Societal racism is defined as a society with racist attitudes that prevent minorities from fully participating in social institutions. The University of Mississippi and the town it resides in, Oxford, suffered from this problem long before the University had been desegregated in 1962 and continue to endure this type of society fifty-two years later. There is an unstable display of people in this Mississippi society in the ways they interact and exist together. “The problems faced by the African American community of Oxford are the result of a complex integration of historical events, social practices, spatial isolation, and regional ideologies.” (Thomas-Houston Page 27) The social structures, such as education, politics, religion, and community borders have dominated the history of Oxford and encouraged racial inequality among the students, workers, parents, and children in the community.
Lafayette is a primarily Christian-based county consisting of many white and black Methodist and Baptist churches. All black churches were built by newly freed slaves that no longer wanted to continue worshiping under the same rooves as their former masters. First, they had to be granted permission to do so, and the whites had to sanction the black churches. “The need for whites to sanction the establishment of the Black churches speaks to the degree of dependency created by post-Emancipation paternalistic structures of this Southern Society.” (Thomas-Houston Page 37) The bulk of the churches still continue to be segregated today. A few efforts have been made to change the division among these places of worship. For example, there were invitations for black workers at the University sent out from an all whit...
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...5) The physical separation proved to be exceedingly difficult to overcome because the social hierarchy prohibited blacks from climbing the economic ladder enough to move into a more wealthy area.
The many social structures engrained in the history and community of Oxford, Mississippi made it extremely difficult for blacks to gain equal status in a historically white supremacist environment. The University of Mississippi, which was founded in an area with deeply rooted prejudice, has suffered greatly from the racial inequalities, which it still struggles to overcome, though in much smaller ways, today. While it is undeniable that great progress has been made, social structures never change. Therefore, they will always have influence on Ole Miss and the city of Oxford but each generation has the power to determine the severity and productivity of these effects.
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