Segregation and the effects today

Essay 2
Essay 2 for Cities is worth 20% of your overall course grade. It builds on the material discussed
in Weeks 5–10 of the semester. The essay must be submitted on Canvas by April 12th
at 5pm.
The essay should be no more than 1,500-words long (about 5, double-spaced pages) and must
be written in your own words. You are encouraged to reference academic, popular,
non-academic writing, film, or webpages, but please be sure to cite them.
Essay prompt:
The past month of the semester has focused on how historical geographies are about much
more than the past. We have used a range of readings on the legacies and determinants of
spatial segregation to consider how historical geographies are active forces shaping housing
access, environmental conditions, schooling, and the overall urban experience in profoundly
uneven and racialized ways. The entrenched forms of racial segregation in the US have led
numerous geographers, including those we’ve read or discussed in weeks 5-10, to see race as a
geography—a spatial structure. For Essay 2, we are asking you to use concepts, examples, or
theories from the course to analyze segregation and its effects today. You have three choices for
this essay:
Option 1. Write an essay on a current or past popular campaign (by an organization,
movement, local group of people, etc.) to mitigate/reduce/eliminate segregation in any form.
This essay option might lead you to explore how a popular movement or organization’s
campaign in recent years, or historically, has developed to target the specific effects or causes of
racial exclusion in the housing market. It might focus on efforts to expand community-based
alternatives, such as what is called the Community Land Trust, a community rather than
privately owned form of housing provision gaining influence in the US today, especially in the
wake of the foreclosure crisis and COVID19. Or, it might focus on specific actions (e.g., rent
strikes) or experiments (e.g., state- or city-wide suspensions of rent, community control of
vacant buildings, using unused hotels to house the unhoused) that show that other forms of
housing and other urban geographies are possible. The key goal for this option is to do
independent research that tries to place a specific challenge to segregation (by an individual,
organization, movement, or neighborhood, etc.) in the context of a specific historical
geography: why did, for example, the Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign emerge where and
when it did?
Some representative organizations you might consider include:
The Movement for Black Lives,, a grassroots organization that includes
practical and legal toolkits and resources for local organizations to confront challenges relates
to criminal justice reform, segregation, and housing access.
The Right to the City Alliance,, a national coalition of organizations
focused on halting the displacement of communities experiencing gentrification or
displacement, using the slogan “land for people vs. land for speculation.” Any of the more than
fifty member organizations under the RTTC Alliance across the country could also be chosen
as a focus.
Housing Justice for All, a coalition of over 80 organizations in NY State focused on tenant and
homeless rights,
The Anti-Eviction Campaign, a community-based movement that started in Chicago to halt
evictions and de-commodify housing, using the “housing is a human right” slogan to create a
transnational coalition with other major hubs in LA and Cape Town, South Africa.
Any number of community land trusts or organizations supporting community land trusts
exist across the US, from NYC to Philly and San Francisco.
There are literally hundreds of local organizations working on issues related to ending or
reducing the effects of segregation nationally, and many thousand more outside of the US
working on issues of housing affordability, racial justice, or inclusive urbanism.
Option 2. Write a historical geography of segregation. This option is similar to the model from
Essay 1 of the semester, only it asks you to focus on how segregation emerged or persists in a
specific place. When did a particular pattern of segregation emerge in your case-study
city/neighborhood? What are the key periods/phases (including key events, such as changes in
leadership, political activism, policy change, redevelopment efforts, etc.) that explain how
segregation—as a spatial form and lived experience—has evolved or remained entrenched over
time? The crucial thing for this option will be to find good academic sources on a single place
so that you can consider, for example, if/how redlining (or any other historical process) set in
place a pattern of exclusion and how that pattern endured or changed via such things as
gentrification, exclusionary lending, or municipal debt (see Ponder and Omstedt article in Week
8 optional reading).
Option 3. An in-depth book or film review of one or more key texts/films that highlight the
experience of segregation. We’ve already read chapters from or excerpts from three books on
this specific topic (the first two are available for free digitally through the RU Library):
Keeanga-Yamahtta Tayler. 2019. Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry
Undermined Black Homeownership. University of Chapel Hill Press. (a finalist for the Pulitzer
Prize and National Book Award)
Brandi Summers. 2020. Black in Place: The Spatial Aesthetics of Race in a Post-Chocolate City. UNC
Richard Rothstein. 2017. The Color of Law. Liverlight Publishing.
The optional reading from week 7 is excerpted from Saidiya Hartman’s truly stunning book,
Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, and would be another fine choice (and the book will blow
you away).
If you decide to write about movies/TV, it might make sense to consider more than one film to
juxtapose different kinds of representations of segregation in a single place or different places
in a similar time: e.g., La Haine (from class) and Boyz n the Hood, set in LA.

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