Homeownership Symposium - Homeownership, Wealth, & the Production of Racialized Space

john a. powell, Kaloma Cardwell

HBTL-07: Housing is key to the production of race in contemporary American society.  Patterns of residential living not only shape and define the meanings of race, but they are the primary explanatory variable to the production of racial inequality.  We live in institutions and structures that shape who we are and our life chances.  These structures are sometimes referred to as opportunity structures.  Housing is at the hub of these opportunity structures.  Housing is instrumental to the life chances of individuals, families, and communities.  For example, housing defines educational opportunities through tax policies that rely heavily on local property taxes to fund schools.  In turn, jurisdictional boundaries, which define tax policy, shape housing patterns in dynamic relation.  This is not a natural role of housing.  It has not always played that role in the United States and often does not play that role in other societies.   

It is important then to understand what work race and other othering processes are doing, and how we construct and maintain these processes.  In the United States, racial identity and stratifications are the manifestations of a process of othering, giving shape and meaning to the dominant norm of whiteness and commitment to an ideology of radically separate individualism.  This paper will explore the role of housing as one of the, if not the primary, mediating institutions for the reproduction of racial meaning and racial distribution in modern America.