Race, Caste, Class and San Francisco Homelessness

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This paper presents the origin and development of the race, class and caste-based practices responsible for San Francisco homelessness from the late 1700s when Europeans arrived in the territory until today. Primary attention is devoted the manner in which the white majority has used various modes of discrimination to maintain economic, cultural and political primacy over other groups. Those modes have ranged from the brutal ethnic cleansing campaigns waged against Native Americans during the 1700s to the anti-Chinese, lynching mobs of the 1800s. During the 1900s, San Francisco’s dominant white majority commonly used discriminatory laws and economic collusion to maintain dominance. One of the many unfortunate results of such practices is the fact from its very first days as a ragged settlement to its current status as world-class metropolis, San Francisco’s population has more or less continuously included a large number of desperately poor, homeless residents. The paper documents the history of this segment of the city’s population, including the horrific array of social problems associated with its existence. Finally, the paper raises the question as to whether the systems of discrimination embedded in San Francisco’s discriminatory traditions and exclusive current practices violate the letter and spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in ways which might reasonably be described as crimes against humanity.


Keywords: Homelessness, Race Discrimination, Crimes Against Humanity
Stream: Identity and Belonging; the Politics of Diversity; Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr. Robert Louis Terrell

Professor, Department of Communication, California State University
Hayward, California, USA

My work focuses on the manner in which various modes of discrimination are used to disenfranchise citizens via the use of government policies and collaborative assistance by the press and other systems of mass communication. During recent years, I have focused major attention on the problem of homelessness as it is manifest and perpetuated in developed and developing societies. I am intent on raising questions regarding basic human rights violations associated with endemic homeless of the sort commonly found in wealthy, developed societies.

Ref: D08P0221