Race & Ethnicity Essay Examples & Outline

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Race and Ethnicity of the Neighborhoods of Detroit


The city of Detroit is a city that has witnessed a drastic metamorphosis over the last 50 to 60 years. This metamorphosis has seen the city of Detroit change from a central industrial hub to a city that is on the verge of filing for bankruptcy. This drastic economic change has had a detrimental effect on the society of Detroit and the composition of this society. This has affected all the scopes of Detroit city and the Detroit society at large (Farley, Danziger, Holzer, 2002).

The effects of this drastic change had left many Detroiters poorer than they were before the collapse of the industrial system that many cities in the United States of America envied. The race and ethnicity of the city of Detroit is largely influenced by the economic state of the Detroiters and the city at large. The city of Detroit’s race and ethnicity composition varies greatly from the city to the suburbs, as well (Zenk, 2004).

Historical composition

The city of Detroit has always been marred by a barrage of racial discrimination challenges. In the past, Detroit was a city in which people lived in apartheid-like conditions. The inhabitants of Detroit were not allowed to mingle and live freely, in spite of the racial diversity that the city had. The city of Detroit was always separated, leaving the white community and the black community leading completely different lives. Many of the whites that lived in Detroit lived in the suburbs, where they enjoyed good housing and proper amenities that catered to their needs.

On the other hand, many black inhabitants of Detroit lived miserable lives in run-down neighborhoods where even the basic needs were considered luxuries. The racial disparity of Detroit was so much that housing developers were not allowed to put up housing projects (intended for the white community) in proximity to black neighborhoods that were considered unsafe and unfit for human inhabitation. One of the highlights that confirmed this racial disparity between the whites and the blacks of Detroit is the erection of a half-a-mile-long wall by a housing developer in the 1940s. This wall was erected to separate a black neighborhood from a potentially white neighborhood.

At the time, the city of Detroit was largely African-American with the white community based in the suburbs (Zenk, 2004). The blacks were mainly involved in doing menial work such as being maids, construction workers, as well as factory workers. The booming factory business in the city of Detroit was responsible for the large racial disparity between whites and blacks. The many blacks formed the majority of the casual laborers at the factories while the few whites formed the management staff at the factories, with very few being casual laborers (Farley, Danziger, Holzer, 2002).

This left the white community richer than the black community hence it was able to afford good housing in the suburbs. The black community lived in poverty and was forced to reside in the run-down areas of Detroit. The movement of factories form the core of the urban areas to the suburbs provided an opportunity for the white community to follow, but the black community was restricted from moving to the suburbs and ended up remaining in the urban core of Detroit. This played a central role in the segregation and disparity witnessed between the black and white communities in the following years, culminating in the 1967 Detroit riot that was also called the 12th street riot.

Modern composition

The city of Detroit has also realized change in its composition over the years. It was common place to have the white community living in the suburbs and the black community living in the urban core, but this practice is shifting. Over the past few years, Detroit has been a center of change with the white community moving into the urban core of Detroit whilst the black community moves more into the suburbs. A survey of the population census of 2010 shows that more black households are moving into the suburbs and the white community is moving into the city (Quickfacts.census.gov, 2013).

This change is evidence of the changing attitudes of both the black and white communities in Detroit. The city of Detroit is largely black and experiences very high levels of poverty. Ironically, north of the city of Detroit is the county of Oakland, that is largely white and, the richest county in the state. These two neighborhoods contrast the economic status of Detroit and that of Oakland.

The city of Detroit has also evolved from a city that comprised white and black communities to one that also comprises the Hispanic community, the Native American and Alaskan community, as well as the Asian community. The black population forms 81% of the city of Detroit while the white population forms a meager 10% of the city of Detroit inhabitants (Quickfacts.census.gov, 2013). The Hispanic community claims 7% of the population and the remaining communities comprise a meager 2% (Quickfacts.census.gov, 2013). The diversity of Detroit continues to grow with each passing day as testament to the changes that Detroit continues to witness in its political, social and economic landscapes.

Social classes

The city of Detroit is a diverse city that houses many races. The racial divide of Detroit skews in favor of the African –American community, although there are a number of other races in the city of Detroit (Farley, Danziger, Holzer, 2002). The city of Detroit has the white community forming the vast majority of the professional body. Many of the white inhabitants of Detroit are well educated and take up managerial positions in most of the companies in Detroit.

However, many of the black inhabitants form the basis of many companies in terms of labor (Quickfacts.census.gov, 2013). They occupy a vast majority of the lower employment levels such s janitors, cleaners, parking meter attendants and community workers. They share these opportunities with the Hispanic and Native American communities. The Asian community is primarily engaged in business, with many Asians being self-employed (Quickfacts.census.gov, 2013).

The social standing of the inhabitants of Detroit is a replica of the financial status of the city of Detroit. However, this social standing is directly proportional to the living conditions of the inhabitants of Detroit. Many individuals living in the suburbs of Detroit form the middle class of the city of Detroit (Zenk, 2004). The inhabitants of the urban core of Detroit form the lower classes of Detroit. This is evident in the living condition that these two groups of individuals experience. The professions that many of these individuals hold also contribute to the social levels that these individuals have. It is also noteworthy that the jobs that many of these individuals hold may have been influenced by their race and ethnicity, making Detroit a discriminate city.


The city of Detroit continues to face a web of challenges in its quest to re-define itself and re-establish itself as an industrial powerhouse (Farley, Danziger, Holzer, 2002). It is very sad that the challenge of racial and ethnic division is still a challenge that looks the city of Detroit right in the face.


Farley, R., Danziger, S., & Holzer, H. J. (2002). Detroit divided. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Zenk, S. N. (2004). Neighborhood racial composition, neighborhood poverty, and food access in metropolitan Detroit: Geographic information systems and spatial analysis.
Quickfacts.census.gov (2013). Detroit (city) QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau.