but as victims of the slave trade as far back as the 1620s. As Black slaves arrived on American soil, categorical inequality based on race became established. Race, and the color line, was the earliest and most well defined boundary in dividing
and segregating people. As the nation grew, so did the prejudice and discrimination toward Blacks as well as power differentials which would affect outcomes for years to come. Some may ask, is it really necessary to go back 400 years to examine historical events that none of us now were alive to witness. Proponents of a color-blind or race-blind society are asking us to do exactly that. However, in order to understand how racialized categorical inequality has developed, this historical process that allowed it to thrive are worthy of discussion.
After the US Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment, Blacks were no longer treated as property on plantations in the American South, and began to receive more citizenship rights. In fact, during the Reconstruction, Black men eagerly took advantage of the right to vote and hold political office. Despite these amazing advances, Blacks and Whites remained segregated. Blacks had won their freedom from slavery, but the slave system was quickly replaced by separate but equal facilities almost everywhere in the United States, and Jim Crow laws in some locations. Once the unequal categories, differential access to power, individual and institutional forces of racism, and segregated neighborhoods and schools were in place, overcoming these disadvantages would take far more than legal changes that magically made everyone equal. In fact, historically, changes in policies in education, housing, voting, and employment have not had high levels of impact in the Black community.
After the Brown decision in 1954, there was a move away from segregated schools and neighborhood de jure, but racially segregated neighborhoods and schools remained in practice throughout much of the country. Today, the color line matters as Americans live in segregated neighborhood, go to differently funded schools, worship in separate settings, and maintain a social distance that goes back 400 years. The events of the past continue to affect the present, and will likely affect the future.
Scholarship by Oliver and Shapiro (1997) and Lori Latrice Martin (2013) have looked at wealth and wealth formation and elaborated differential outcomes for Black and White families. Shapiro (2017) has continued the arguments on the importance of wealth twenty years later. What these authors found was that the historical development of wealth was more uneven than income. Demographers and social scientists tend to use income as the primary measure of socioeconomic status, but differentials of wealth by race are far more dramatic. One key reason for this is that wealth shows the historical processes of accumulation of resources across multiple generations, while income is simply a snapshot from today. Shapiro (2017) estimated that Black families have just a dime for every dollar of wealth held by White families. The social reproduction of wealth has worked in tandem with racialized categorical inequality. Historical processes of racism, segregation, and differential treatment both individually and institutionally have handicapped multiple generations of Black families.
Importantly, wealth is passed down through families and allows inequality to be reproduced into the next generation. Family wealth as well as sources of income frequently determines where one lives. The choice of housing is based on wealth held and income earned over a period of time. However, housing choices are not simply a product of economics. Race plays a huge role in determining where people live. Historical patterns of racial segregation, discrimination in lending, and the pattern of homogenizing Blacks as a single group beset with problems and dilemmas has affected African American housing chances and outcomes for decades (Patterson 1997; Oliver and Shapiro 1997; Shapiro 2017).
The relevance of housing for the education experiences of African Americans is significant. Where one lives often determines where one goes to school. In many American cities, neighborhoods remain segregated by race. African Americans go to poorer, inferior, resource deprived schools due to the neighborhood in which these schools are located. In many states, as much as 50 percent of income for local schools come from local property tax dollars, which are based on the values of the properties (Shapiro 2017). Homes in racialized, segregated neighborhoods are often worth less than homes in middle-class suburbs. This creates an institutional racialized issue as different levels of resources flow to schools based on these housing and neighborhood considerations.
Bonilla-Silva (2017) extended this line of thought by discussing the racial isolation of whites in terms of friendships. Despite Whites’ claims of racial integration, few report having many Black friends. He further inquired why it is that integrated schools have not produced meaningful platforms for interracial interactions. Bonilla-Silva argued that school tracking often separates students by race within schools, and racial integration comes late in a student’s career, often not until high school (2017:124-26). He concluded that the emphasis on individual achievement may also prevent students from engaging in cross-cultural or multiracial contact.
Continuing to examine the historical evidence and relevant current events are important with respect to employment and the criminal justice system. The quality of education received directly relates to the type of employment achieved in later years. Although individual outcomes may vary, we tend to see African American students living in poorer housing, receiving inferior educations, landing in lower-level jobs, and more frequently entangled with the criminal justice system. These events are not due to chance, or the liberty of a free market society, but are instead due to racialized categorical inequality, that continues to plague African Americans.
So when evaluating African American disparities in public schools, there is much to consider. Educational theory tends to focus on individual levels of achievement and status attainment outcomes to measure the progress of students, yet historical evidence and connections to current events shows this to produce a flawed analysis in the case of African Americans. It is not just a question of individual achievement on equal footing in similar places; rather, African Americans live in poorer neighborhoods, attend inferior schools due to residential segregation by race, and are subject to high levels of individual and institutional discrimination due to systematic racism. For these reasons, existing educational theory does a poor job of providing explanations for
African American disparities in public schools.
One of the major flaws in examining African American disparities in public schools is the lack of systemic explanations. Most educational theories and studies look at individual-level outcomes, without taking any racialized categorical inequality into account. This inequality is deeply embedded in the American system of social stratification. As discussed previously, racialized systems exist across multiple areas: wealth, income, neighborhoods, housing, employment, and education. Although education is one system worthy of examination, it cannot be looked at in a vacuum without considering the other impacts of racialized categorical inequality, which both affects educational attainment, and is affected by it.
Rather than rely on individual explanations or status attainment arguments occurring in a vacuum with no racial or social contexts for student outcomes in education, what is needed is a systematic approach incorporating a body of scholarship aimed toward the creation of a racialized categorical inequality paradigm. By synthesizing components from other scholars looking at how race, racism, and racial inequality developed through historical differentials in power, social structure, and the reproduction of inequality (Bonilla-Silva 2004, 2017; Feagin 2001; Horton 1999; Tilly 1998), a racialized categorical inequality approach can offer new insights for scholars examining African American disparities in public schools. Despite discussions of the advent of a color-blind or race-blind society, historical evidence and current events both indicate this has not happened. Rather, this color-blind approach is ahistorical, myopic, and ignores institutional and systematic trends that have impacted generations of African Americans on the basis of race, racism, and racial inequality.
There are a few ways in which a newly constructed racialized categorical inequality paradigm could be helpful in future research. First, rather than examining student achievements, test scores, and academic merit based on individual students’ accomplishments, scholars examining public school outcomes should use this paradigm as a starting point when constructing research questions, methods of inquiry, and interpretation of findings. Events occurring in public schools don’t occur in a vacuum independent from other institutions. It is important to consider an historical, and structurally informed way of examining differences in public schools. Second, if policy makers are to address African American disparities in public education directly, much more attention must be paid to the social construction of race, racism, and racial inequality and how these have developed over time in public education. Residential segregation and what that means for housing values and available property taxes for schools, how school districts are unevenly funded at the local level leading to huge differences in resources, and then how these resource differentials contribute to educational inequality by race are topics which policy makers should consider. Each of these separately and combined have an enormous impact on the disparities of African Americans in public schools. Finally, we need to acknowledge that we are not in a color-blind or race-blind society. Despite the rhetoric and propaganda that we as a nation have moved to society that is completely based on individual talent and merit, historical evidence and current events shows that this is not the case. African Americans remain behind Whites on almost every socioeconomic measure in areas of wealth, income, education, housing, and employment. Yet, many argue these racialized distinctions are due to individual choices and behavior, rather than a history of racialized categorical inequality. Our public schools’ administrators, legislative policy makers, and the nation as a whole need to be made aware of the evidence and facts with respect to differential access and treatment by race. The developing of research based on racialized categorical inequality, and an education of the public on the ways America is not a color-blind society, are starting points in the enlightenment process, which can help future generations in our society.
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Wood, Geoffrey L. 2018. “Historical Categorical Inequality: The Creation of Two Segregated Cities within an Urban Centre.” Pp. 19-22 in #BrokenPromises, Black Ribbons: Understanding, Complicating, and Transcending Police-Community Violence, edited by Kenneth J. Fasching-Varner, Kerri J. Tobin, and Stephen M. Lentz. Boston, MA: Brill/ Sense.
I would like to thank students and faculty at Pitt-Greensburg for conversations about these topics both inside and outside the classroom. Also, thank you to colleagues at the Society for the Study of Social Problems and North Central Sociological Association for comments on earlier versions presented at conferences. Finally, thank you to my wife and son for the time away needed to develop these concepts, and the resulting manuscript.
About the Author
Geoffrey L. Wood, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg