Major metropolitan cities in the U.S. are more racially segregated now than they were post-Civil War and during the Reconstruction Period.
That’s according to Johnny Finn, an associate professor of Geography at Christopher Newport University, and his long-term research project, “Living Together/Living Apart.”
The project focuses on human experiences and the effects that have perverted for generations in areas like Hampton Roads as a result, according to a recent news release.
There was once a time when segregating communities was intentional through practices like “redlining” and other housing and economic policies.
And even though that isn’t the case anymore, Finn said people now are still suffering the consequences.
“The result of that today is that the median white family’s net worth in the U.S. is about $100,000 and the median black family’s net worth in the U.S. is just a little bit more than $5,000,” he said.
Finn is presenting his initial research findings and upcoming book on the project in “Living Apart: 21st Century Segregation in Hampton Roads,” a lecture at the Hampton History Museum Monday where he said he hopes people will begin to see how racism continues to reverberate and impacts people in what some may think is a “post-racial” society.
More than economic impacts, Finn said psychological effects can also cause people to remain living in segregated neighborhoods.
“The latent intimidation of moving into a historically white neighborhood, the perceived threat and the very real threat of violence from black people occupying white spaces,” he said. “We saw this with Trayvon Martin, a black body occupying a white space is perceived as a threat and that ended in tragic, deadly violence.”
A geographer in CNU’s Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology, Finn studies urban geography and the “internal, social dynamics within cities,” including racial segregation, which he said is fundamentally a geographical problem of “where some people are physically located and where other people are physically located.”
Over the span of about two years, Finn and his team have interviewed more than 200 people of varying ages and races in the region, including public school teachers, to account for the experiences of minors who are not included in the research because of their age.
Bringing the public into a discussion about the research Finn said could start breaking down some widespread assumptions of “that’s just the way it is or that’s just the natural order of the world.”
“It isn’t just individuals making individual choices in a perfectly free and fair open market…there’s a whole lot more out there,” he said.
Join the discussion with Finn on “Living Apart: 21st Century Segregation in Hampton Roads,” Feb. 3 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hampton History Museum, 120 Old Hampton Lane.
Admission is free for museum members or $5 for non-members.
Click here to learn more about the “Living Together/Living Apart” long-term research project.