Racial segregation is the systemic separation of people based on their race or ethnicity. The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance defines segregation as "the act by which a (natural or legal) person separates other persons on the basis of one of the enumerated grounds without an objective and reasonable justification, in conformity with the proposed definition of discrimination. As a result, the voluntary act of separating oneself from other people on the basis of one of the enumerated grounds does not constitute segregation.”
Racial segregation can involve separation of institutions such as schools and hospitals, as well as activities such as eating out at restaurants, using public toilets, riding public transportation, and more.
In the United States, Jim Crow laws mandated racial segregation in some states in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Jim Crow laws mandated segregation in all public facilities, public schools, and public transportation in the states that were previously part of the Confederacy before the Civil War.
In 1954, the landmark Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education mandated that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. In 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, invoking the Commerce Clause to outlaw discrimination in public accommodations. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ended legally sanctioned state barriers to voting for all federal, state, and local elections, as well as provided federal monitoring of counties that had historically low minority voter turnout.
By 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court declared all forms of segregation unconstitutional. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination of the sale and renting of housing based on race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Despite this, racism and segregation are still very apparent in the United States in schools, neighborhoods, housing, and more.
While segregation in neighborhoods has declined over the past several decades since racial segregation has been outlawed, it still remains very high. Some cities are more segregated than others.
To identify the most segregated cities in America, 24/7 Wall St. calculated the percentage of black residents who live in predominantly black census tracts, where at least 50% of the population is black.
The ten most segregated cities in America are:
- Pine Bluff, AR
- Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI
- Albany, GA
- Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI
- Niles-Benton Harbor, MI
- Memphis, TN
- Jackson, MS
- Monroe, LA
- Cleveland-Elyria, OH
- Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD
According to this data, Pine Bluff, Arkansas is the most segregated city in America. About 53.9% of the Pine Bluff population lives in predominantly black neighborhoods, more than triple the 16.8% national figure. Interestingly, Pine Bluff has relatively small achievements gaps between white and black neighborhoods and is only one of two metro areas in which a larger share of residents have a bachelor’s degree in black neighborhoods than white neighborhoods.