Black Americans have been a huge part of American history and their importance to American society can not be overstated. Throughout the entire history of the United States, Black people have always had to overcome extreme amounts of hardship and mass amounts of racism. In order to fully comprehend the true experience of Black Africans living in America, we must first have to understand the genesis of this experience. Recently, I attended an event hosted by Lisa Nunn, a professor of sociology who has penned many books throughout her career. In this event, Professor Nunn explains the struggles of being Black in a White neighborhood. She also talks about the dynamic of having a dominant race in a given neighborhood. This event was very eye opening to me, because it allowed me to understand the struggles of African Americans that I was not even aware of. Also, Lisa Nunn’s event is very relatable to some parts of the text in Freedom on My Mind, written by Deborah Gray White, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin Jr.
In the beginning of Lisa Nunn’s presentation on living in a white bubble, she mentions the idea of neighborhoods being dominated by predominantly one race. For example, she frequently mentions Black neighborhoods, White neighborhoods and Latinx neighborhoods. Also, she mentions metro populations, which are neighborhoods that consist of a plethora of races. One of the most eye opening ideas she mentions is the idea that White people mainly live in predominantly White neighborhoods, whereas Latinx and Black people mainly live in White
neighborhoods or diverse neighborhoods. According to an analysis of the 2014 – 2018 census, White people consist of seventy one percent of the population in neighborhoods that are predominantly white. In these same neighborhoods, Black people make up six percent of the population white Latinx people make up nine percent of the population. In neighborhoods that predominantly consist of African Americans, Black people only make up forty five percent of the total population. In these same neighborhoods, White people make up thirty one percent of the population while Latinx people make up seventeen percent of the population. Essentially, she is stating that if you are a white child, you will most likely grow up with white people around you. Also, she is saying that if you are either Black or Latinx, you will most likely grow up in a neighborhood that is predominantly white or multiracial. In chapter four of Freedom on My Mind, the text talks about Black cities in America after the African American people were free of enslavement. “As northern blacks achieved emancipation, free black communities took shape across the region. Most were located in port cities, which had large black communities even during the colonial era. No longer bound to rural masters, the ex-slave population congregated in major northern cities such as New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, all of which attracted fugitive slaves as well” (White, 150). I found it very interesting that the first African American cities essentially were created by former slaves. In Lisa Nunn’s presentation, she introduces the segregation map from The Washington Post. Essentially, this is a map of the United States which documents the racial breakdown of a given city. After looking at the racial breakdown of the cities that were popular to former slaves, I found that a majority of the neighborhoods were either White or Black. In New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, a majority of the neighborhoods in these cities are not ethnically diverse. Many of these neighborhoods consist of a dominant race. I believe this to be a direct reflection of the segregation that was present during the time of free black life in the new republic.
Later in her presentation, Lisa Nunn introduces the idea of education and the effect it can have on a population. Also, she mentions the idea of White niceness as a cornerstone of White thinking. First, she states her belief that many White traditions are unjustly considered to be American culture. She also mentions the idea that White schools have White ways of thinking, which can be detrimental to the education of other races. She states that oftentimes, White schools in suburban neighborhoods have better resources and better teachers than underfunded schools in urban areas. Throughout American history, Black Americans have struggled to maintain a level of adequate education. It started with Black children being turned away from schools, then eventually segregated schools, until it eventually got to where it is now with underfunded schools. This idea is very prevalent in Freedom on My Mind. “Even in cities with black schools, securing an education maintained a challenge. These schools were chronically underfunded and short of books and supplies… Education was a double edged sword even for those black northerners lucky enough to attend school. Subject to the same racial prejudices as other African Americans, educated blacks were shut out of most jobs, both skilled and unskilled” (155 White). Black Americans have always had to fight for their education, whether that be to push for unsegregated schools, or simply push for schools with adequate resources. Eventually, Lisa Nunn introduces the idea of White niceness, and the effect it has on how White people perceive race. Essentially, Lisa Nunn explains White niceness as the idea of not creating conflict or controversy by not saying or doing anything that will make someone else upset. Also, White niceness involves the idea that race does not matter, and that racial silence is important. That
being said, according to Lisa Nunn, White niceness often leads to avoiding discussions of race altogether. The thought process in White niceness revolves around the idea that “if we do not talk about it, it does not matter, and if we do not talk about it, we can overcome it” (Nunn). I found this aspect of her presentation to be extremely eye opening. White niceness is a direct result of White people being blind to the mistreatment of other races in America.
While the experience of African Americans in the United States has been less than perfect, the story is still unfinished. From racialized neighborhoods to underfunded education and White niceness, the experience of Black Africans living in America continues to be a story of revolution. It is up to my generation of scholars to right the wrongs of America’s past, and to create an environment in which Black people are given the same opportunities as any other race.
Keating, Dan. “Analysis | America Is More Diverse than Ever – but Still Segregated.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 2 May 2018, from www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/segregation-us-cities/
Rabinowitz, Kate. “How the Nation’s Growing Racial Diversity Is Changing Our Schools.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 12 Sept. 2019, from www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/local/school-diversity-data
White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: a History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021