White Space, Black Hood: Opportunity Hoarding and Segregation in the Age of Inequality

White Space, Black Hood: Opportunity Hoarding and Segregation in the Age of Inequality

by Sheryll Cashin

Narrated by Lynnette R. Freeman

Unabridged — 10 hours, 32 minutes

White Space, Black Hood: Opportunity Hoarding and Segregation in the Age of Inequality

White Space, Black Hood: Opportunity Hoarding and Segregation in the Age of Inequality

by Sheryll Cashin

Narrated by Lynnette R. Freeman

Unabridged — 10 hours, 32 minutes

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Shows how government created “ghettos” and affluent white space and entrenched a system of American residential caste that is the linchpin of US inequality-and issues a call for abolition.

The iconic Black hood, like slavery and Jim Crow, is a peculiar American institution animated by the ideology of white supremacy. Politicians and people of all colors propagated “ghetto” myths to justify racist policies that concentrated poverty in the hood and created high-opportunity white spaces. In White Space, Black Hood, Sheryll Cashin traces the history of anti-Black residential caste-boundary maintenance, opportunity hoarding, and stereotype-driven surveillance-and unpacks its current legacy so we can begin the work to dismantle the structures and policies that undermine Black lives.

Drawing on nearly 2 decades of research in cities including Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and Cleveland, Cashin traces the processes of residential caste as it relates to housing, policing, schools, and transportation. She contends that geography is now central to American caste. Poverty-free havens and poverty-dense hoods would not exist if the state had not designed, constructed, and maintained this physical racial order.

Cashin calls for abolition of these state-sanctioned processes. The ultimate goal is to change the lens through which society sees residents of poor Black neighborhoods from presumed thug to presumed citizen, and to transform the relationship of the state with these neighborhoods from punitive to caring. She calls for investment in a new infrastructure of opportunity in poor Black neighborhoods, including richly resourced schools and neighborhood centers, public transit, Peacemaker Fellowships, universal basic incomes, housing choice vouchers for residents, and mandatory inclusive housing elsewhere.

Deeply researched and sharply written, White Space, Black Hood is a call to action for repairing what white supremacy still breaks.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


Wealth, resources, and opportunity are overwhelmingly concentrated in white, affluent U.S. neighborhoods, which have a long history of excluding Black people through racial zoning, redlining, and violence, according to this astute history. Georgetown University law professor Cashin (Loving) explores how these exclusionary practices continue to affect residents of American cities today. The Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore, for instance, suffered after the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation gave it a “D” rating in the 1930s. Today, residents don’t have access to reliable public transportation, and recent plans to build a new light rail line were shelved by the state’s Republican governor, who funneled the money to road projects in “exurban and rural areas” instead. Cashin also details Lyndon Johnson’s refusal to heed the recommendations of the 1968 Kerner Commission report on the causes of racial uprisings in Black neighborhoods, and explains how Ronald Reagan used exaggerated claims about welfare fraud to slash the social safety net. Cashin’s levelheaded reform suggestions draw from real-world success stories, such as an outreach program in Richmond, Calif., where gun violence plummeted after “violence-prone” young men were given access to therapy, job training, and a monthly stipend. This is a well-researched and persuasive guide to a major source of inequity in the U.S. (Sept.)

From the Publisher

While extensively documented and amply footnoted, Cashin’s survey remains compelling and accessible to a general readership. A resonant, important argument that White supremacy and racial division poison life in our cities.”
Kirkus Reviews

"Cashin’s levelheaded reform suggestions draw from real-world success stories, such as an outreach program in Richmond, Calif., where gun violence plummeted after “violence-prone” young men were given access to therapy, job training, and a monthly stipend. This is a well-researched and persuasive guide to a major source of inequity in the U.S. "
Publishers Weekly

“Cashin’s study of the racial foundations of residential castes is an accessible and compelling read that balances historical documents with personal narratives.”
Library Journal

“This well-researched and accessibly written volume examines the government-created system of residential caste in the US. Cashin also provides ideas for the abolition of these practices to create a more equitable future for all.”
Ms. Magazine, “September 2021 Reads for the Rest of Us, 9/1”

“In White Space, Black Hood: Opportunity Hoarding and Segregation in the Age of Inequality, Sheryll Cashin demonstrates how durable and pervasive anti-Black rhetoric has been in American thought from the days of Thomas Jefferson to the era of Donald Trump . . . . Cashin explains how racial presumptions once used to justify enslavement eventually led to mandatory segregation in housing.”
Washington Post

"In the brilliant and important new book, White Space, Black Hood: Opportunity Hoarding and Segregation in the Age of Inequality, Georgetown law professor, Sheryll Cashin, identifies and condemns three methods of white supremacy at work throughout the United States: boundary maintenance, opportunity hoarding in the form of commercial exclusion and educational apartheid, and stereotype-driven surveillance."

"Like slavery and Jim Crow, the Black hood has in many ways been shaped by white supremacy. Politicians from both sides of the aisle, people of all races and nationalities propagated and appropriated this idea of “the ghetto” and the myths around it as a way to “justify racist policies that concentrated poverty in the hood and created high-opportunity white spaces.” Based on nearly 20 years of fieldwork and research in cities such as Baltimore, New York, St. Louis and Chicago, Cashin looks at the housing disparities and redlining as it relates to schools, policing and access to transportation. White Space, Black Hood calls for the abolition of state-sanctioned systemic oppression and calls for a new infrastructure of opportunities in poor Black neighborhoods."
The Root

White Space, Black Hood makes a powerful case that ‘geography as caste is destroying America.’ It will be impossible to heal the soul of the country without addressing the defining problem this extraordinary book illuminates.”
—Richard D. Kahlenberg, New Republic

“[A] valuable primer on some of the main engines of racial inequality in the modern United States.” 
—Heath W. Carter, Christian Century

“Sheryll Cashin is one of the most important civil rights scholars of our time, and White Space, Black Hood is her magnum opus, the searing culmination of decades of research about the devastating consequences of segregation. Cashin builds on Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste to take down liberal and conservative orthodoxies on race. (White) America is not ready for this book.”
—Paul Butler, author of Chokehold: Policing Black Men

“In this brilliant and nuanced new volume, Sheryll Cashin exposes the ways in which American policy decisions, from the early twentieth century to the present, have constructed a ‘residential caste system’ resulting in the entrapment of Black people in high-poverty neighborhoods while ‘overinvesting in affluent white space.’ Riveting and beautifully written, White Space, Black Hood convinces the reader of the centrality of geography in economic and social inequality.”
—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“We need Sheryll Cashin’s scholarship to make sense of the racial inequalities that mar every urban community, and we need her vision to guide us to a more equal society. Illuminating, compassionate, and engrossing . . . an instant classic.”
—Heather McGhee, author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

“With analytical precision, Sheryll Cashin masterfully tells the story of how Black neighborhoods have been gutted by the system of housing anti-Blackness. . . . White Space, Black Hood is clear, compelling, and demands our attention.”
—Bettina L. Love, author of We Want to Do More Than Survive

“In pulling back the curtain on how residential segregation creates caste for some and economic profit for others, Cashin offers a clear-eyed view of the precarity of our present and provides a path toward a more equitable future.”
—Noliwe Rooks, author of Cutting School: The Segrenomics of American Education

Library Journal


In this exploration of geography's role in sustaining the American caste system, Cashin (law, Georgetown Univ.; Loving; Place Not Race) tackles the origins of what she calls the "Black hood" or "ghetto," a lasting legacy of racism in the United States. Cashin uses two decades of urban studies research on cities like Baltimore, Chicago, and New York to prove that anti-Black state and federal policies and overinvestment in "white space" (i.e., affluent areas) have helped to forge the three main urbanist tools used to suppress Black neighborhoods—boundary maintenance, opportunity hoarding, and stereotype-driven surveillance. In contrast with the spate of books that address racial segregation with only a dispassionate academic focus on statistics and data, Cashin fills her book with personal stories from the Black Americans who have effectively fought the residential caste system. This book covers territory that will be familiar to readers of Isabel Wilkerson's Caste and Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law, to which Cashin adds potential solutions rooted in respect and humanity. VERDICT Cashin's study of the racial foundations of residential castes is an accessible and compelling read that balances historical documents with personal narratives. Highly recommended.—John Rodzvilla, Emerson Coll., Boston

Kirkus Reviews

A new urban studies text offers a thorough, well-researched history of inner-city blight as the inevitable legacy of segregation and racism.

Georgetown law professor Cashin, the author of Loving, Place Not Race, and other notable books on racial issues, shows how so many of today's "descendants" of American slavery are trapped in high-poverty neighborhoods because of deliberate state and federal policy decisions that “construct ghettos” and perpetuate inequality. She illustrates how anti-Black processes of sorting out the "residential caste"—boundary maintenance, opportunity hoarding, and stereotype-driven surveillance—led to overinvestment in affluent areas ("white space") and disinvestment from Black neighborhoods. Using the urban history of Baltimore as an example, Cashin describes how "redlining" codified a two-tier system of home loans; "blockbusting" enticed panic selling by White homeowners; and intrusive road-building cleared out inner-city "blight" (read: “undesired people”). "Urban renewal" effectively contained descendants in high-poverty, high-crime areas. Ghettoization, in turn, defined Black space, allowing bigots to attribute bleak living conditions to Blacks' allegedly "innate character.” Even the word ghetto became an adjective describing inner-city style, dress, speech, and social codes. All of these hold today: “The past is not past.” Segregation, fear, and racism are mutually reinforcing. The implicit racism in the redlining process often led to D ratings for Black neighborhoods, marking them as "hazardous," while the Federal Housing Administration’s 30-year mortgage plan, a path to the middle class, has always been offered primarily to Whites. Meanwhile, interstate highways facilitate White flight, effectively creating walls around Black neighborhoods. While extensively documented and amply footnoted, Cashin's survey remains compelling and accessible to a general readership. She clearly presents the effects of concentrated poverty on a populace—how, for example, segregated schools affect educational outcomes—and shows how the work is never done. “While we must stop the bleeding at its source and prioritize poor Black neighborhoods,” she writes, “broader systems work is never finished in America.”

A resonant, important argument that White supremacy and racial division poison life in our cities.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940173340825
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 09/14/2021
Edition description: Unabridged

Read an Excerpt

I met Lakia Barnett on an overcast September morning in 2018. A client of a legal clinic at Georgetown Law, where I teach, she agreed to tell me the story of her family’s search for housing and sta-bility in the DC metro area. Lakia was a married, Black, mother of three in her thirties. She didn’t own a car, so I agreed to pick her up and take her to lunch at a restaurant of her choosing for the inter-view, a respite for two mothers while our kids were in school. The Barnett family lived in Southeast DC, east of the Anacostia River in Ward Eight, the city’s poorest ward.The drive from the law school, near halls of Congress and courts superior and Supreme, to Lakia’s home took about fourteen minutes.

I drove the interstate past Southwest DC, remade by urban renewal and gentrification, and MLK Boulevard. Lakia’s block in Garfield Heights, minutes from the Maryland border, seemed sturdy and unremarkable. I parked in front of a modest, brick row house. A chain-link fence enclosed a small front yard that offered little room for child’s play.I entered the gate and knocked on the door, and Lakia emerged, engaged in an urgent conversation on her cellphone.

She nodded, followed me to my car, and continued talking, rattling instructions to a volunteer for a production that she and other women were putting on. They were staging monologues to tell their stories of pain and tri-umph and inspire others; it was Lakia’s brainchild and new mission. With long extensions that she twisted as she talked, Lakia sounded more like an entertainment producer than a HUD voucher holder who had recently moved from a homeless shelter.She escaped by luck, pluck, and fierce advocacy on her behalf from a Georgetown Law student and faculty advisor. Lakia had known stability. In 2013, she and her husband had been living in the same apartment for seven years, in a working-class Black neighbor-hood in Temple Hills, Maryland, until hell came to them. Simultane-ously, they were both laid off and soon fell behind on rent. Then they were robbed. Masked men invaded in the early afternoon, perhaps not expecting an unemployed parent at home with young kids. Lakia recalled staring at the gun in her face as she pleaded with the invad-ers not to harm her children. The Barnetts were the seventh family in the area to be robbed. The invaders stole all their valuables and the rent money they had accumulated.

“Everything else after that was just a tornado,” she said. “We filed a police report. They didn’t find [the robbers] and I don’t think the police really cared. They may have even suspected us.” The sheriff came to evict them with no notice. “They told us to get out immediately,” she said.Broke, they moved in with Lakia’s mother in Northeast DC af-ter which the mother herself was soon evicted. The Barnetts spent the next two years moving, from family to friends to hotels, wher-ever they could stay until they wore out their welcome or ran out of money. Lakia and her husband, who prefers to remain anonymous, tried hard to find jobs. “No one would hire us,” Lakia said of this period. “We had high school diplomas but no clear skills.” Lakia had worked with children at a YMCA until that program was shuttered and she was laid off. Her husband had been a concierge at an apart-ment building.
Lakia described herself as “very hands-on with my children.” She could not afford childcare and could only work during school hours. She managed to get hired as a dietary aide at a hospital, delivering trays of food to patients. After about a year, she was fired abruptly by a supervisor who would not accommodate her request for time off to deal with her mother’s emergency hospitalization and yet another eviction. “I was not allowed to have any error in my life,” she said of her supervisor.

The Barnetts lived on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), family donations, and informal work her husband found. Lakia’s friends, shocked when she announced she was expecting a third child, encouraged her to abort. They had two sons and after she gave birth to a girl, her husband told her, “I knew this was my girl because everybody wanted us to get rid of her.” They were a devoted, Christian family that held on to each other through turbulence.A week after her daughter was born, Lakia relented and went to an intake center for DC homeless shelters. They lived in a squalid hotel on New York Avenue in Northeast DC for nine months. “It was terrible,” she said. A wet ceiling dripped on her asthmatic son. His eyes swelled, and her other son developed issues with his stomach. There were fights among residents, and prostitutes hailed customers across the street from the hotel.This was Lakia’s first experience living in concentrated poverty. She felt that about half the residents were people like herself, who were “trying hard to do things right,” she said. The other half had succumbed to hopelessness. “A lot of people there had lost a sense of life,” Lakia said of residents who took or sold drugs or engaged in other destructive behavior.

“You have to understand,” she elaborated, “some people do things because they don’t see any other way to survive.” Lakia tried to make the best of the hotel-shelter. She organized a dance group for young girls who lived there and found herself minis-tering to residents. She became an advocate for women in the shelter, particularly those who had been abused domestically or sexually. She is still haunted by the day she watched as an infant was taken from a mother, purportedly because of the deeds of a violent boyfriend.The Barnetts moved to DC General after Lakia complained about health risks to her children. This large shelter on the premises of a former hospital, which has since closed, “felt like a prison,” she said. The security guards and some staff were “nasty” and treated resi-dents like they were “the lowest,” she stated. “A lot of people have been misunderstood because they are homeless. They have feelings, ambition, goals but they didn’t know how to execute” to achieve them.

At the shelter, she said, “there was no room to see the individ-ual, to find out what passions or vision they had to make themselves better.” The attitude of the staff was “just go take anything” for a job, even though working at a McDonald’s, she said, might not be a sustainable path. “No one would know from my being homeless that I could publish two books, host my own radio show, or start a [theater] movement” for women, she said proudly of her journey.

The decaying DC General homeless shelter was infested by rats, and bugs that bit children. A baby died there. An eight-year-old, Rel-isha Rudd, was taken from the building by a janitor in 2014 and was never found. An investigation revealed more than a dozen claims of shelter employees sexually abusing tenants.2 Mayor Muriel Bowser closed the shelter in 2018, replacing it with six smaller facilities scat-tered throughout the city, including one erected in affluent Ward Three, over the objections of some locals. While living at DC Gen-eral, Lakia learned to tap the resources and networks of service pro-viders, particularly an onsite legal clinic.Georgetown’s Health Justice Alliance set out to improve outcomes for poor families by addressing multiple social determinants of their health, including stable housing and quality education. A Georgetown Law student helped Lakia advocate for her children. Both sons have dyslexia and other disabilities. The student-lawyer helped Lakia negotiate the DC school lottery. In DC’s segregated school system, a “great” school meant a whiter school than Lakia was used to. The elementary school her sons had attended had a way of “dropping the ball,” she said.

Through the lottery, they accessed better options. Her younger son, Jermel, was placed at School Within A School Elemen-tary, its child-centered teaching philosophy inspired by the Reggio Emilia schools of Italy, which Lakia described as “really great.” The school had more of a “mixture” of students and more “structure” than where he had been, she said.Lakia’s advocate helped her acquire an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for both her sons. The federal government grants about $12 billion annually to states and localities to pay for services for the 10 percent of American children with special needs.

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