Sunday, April 01, 2018

The U.S. Govt Fixed The Negroe's Unenviable Position In America



theatlantic |  The reality, however, is that the government is uniquely responsible for creating slums, which King viewed as “a system of internal colonialism not unlike the exploitation of the Congo by Belgium.” In the 1930s, the government-sponsored Home Owners’ Loan Corporation introduced the private-sector to redlining when it produced color-coded maps of urban areas; black neighborhoods were marked in red, which indicated that they were the riskiest areas to insure mortgages. Consequently, white residents received virtually all loans from the Federal Housing Administration between 1934 and 1962. “But for this kind of government policy, we would not have the segregated patterns that we have today,” Rothstein said.

The FHA was so determined to keep African Americans out of white neighborhoods that it provided methods for doing so in its underwriting manual, which stated that “natural or artificially established barriers will prove effective in protecting a neighborhood and the locations within it from adverse influences … [which] includes prevention of the infiltration of business and industrial uses, lower class occupancy, and inharmonious racial groups.” As Rothstein writes in his book, the FHA favored areas that built highways through and between neighborhoods to keep them separated on the basis of race. In one instance, the FHA refused to guarantee loans for homes in a Detroit development adjacent to a black neighborhood unless the developer built a wall to keep the black neighbors out. “The reason federal agencies are on the hook in the first place is that they created the segregated and unequal society that we have today,” Katherine O’Regan, a former HUD official, said.

As Rothstein told WHYY’s Terry Gross, the FHA rationalized their segregation tactics on the faulty premise that home values would depreciate if African Americans moved into—or near—white neighborhoods. But this was not the case. “The reality is that when African Americans moved into white neighborhoods, the property values went up simply because African Americans were willing to pay more for housing than whites since their supply was so restricted,” Rothstein told me. In fact, property values only declined when real-estate agents scared homeowners into selling their properties at a low price by telling them that black and brown residents were moving into their neighborhood—a practice known as blockbusting. (The realtors would then proceed to resell those homes to African Americans at higher prices.)

Part of the reason that fair and open housing, of all of King’s legacies, has had such difficulty gaining traction is that homeowners are particularly sensitive about losing control of their neighborhoods. “A lot of civil rights was about making the South behave and taking the teeth from George Wallace,” Walter Mondale, who co-authored the Fair Housing Act, said in an interview for ProPublica. “This came right to the neighborhoods across the country. This was civil rights getting personal.”

Today, many homeowners still operate under the same unfounded notion that the FHA used to promote its racist housing policies. “I think that there is a perception that people of color are inferior neighbors, and that they bring down the value of a neighborhood,” said Cedric M. Powell, a law professor at the University of Louisville. Throughout the nation’s history, there has been a persisting racist notion that blackness cheapens the value of society, while only whiteness can enrich it. That begins to explain why white residents continue to resist integration; the mere perception of black residents in a neighborhood stirs worry of declining housing prices. It also explains why establishments don’t want black customers; why Hollywood executives don’t want black actors; why white voters don’t want black representatives; and why the president wants immigrants from Norway instead of Haiti. In that sense, the struggle for fair housing is no different than any other struggle in America: It poses a threat to white wealth, a threat of a more equal society.