Anti-Racism 101

16 Housing


“In 1933, faced with a housing shortage, the federal government began a program explicitly designed to increase — and segregate — America’s housing stock. Author Richard Rothstein says the housing programs begun under the New Deal were tantamount to a ‘state-sponsored system of segregation.’

The government’s efforts were ‘primarily designed to provide housing to white, middle-class, lower-middle-class families,’ he says. African-Americans and other people of color were left out of the new suburban communities — and pushed instead into urban housing projects.

Rothstein’s new book, The Color of Law, examines the local, state and federal housing policies that mandated segregation. He notes that the Federal Housing Administration, which was established in 1934, furthered the segregation efforts by refusing to insure mortgages in and near African-American neighborhoods — a policy known as ‘redlining.’ At the same time, the FHA was subsidizing builders who were mass-producing entire subdivisions for whites — with the requirement that none of the homes be sold to African-Americans.” –Terry Gross

Income differences, private discrimination of real estate agents, banks and all of these come under the category of what the Supreme Court called, and what is now generally known as, de facto segregation, something that just happened by accident or by individual choices. And that myth, which is widespread across the political spectrum, hobbles our ability to remedy segregation and eliminate the enormous harm that it does to this country.

The truth is that segregation in every metropolitan area was imposed by racially explicit federal, state and local policy, without which private actions of prejudice or discrimination would not have been very effective. And if we understand that our segregation is a governmentally sponsored system, which of course we’d call de jure segregation, only then can we begin to remedy it. Because if it happened by individual choice, it’s hard to imagine how to remedy it. If it happened by government action, then we should be able to develop equally effective government actions to reverse it.”

–Katie Nodjimbadem

“The economists now believe that appraisers like the one in Bedford-Stuyvesant weren’t merely identifying disparities that already existed in the 1930s, and that were likely to worsen anyway. The lines they helped draw, based in large part on the belief that the presence of blacks and other minorities would undermine property values, altered what would happen in these communities for years to come. Maps alone didn’t create segregated and unequal cities today. But the role they played was pivotal….”

“The new research reaffirms the role of government policy in shaping racial disparities in America in access to housing, credit and wealth accumulation. And as the country grapples with the blurred lines between past racism and present-day outcomes, this new data illustrates how such history lives on.” –Emily Badger

“Gentrification typically happens when infrastructure or material changes to a neighborhood reach a point that the neighborhood is now attractive to residents of a higher class than that of the residents of the neighborhood. This can happen in multiple ways. In the case of Harlem, which was the capital of Black America and the home of the Black Intelligentsia, it was tax abatement and a change of zoning laws that opened up the enclave to ‘urban pioneers,’ young whites that chose to reject suburbia and return to the city.

As a population with more disposable income moves in, property owners respond by improving their properties in the neighborhood to attract the new tenants and by raising prices on leases and rent. This, in effect, causes a squeeze-out; the residents that already live in the neighborhoods cannot afford the rising rents, forcing them to leave homes they and their families have lived in for decades.

For traditional Black businesses, the effect of this can be twofold. First, many Black businesses in gentrified areas find their leases to be illegally broken or challenged by property owners desperate to cash in. Second, those that could somehow hold on to their leases now face a customer base radically different from what they previously had that may be at odds to the products being served, increased competition and a raise in price for key services.

This has led to 30 percent of all Black-owned businesses disappearing in New York City from 2007 and 2017. Per a report by BuzzFeed, of the 25 largest cities in the United States, only Detroit and Jacksonville, Fla., have comparable numbers.”

“Redlining, or the marking off of areas where African-Americans could not get home loans, made property ownership less of a possibility for Black residents, as did rental bans in specific neighborhoods. Worse, the white flight to the suburbs encouraged development around the city instead of in it. Despite the population of Onondaga County, where Syracuse is its county seat, not increasing since the 1970s, the county has seen 61 miles of new road development since 1961, 7,000 new housing units since 2000 and 12,500 acres added to the sanitary district.”

“A reality of modern-day life is that gentrification will happen. Young white professionals have rejected the notions of suburbanism and white flight and are returning to the cities in increasing numbers. It is now on city planners to find a way to make this work. The way forward is not to carve out new enclaves for the affluent in the cities or to allow displacement of the existing populace, but to find ways to promote heterogeneous communities and to encourage infrastructure improvements without raising property costs.”

“As a community increasingly changes its populace, it changes its personality. What was once a vibrant Black community ceases to be in light of its Black residents and businesses being driven to other markets and other communities, only to become something else.

As many African-Americans were driven to these neighborhoods because of aggressive racial policies and economic disenfranchisement, being forced out of them now seems unnecessarily cruel. For those that are left due to subsidized housing or other means, what they are left with may be as alien and foreboding as being forced to live in a new neighborhood.” –Frederick Reese

“’As [a resident] of a low and moderate income neighborhood, I’ve been part of civic and institutional struggles over the years to bring improvement, Griffith told HuffPost last week. 

And I think it’s possible to [improve] in a way that doesn’t erase a population and make it completely unaffordable, said Griffith, a native of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. –Zahara Hill

“Gentrification is seen as improving struggling neighborhoods by those orchestrating the redevelopment. In reality, however, it’s simply a cash grab on the destruction of struggling lives.

What you read in the pages of How to Kill a City is a heartbreaking story of the destruction of Black lives. You read how cultures are wiped out of a city’s fabric, and all for a $6 latte. Business leaders claim they are helping “renovate” a city, bringing it back to its original luster, while passing off the displaced as a kind of collateral damage….

Gentrification is no longer just a buzzword used to describe renovation in a once-poor neighborhood on the occasional whim of a developer; it is now a systematic plan by the country’s wealthiest individuals to take away even more from struggling communities and minority groups, turning their losses into profits.

Gentrification takes a community’s personal tragedy, loss and destruction, and monetizes it.

Understanding how this happens, and how individuals may unwittingly find themselves a part of it is what makes Moskowitz’s book so important. It isn’t a lesson about what happened, it’s a warning about what is happening now.”

–Dan Arel

“The idea that gentrification can’t be stopped is tiring and frustrating, but it comes from the fact that it’s such an overwhelming and rapidly expanding issue. It comes from the fact that gentrification benefits the most powerful and privileged. It comes from the fact that it stems from oppressive systems of capitalism and colonization.

And it came from the age-old belief that people should own land at any and all costs, including that of human life.

We hear that gentrification is inevitable, that it’s progress, that it makes cities safer, and that it happens because the primarily low-income and people of color communities that lived there before could not take care of it.

These arguments, in many ways, are history repeating itself. Below are three ways that gentrification mirrors colonization.” –Michal “MJ” Jones

“Throughout the 20th century, neighborhood demographic change occurred in a depressingly predictable fashion. As black families started moving to an area, white families fled with grim efficiency. Neighborhoods across the country flipped from nearly all-white to nearly all-black in the span of a decade. Mixed-race communities were rare….”

“Today, segregation in America looks different than it did a generation ago. A multitude of studies show that neighborhood-level diversity is increasingly common and, correspondingly, that all-white neighborhoods aren’t as prevalent. Diverse neighborhoods with fairly stable racial mixes like Mount Rainier are becoming less rare as Latino and Asian populations grow. (By the 2000 census, Mount Rainier had a large Hispanic minority, too.)

This change is a great thing, but we should be realistic about the limits of what it means. The word integration can conjure up images of racial harmony, interracial friendships, and classrooms as diverse as the neighborhood. But the reality is usually closer to what sociologist Derek Hyra calls “diversity segregation,” or microsegregation. Even in diverse neighborhoods, divisions of race and class still exert their power, and most studies of diverse neighborhoods, both long-established and currently gentrifying, show that cross-race relationships are often disappointingly limited.” –Jake Blumgart

“In response to the letter, “Whites make Brewerytown better” (Tuesday), I’d like to express my disappointment that you published such racist content. The vast majority of African Americans living in that neighborhood do not operate ‘drug-dealing, gang-operated businesses.’

But the most laughable statement was: ‘These law-abiding Caucasians have been funding the black community since their existence.’ Has this reader forgotten history? African Americans have been subsidizing white people since they were brought over here on slave ships and made to work for free. Even after slavery, African Americans paid the same taxes as white people while being systematically denied the right to vote, being segregated in schools, living their lives in terror from state-sanctioned violence, and more.”

“Black Branding:”–how-a-dc-neighborhood-was-marketed-to-white-millenials/2017/05/02/68b0ae06-2f47-11e7-9534-00e4656c22aa_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5a420746a1e8

Minority-owned businesses always disappear when a neighborhood becomes gentrified to make way for high-volume, corporate stores because small businesses like theirs can’t afford the rent. This eventually leads to the economic disempowerment of black communities because, often, the people who own small businesses live in the community and spend their money at other small businesses. The people at the Jamaican restaurant patronize the local dry cleaners. They get their hair cut at the local barbershop. They hire neighborhood kids.

Gentrification ends the recycling of money in minority neighborhoods because the new businesses usually send their money back to corporate headquarters, or have owners who don’t live in the neighborhoods where they own their business.” –Michael Harriot

“This moral compass drove him to carve out a section of Point Breeze as his very own: Newbold, which encompasses the eastern edge of the neighborhood. Longacre has defended his actions by saying the neighborhood (where he owned a bar) needed more “identity” — code words, clearly, for the identity of white, upper-middle-class residents.

In addition to offering ten-year tax abatements, developers have tried, often successfully, to rebrand neighborhoods in the midst of gentrification in order to attract new, wealthier residents and to wipe the old neighborhood off the map. Residents fought back against Longacre’s proposed name change, and in 2016, the Newbold Neighbors Association voted to change the name of their civic association to East Point Breeze Neighbors.” –Mindy Isser