Race: Are We So Different? – Social Stratification

By Museum of Us

The Museum of Us’ Race: Are We So Different? Google Arts and Culture exhibit – Social Stratification aims to highlight how social stratification intersects with race to create significant impacts on how we experience our lives.

Race: Are We So Different? Exhibit (2020) by Alexander AdamsMuseum of Us

The Race: Are We So Different? exhibition was created by the American Anthropological Association. Their intention is to bring “together the everyday experience of living with race, as an idea, the role of science in that history, and the findings of contemporary science that are challenging its foundations.” The Museum of Us brought a live version of this exhibit to San Diego In 2015.

For more information about the American Anthropological Association’s project, please visit their website Understanding Race. For more information about the exhibit at the Museum of Us, please visit Race: Are We So Different?.

Race: Are We So Different? Exhibit (2020) by Alexander AdamsMuseum of Us

The Museum of Us invites you to now join our Google Arts and Culture exhibit, Race: Are We So Different? -- Race and Social Stratification, which is a companion piece to our Google Arts and Culture exhibit
Race: Are We So Different?.

As we travel through this exhibit we will look at issues of race and social stratification in our society, and more importantly connect these social issues to our everyday life and social world. Please join us as we talk more about how the disparities in income and wealth, housing opportunities, and the demographics of the neighborhood one lives in affects people’s lives.

Wealth Accumulation by Race (2021-08-01) by Museum of UsMuseum of Us

Social Stratification is a system by which society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy. These hierarchies can result in some parts of the population having more wealth, power, and prestige than others.

Did you know...There is a difference between income and wealth?

Income is defined as the earnings from work or investments. Wealth is the total value of money and other various assets, minus debt. The Pew Research Center data states that much of the income and wealth is concentrated in the top 20% of the United States population. The gap between the rich and the poor has grown over the past fifty years, with the rich only getting richer.

Grape Day Park in Escondido (2018-05-11) by Hayne Palmour IVMuseum of Us

While much of the income and wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, especially white males. The process by which race, class, and gender collectively form our social location is coined “intersectionality.” Intersectionality contends that our life experiences lie at the intersection of multiple social locations working with one another to form our social world.

For example, the Pew Research Center argues that the black-white income gap in the United States has persisted over time. The median black household income was 61% of median white household income in 2018. Additionally, the United States Census Bureau finds that the poverty rate in 2019 was 10.5%, or roughly 34 million people. Blacks and Hispanics experienced higher poverty rates, at 18.8% and 15.7% respectively.

Crossroads of Privilege and Race (2021-08-01) by Museum of UsMuseum of Us

Social stratification and the unequal access to resources in the United States manifests itself in various aspects of social life. Historically, minority groups experience residential segregation and housing discrimination through processes such as redlining, racial steering, gentrification, and white flight.

San Diego Redlining (2021-08-01) by Museum of UsMuseum of Us

Redlining is the denial of housing opportunities by those in positions of power, such as governments and mortgage companies, to keep low income and minority populations in certain neighborhoods and out of others. The term was coined when mortgage companies would create housing maps that were marked with red areas that were deemed too risky to insure mortgages. Many African Americans were historically denied mortgages, while companies were helping to mass produce suburban communities for whites.

CORE-sponsored demonstration at realtor office of Picture Floor Plans (1964-05-04) by Seattle Police DepartmentMuseum of Us

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 banned the practice of redlining and allowed minority groups to purchase homes in any neighborhood. While de jure (by law) housing segregation was banned, de facto (in practice) housing segregation still existed. Many mortgage prices were so expensive in America that many minority groups were still not able to afford mortgages. Hence, communities remained segregated by socio-economic factors such as race, class, gender, and citizenship status.

San Antonio Home Foreclosure (2016-12-30) by Eric GayMuseum of Us

During the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the American economy faced a recession that greatly impacted minority communities. The practice of subprime loans, which had higher interest rates and less favorable terms, were disproportionately given to Black and Latino households. Many subprime loans eventually defaulted and created lasting adverse housing outcomes for many lower income minority groups. For example, the United States Census Bureau found that in 2015, 37% of households in the United States did not own a home and 47.1% of households did not have a retirement account.

San Digeo Bay (2017) by Shelby Miller (photographer)Museum of Us

Racial steering is the practice of real estate agencies steering prospective home buyers towards or away from neighborhoods, often by criteria such as race, class, and gender. This process can work both at the individual and structural level in San Diego. For instance, realtors may purposely provide less information to minorities and disincentivize them from purchasing a home in white, wealthy areas. Conversely, realtors may steer minorities to lower income communities to maintain residential segregation.

Like redlining, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 banned racial steering. Unfortunately, racial steering still exists today. Realtors may still engage in racial microaggressions.
Minorities also suffer from the structural implications of racial steering, such as living in communities with higher poverty rates, lower educational attainment rates, and limited access to health care.

Barrio Logan on Gentrification (2019-09-28) by Andrea Lopez-VillafañaMuseum of Us

Gentrification is the development of a community through the influx of wealthier individuals and businesses. This influx often increases the value of the neighborhood while also changing its demographics. This can cause population displacement and the migration of lower income individuals and businesses out of the community.

The continual redevelopment of certain areas of cities-not the areas with the most need-is driven by profit motivations and frequently assisted by local and federal governments. The process of gentrification also tends to benefit affluent whites and hurts low income African Americans and other minorities who have difficulty obtaining loans to purchase homes in those redeveloped areas.

Segregation Quote (2021) by Kelsey PickertMuseum of Us

Residential segregation bifurcates wealthy white communities from other neighborhoods. When minorities (particularly African Americans) could penetrate these homogenous upper-class neighborhoods, residential segregation was historically maintained through the process of “white flight.” White flight occurs when whites move away, into other communities to continue to separate themselves from minorities. In the 1930s, the Underwriting Manual of the Federal Housing Commission created government regulation that legally allowed for the racial and economic separation of communities through mechanisms such as freeways.

Diversification of the American population has shifted the way in which residential segregation occurs today. White flight does not exist in the same manner, as much of the segregation within cities has remained the same but the segregation between cities has grown larger over time.

Map of San Diego Region Neighborhoods by Race (2021-08-01) by Museum of UsMuseum of Us

The unequal investment and disinvestment by the wealthy physically divide upper-class and working-class residential areas to avoid interaction between them. Residential segregation creates unevenly developed communities with high and low property values that benefit the capitalist class. The photo illustrates the areas in San Diego with the highest levels of segregation in San Diego between 1980 and 2000. Additionally, high levels of residential segregation generally create higher poverty rates and lower educational attainment rates for many minorities.

Becoming Mexipino Rudy P. Guevarra Jr. (2012) by Rudy P. Guevarra Jr.Museum of Us

Did you know…San Diego has also experienced, and continues to experience, residential segregation? Rudy Guevarra, an Asian Pacific American Studies Professor at Arizona State University, documents the historical migration patterns of Mexicans and Filipinos in San Diego. Mexican and Filipino history share cultural legacies of colonization by the Spanish that facilitate their “intricate, interethnic relationships.” For instance, the Acapulco-Manila Galleon Trade (1565-1815) created cultural similarities in religion, language, and culture.

In San Diego, economic and social development of the 1930s brought many workers in the areas of agriculture, fish-canning, service work, and wartime industries. Redlining practices confined Filipino and Mexican families to areas such as the South Bay, Logan Heights, and Downtown San Diego. Despite the banning of redlining in 1968, residential segregation still persists today.

To learn more about Guevarra’s work, take a look at his book Becoming Mexipino.

Race: Are We So Different? Exhibit (2020) by Alexander AdamsMuseum of Us

Race impacts our everyday life and social world. The Museum of Us’ Race: Are We So Different? Google Arts and Culture exhibit briefly explores how social stratification and racial discrimination impact housing opportunities in the United States. We hope that you will continue to learn more about race and racism to become agents for positive social change.

To learn more, there are additional resources at the conclusion of this online exhibit. You can also visit the Museum of Us’ in-person exhibit and our other virtual exhibits:
• Race: Are We So Different?
• Race and Education

Museum of Us Entrance (2020-08-03) by Kelsey Pickert (Photographer)Museum of Us

Reflection Questions:

1. What are your favorite parts of the community you live in?
2. What does your own neighborhood look like? Has your neighborhood changed over recent years?
3. How can we be part of a collective endeavor for community care and support?

Nissan Foundation Thank You (2021-08-01) by Museum of UsMuseum of Us

Credits: Story

Developed by the Education Department at the Museum of Us, 2021

Thank you to all of the educators, community members, BIPOC relatives, and community organizations and partners who were generous with their time, energies (emotional and physical), expertise, and kindness. We are grateful for all of you and are able to do this work because of you.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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