US Government Discrimination

The U.S. Government codified discrimination within the law and participated in unbelievable acts against its own citizens. 

Although, the primary function of is to provide the tools and information to help people act as their own attorney and represent themselves in court, history and the law are closely tied together. It's important to know that even though government is supposed to protect our rights and privileges, historically, government has often been the oppressor.

Hurricane Katrina

The government failed to provide water, food or any type of aid to a mostly black population of stranded people after the New Orleans levees broke. After days of around the clock news coverage, the U.S. Government stated they weren't aware of the situation and the military that is trained to go into combat zones and performs rescue operations in war-torn areas reportedly couldn't go into New Orleans because of alleged random gunfire. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people died needlessly because of inaction. Tim Wise during his lecture about white privilege briefly discusses Katrina.

free money for college

See additional Katrina comments on our "Racial Bias in Mass Media" Page.

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Tuskegee Experiment

The Tuskegee syphilis experiment was an infamous clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men in Alabama. They were told that they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government.

The Public Health Service started working on this study in 1932 during the Great Depression, in collaboration with the Tuskegee Institute, a historically black college in Alabama. Investigators enrolled in the study a total of 600 impoverished sharecroppers from Macon County, Alabama. Of these men, 399 had previously contracted syphilis before the study began, and 201 did not have the disease. The men were given free medical care, meals, and free burial insurance for participating in the study.

None of the men infected were ever told they had the disease, nor were any treated for it with penicillin after this antibiotic became proven for treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the men were told they were being treated for "bad blood", a local term for various illnesses that include syphilis, anemia, and fatigue.

The 40-year study was controversial for reasons related to ethical standards, primarily because researchers knowingly failed to treat patients appropriately after the 1940s validation of penicillin as an effective cure for the disease they were studying. Revelation in 1972 of study failures by a whistleblower led to major changes in U.S. law and regulation on the protection of participants in clinical studies. Now studies require informed consent communication of diagnosis and accurate reporting of test results.

By 1947, penicillin had become the standard treatment for syphilis. Choices available to the doctors involved in the study might have included treating all syphilitic subjects and closing the study, or splitting off a control group for testing with penicillin. Instead, the Tuskegee scientists continued the study without treating any participants; they withheld penicillin and information about it from the patients. In addition, scientists prevented participants from accessing syphilis treatment programs available to other residents in the area. The study continued, under numerous US Public Health Service supervisors, until 1972, when a leak to the press resulted in its termination on November 16 of that year. 

By the end of the study in 1972, only 74 of the test subjects were alive. Of the original 399 men, 28 had died of syphilis, 100 were dead of related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected, and 19 of their children were born with congenital syphilis.

Miss Ever's Boys

The 1997 HBO television film, "Miss Evers' Boys", tells the story of the decades-long Tuskegee experiment from the perspective of the small town nurse Eunice Evers (Alfre Woodard) who is well aware of the lack of treatment, but feels her role is to console the involved men, many of whom are her close friends. This is the perfect illustration of why it's important to educate yourself. How could a woman who considered herself a friend allow these men to suffer without mentioning a word? 

See our related page, "Medical Oppression".

thin separator lineCIA Importing Drugs in Black Communities

On April 17, 1986, the Reagan administration released a three-page report stating that there were some Contra-cocaine connections in 1984 and 1985 and that these connections occurred at a time when the rebels were "particularly hard pressed for financial support" because aid from the United States had been cut off. CIA Inspector-General Frederick Hitz, testified before a House congressional committee that under an agreement in 1982 between Ronald Reagan's Attorney General William French Smith and the CIA, agency officers were not required to report allegations of drug trafficking involving non-employees, defined as paid and non-paid "assets"—pilots who ferried supplies to the contras, as well as contra officials and others.

In 1996 Gary Webb an investigative journalist with the San Jose Mercury News uncovered the CIA's role in importing huge amounts of cocaine into the U.S. that was aggressively sold in black communities across the country. The money raised by selling cocaine which fueled the widespread crack epidemic was used to purchase weapons for the Nicaraguan Contras rebel army. This all occurred during the so-called war on drugs. The details were published in a series of three articles.

Article 1: America's 'crack' plague has roots in Nicaragua war

Article 2: Shadowy origins of 'crack' epidemic

Article 3: War on drugs has unequal impact on black Americans

Webb’s bold, controversial reporting was the target of a famously vicious media backlash that ended his career as a mainstream journalist. When Webb persisted with his research and compiled his findings in 1998 in the book Dark Alliance, some of the same publications that had vilified Webb for his series retracted their criticism and praised him for having the courage to tell the truth about one of the worst official abuses in our nation’s history. Webb allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself two times in the head.

"If we had met five years ago, you wouldn't have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me … I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests. So how could I possibly agree with people like Noam Chomsky and Ben Bagdikian, who were claiming the system didn't work, that it was steered by powerful special interests and corporations, and existed to protect the power elite? And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I'd enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn't been, as I'd assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job … The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn't written anything important enough to suppress" – from the book, "Dark Alliance", by Gary Webb.

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FBI War Against Black America

COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram) was a series of covert, and at times illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations. National Security Agency operation Project MINARET targeted the personal communications of leading civil rights leaders, Americans who criticized the Vietnam War, including Senators (e.g., Frank Church and Howard Baker), journalists, and athletes.

ABOVE: COINTELPRO: The FBI's War on Black America

ABOVE: Edward Snowden talks about FBI's COINTELPRO, CIA's MK ULTRA and Black Lives Matters

How the FBI Sabotaged Black America

FBI Says Racist Organizations Have Been Infiltrating Police Departments For Years

The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders

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U.S. Government Discrimination Against Black Farmers

The United States Government pays between $10-30 billion each year to farmers in direct cash subsidies as "farm income stabilization" via U.S. farm bills. These bills pre-date the Great Depression with the 1922 Grain Futures Act, the 1929 Agricultural Marketing Act and the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act creating a tradition of government support. However, black farmers were systematically discriminated against and excluded from these programs, which caused many black farms to fail due to unfair competition with subsidized white farmers. In 2014 a federal judge's ruling finalized a settlement for black farmers in a discrimination lawsuit involving complaints from 30 years ago. The settlement compensates for only a tiny fraction of the losses endured by black farmers; many of whom died during that 30 year period.

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U.S. Army Conducted Secret Radiation Testing around Pruitt Igoe

The military-sponsored studies targeted a segregated, high-density urban area, where low-income persons of color predominantly resided including Pruitt Igoe. Examination of the Manhattan-Rochester Coalition and the St. Louis aerosol studies reveal their connections to each other, and to a much larger military project that secretly tested humans in an effort to understand the effects of weaponized radiation.

"There has to be a sense of betrayal here, of people being deceived and targeted by their own government,"… "Even if there are laws in place which appear to protect people, without transparency, governments may be able to violate rights without their victims even knowing it. This case is an example of that." – Lisa Martino-Taylor

“The Manhattan-Rochester Coalition, research on the health effects of radioactive materials, and tests on vulnerable populations without consent in St. Louis, 1945–1970″

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During the 2008 State of the Black Union, my uncle, Dick Gregory mentioned substances that may be purposefully introduced into black communities, years before the Pruitt Igoe radiation testing became public knowledge. Those comments begin on part 4. However, we recommend watching both parts which are both entertaining and thought-provoking.

The State of the Black Union was an annual event in the United States to consider issues of particular relevance in the African American community, featuring prominent community leaders and speakers including President Barack Obama, Cornel West, Danny Glover, Nikki Giovanni, Na'im Akbar, Michael Eric Dyson, Lani Guinier, Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Les Brown, Raymond A. Brown, Dick Gregory, Randall Robinson, Al Sharpton, Iyanla Vanzant, the late Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr., Maxine Waters, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Harry Belafonte, Louis Farrakhan and Tom Joyner.

In January 2010, the founder, Tavis Smiley, announced after ten years that he was ending the event in favor of producing more programs for the Public Broadcasting Service.

Dick Gregory at State of Black Union 2008 Part 1

Dick Gregory at State of Black Union 2008 Part 2

Dick Gregory at State of Black Union 2008 Part 3

Dick Gregory at State of Black Union 2008 Part 4

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From PBS: Race – The Power of an Illusion

The Federal Government policies and programs that helped white families achieve the American Dream made it difficult for minorities to buy homes and amass wealth.

1935: Social Security created
When Congress created social security in 1935, it provided a safety net for millions of workers, guaranteeing them an income after retirement. However, the act's provisions excluded agricultural workers and domestic servants, who were predominantly African American, Mexican, and Asian. As low-income workers, minorities had the least opportunity to save, were least likely to have pensions, and were most vulnerable to economic recession, yet they were systematically excluded from the protection and benefits granted to most Americans.

1935: Wagner Act legalizes collective bargaining and labor organizing
Like Social Security, the Wagner Act helped establish an important new right – to unionize. The act's original version prohibited racial discrimination, but the American Federation of Labor fought against it and the final version permitted unions to exclude nonwhites. As a result, nonwhites were not only locked out of higher-paying jobs, they were also denied union protection and benefits: medical care, full employment, and job security. Moreover, they were legally barred from challenging their exclusion. Although the laws changed in the late 1950s, many craft unions remained all-white well into the 1970s.

1930s-1940s: Federal housing programs spur suburb growth
Beginning in the 1930s and 1940s, the federal government created programs that subsidized low-cost loans, opening up home ownership to millions of average Americans for the first time. At the same time, government underwriters introduced a national appraisal system, tying property value and loan eligibility to race. Consequently, all-white communities received the highest ratings and benefited from low-cost, government-backed loans, while minority and mixed neighborhoods received the lowest ratings and were denied these loans. Of the $120 billion worth of new housing subsidized by the government between 1934 and 1962, less than 2 percent went to nonwhite families. Nonwhites were locked out of home ownership just as most white Americans were finally getting in.

The third segment of "Race – The Power of Illusion" shown below talks about the systemic racial exclusion of Social Security, Unions, and Federal Housing Program.

1948: Restrictive covenants outlawed in Shelley v. Kraemer
Restrictive covenants, which barred homeowners from selling or leasing their homes to nonwhites, were common in many neighborhoods across the U.S. Although they were outlawed by this Supreme Court decision, exclusion continued. Private developers could still refuse to sell homes to nonwhites, and real estate agents steered nonwhite prospective homebuyers away from white neighborhoods. Following government guidelines, lenders continued to base property appraisals on race, denying loans to communities with nonwhites or insisting on higher fees and interest rates to cover their "risk." By systematically devaluing nonwhite neighborhoods and homebuyers, federal intervention helped disguise racial discrimination and enabled many to claim that the resulting segregation was "market driven."

1949: National Housing Act authorizes urban redevelopment
The housing market available to most nonwhites was rental and later, public housing in segregated urban centers. Government-sponsored urban redevelopment programs destroyed more housing than they built. Ninety percent of all housing destroyed by urban renewal was not replaced; two-thirds of those displaced were Black or Latino. As urban renewal projects destroyed taxable properties, the burden for maintaining social services was shifted onto fewer and fewer residents – encouraging white flight and making the poor poorer.

1950s-1960s: Economy and housing boom
During the 1950s and 1960s, more and more white homeowners moved to the suburbs. Federal and state tax dollars subsidized the construction and development of municipal services for suburbs, in turn fueling commercial investment. Freeways in major cities connected white suburbs to central business districts, but they were often built through core areas of Black settlement. Many urban Black areas lost their neighborhood shopping districts and successful small businesses as a result. By the 1960s, many businesses began moving jobs from cities to suburbs, further concentrating wealth and needed tax dollars away from urban areas.

1960s: Fair housing laws passed
In the 1960s, the government made several efforts to end housing discrimination, most notably Kennedy's 1962 Executive Order and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Although these were important, they had little practical impact. Appraisers continued to factor race into their assessments and some practices, such as racial steering and predatory lending, continue to this day. It was not until 1988 that fair housing laws were amended to expand their scope and include important enforcement provisions. In the 1970s, '80s and '90s, housing prices rose dramatically, and white homeowners who benefited from discriminatory federal policies were able to sell their homes at great profit. Meanwhile, minority groups who had been denied federal assistance had homes worth far less or faced an even higher cost of entry into the housing market.


Residential segregation didn't happen by accident. The U.S. federal government took many steps to channel resources and opportunities to whites and away from nonwhites, resulting in an enormous wealth gap that persists today.

In 1993, 86% of suburban whites still lived in places with a Black population of less than 1%. The 2000 Census showed that whites are still more likely to be segregated than any other group. Today, 71% of whites own their own home, compared to 44% of African Americans. Black and Latino mortgage applicants are 60% more likely than whites to be turned down for loans.

As housing gets more expensive and wealth gets passed down from generation to generation, the legacy of past discrimination persists, giving whites and nonwhites vastly different life chances.

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