In America, racial inequality has always been a problem. The importance of the issue flares and ebbs in the national spotlight, but it is always there and always in need of newer and better solutions. The past few years have seen a new urgency, with viral phone camera videos and stories of rampant misuse of authority reminding us all too often of how much of a problem it still is.
Places Journal is tackling the issue in a new series called "The Inequality Chronicles." As they describe it: "Inequality is hardly a new phenomenon in American life, but lately it is commanding new attention. President Obama has declared it 'the defining challenge of our time,' leading economists have warned about concentrations of wealth not seen since the Gilded Age, and in this election year one candidate has organized a growing campaign around the disappearance of the middle class. And beyond the familiar headlines there is the deeper story, the palpable unease that the social contracts that supported our pluralistic and prosperous democracy are fracturing apart."
The first installment in their series focuses on the city of Memphis and the issue of housing segregation. The very detailed article begins all the way back in Reconstruction, when the city was better integrated than one would expect of a former Confederate city, with an African-American upper class that worked with the upper class whites to shape the future of the city. The story follows through the disaster of the Great Depression (both economically and for race relations), the Civil Rights Era, white flight and its consequences, and the era of Robert Lipscomb, head of the Housing and Community Development who oversaw the city's public housing. Now, with Lipscomb gone, the city is planning to demolish the last public housing project of his tenure, and the future of Memphis and race relations in the city are very much in question.
Read Preston Lauterbach's full story at Places Journal.
(And leave yourself plenty of time to finish it.)