Monday, June 02, 2014

An Article Most White Americans Don't Want To Read

Anyone who believes that African-Americans are economically poorer than White Americans because they are somehow inferior to whites - don't work as hard, not as smart, whatever -  don't read this article.  It will disabuse you of your misconceptions.  It will force you to face the reality of how, even after slavery ended, after separate but equal ended, housing practices ensured that most African-Americans would live in ghettos and could not share in the economic benefits White Americans got through home ownership.

This is not an article for bigots.  Their hate isn't based on facts and won't be changed by facts.

It is an article for those who believe in freedom and equality and justice, but just don't know their history that well.  It's easy for them not to, because it wasn't taught in most schools.

It is an article for those who have a sense of the injustices and can always use supporting data for when they are talking to people who don't get it.   From The Atlantic.

The Case for Reparations
Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. 
Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.
Ta-Nehisi Coates
May 21, 2014

This is not easy reading.  It hurts too much.  Some excerpts:
Between 1882 and 1968, more black people were lynched in Mississippi than in any other state. “You and I know what’s the best way to keep the nigger from voting,” blustered Theodore Bilbo, a Mississippi senator and a proud Klansman. “You do it the night before the election.”
Coates follows the life of Clyde Ross and explains the mechanics of how it was impossible for his family to get a fair deal for their crops and labor from the white dealers who set the prices and were backed up by the local power structure.  Blacks who protested the non-negotiable terms were Bilboed.  How despite Clyde Ross being recommended by one of his teachers to go to a special school set up to help Southern black kids, it was too far to walk and there were no busses for black kids.  How he gets drafted and shipped to California where he experiences a relatively open society, serves in Guam, and on returning moves north to Chicago.
Three months after Clyde Ross moved into his house, the boiler blew out. This would normally be a homeowner’s responsibility, but in fact, Ross was not really a homeowner. His payments were made to the seller, not the bank. And Ross had not signed a normal mortgage. He’d bought “on contract”: a predatory agreement that combined all the responsibilities of homeownership with all the disadvantages of renting—while offering the benefits of neither. Ross had bought his house for $27,500. The seller, not the previous homeowner but a new kind of middleman, had bought it for only $12,000 six months before selling it to Ross. In a contract sale, the seller kept the deed until the contract was paid in full—and, unlike with a normal mortgage, Ross would acquire no equity in the meantime. If he missed a single payment, he would immediately forfeit his $1,000 down payment, all his monthly payments, and the property itself.
The men who peddled contracts in North Lawndale would sell homes at inflated prices and then evict families who could not pay—taking their down payment and their monthly installments as profit. Then they’d bring in another black family, rinse, and repeat. “He loads them up with payments they can’t meet,” an office secretary told The Chicago Daily News of her boss, the speculator Lou Fushanis, in 1963. “Then he takes the property away from them. He’s sold some of the buildings three or four times.”
Why would he take a loan on such bad terms?  Well, he was denied the kind of education that might have helped prevent it.  And he was lied to by the agents - who were really the owners and who steered him (and countless others) to attorneys who worked with the agent/owners. And he couldn't get a legitimate loan.
Ross had tried to get a legitimate mortgage in another neighborhood, but was told by a loan officer that there was no financing available. The truth was that there was no financing for people like Clyde Ross. From the 1930s through the 1960s, black people across the country were largely cut out of the legitimate home-mortgage market through means both legal and extralegal. Chicago whites employed every measure, from “restrictive covenants” to bombings, to keep their neighborhoods segregated.
Their efforts were buttressed by the federal government. In 1934, Congress created the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA insured private mortgages, causing a drop in interest rates and a decline in the size of the down payment required to buy a house. But an insured mortgage was not a possibility for Clyde Ross. The FHA had adopted a system of maps that rated neighborhoods according to their perceived stability. On the maps, green areas, rated “A,” indicated “in demand” neighborhoods that, as one appraiser put it, lacked “a single foreigner or Negro.” These neighborhoods were considered excellent prospects for insurance. Neighborhoods where black people lived were rated “D” and were usually considered ineligible for FHA backing. They were colored in red. Neither the percentage of black people living there nor their social class mattered. Black people were viewed as a contagion. Redlining went beyond FHA-backed loans and spread to the entire mortgage industry, which was already rife with racism, excluding black people from most legitimate means of obtaining a mortgage.

We're still reaping the harvest of these evil practices.  This is an easy way to pick up on some of this history that doesn't normally get taught in school.  

I know that most Americans recoil at the idea of paying reparations to blacks.  It's not because terrible things didn't happen.  We know they did.  But how, some would ask, could we possible afford to make reparations?  And who would we pay?  The slaves have all died.

The fact that most White Americans oppose the idea reflects - whether they acknowledge this or not - they understand that African-Americans are owed so much.  But Germans have given reparations to holocaust survivors - and Germany is still one of the most prosperous nations on earth.  The US gave reparations to Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated during WW II simply for being of Japanese descent.  What they got was merely a token, but a big part of that payment included the explicit acknowledgment of the wrong committed.  There is no way that blacks would ever be justly compensated, but there are lots of possible ways of making some sort of reparations that acknowledge how much their people have contributed to America's prosperity while being denied their fair share.

The article, as it gets to the idea of reparations, says pretty much the same thing, only more brutally.
Perhaps after a serious discussion and debate—the kind that HR 40 proposes—we may find that the country can never fully repay African Americans. But we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion—and that is perhaps what scares us. The idea of reparations is frightening not simply because we might lack the ability to pay. The idea of reparations threatens something much deeper—America’s heritage, history, and standing in the world.
The early American economy was built on slave labor. The Capitol and the White House were built by slaves. President James K. Polk traded slaves from the Oval Office. The laments about “black pathology,” the criticism of black family structures by pundits and intellectuals, ring hollow in a country whose existence was predicated on the torture of black fathers, on the rape of black mothers, on the sale of black children. An honest assessment of America’s relationship to the black family reveals the country to be not its nurturer but its destroyer.
As I said, true bigots won't read this and if they did it wouldn't change anything for them.  But the rest of America should. And talk about it.

Here's the link again to The Atlantic article.

1 comment:

  1. Thank You for adding your voice to this issue. Great summary.


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