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The Voice of the Black Community


Housing for African-Americans has long been a ‘de jure’ issue
Racism is at the root of disparity
Published Saturday, October 20, 2018 9:31 am
by Patrick C. Graham Ph.D.

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While Charlotte City Council’s $50 million bond for affordable housing placed on November’s ballad is commendable, it is not meant to address the invisible elephant in the room, good old-fashioned racism.

Our struggles with affordable housing have deep roots in “de jure” segregation polices with “de facto” support.  De jure segregation refers to governmental roles – past and present – that create segregated neighborhoods through practices like redlining.  Redlining is the practice of refusing to insure or even sell property to certain social groups in white neighborhoods.  

De facto segregation refers to individuals choosing to create, and design social and economic communities often supported by de jure policies. Both play a role in segregation and are intertwined.  De jure and de facto practices continue to create a legacy of white privilege and black disenfranchisement that persist through time and multiplies the advantages of whiteness and disadvantages of blackness in tangible financial terms.

Nothing has more of an effect on wealth gaps and black economic vulnerability than past discriminatory practices in housing and home ownership.  Scholars such as Richard Rothstein, author of “The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America,” highlights how de jure forms of neighborhood discrimination and segregation through government agencies such as the Federal Housing Association intentionally created racially segregated neighborhoods.  In post-World War II America throughout the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, FHA used redlining policies that built wealth for whites through racialized suburban projects and excluded African-Americans from newly created prosperity.  

Sadly, many African-Americans could afford the housing offered in these projects at the time.  Not even the Fair Housing Act of 1968 could reverse the effects of housing patterns created by formal segregation policies or the accelerated racial wealth gaps they would create.  Thus, while affordable housing is needed, we need greater emphasis on affordable ownership and governmental polices that fully address their past social and economic engineering to create greater wealth in African-American communities.

The legacy of redlining is more impactful today due to the racial wealth disparities it created.  With housing and land ownership accounting for almost all increases in net capital share of aggregate income from 1948 to 2010 (Brookings Papers on Economics, 2015), the disparities in wealth between whites and African Americans is largely attributed to past discriminatory practices of our United States government.  

Shortly after the end of the Great Recession, the Pew Research Center revealed that wealth gaps between “minorities” and “whites” had grown to their widest levels in 25 years.  The median wealth of white households was 13 times higher than black households, which is as much a byproduct of past discriminatory policies as the Great Recession.  However, present day forms of housing discrimination persist with the vigor of the past.

According to the National Fair Housing Alliance 2018 annual report, there were 20,595 fair housing complaints in 2017, almost up 10 percent from the previous year.  Of course, these do not include hundreds of thousands of unreported cases.  Our current Administration has already begun to roll back Fair Housing Act policies that would address various forms of discrimination.  When you couple these findings with NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) proponents of segregation, fear of affordable housing in their neighborhoods, and massive gentrification projects, de facto forms of segregation are supported by the political climate and de jure policies.

The solutions to housing and our wealth gap cannot be addressed with today’s “equality” policies.  Unfortunately, we cannot come close to addressing them with affordable housing bonds either.  We have created inequities with de jure policies that need other de jure polices to correct them. There is nothing in our current Community Reinvestment Act or other housing policies that fully address the past wrongs of our government’s role in creating a wealth gap and the denial of African-American prosperity.  I propose discounted financing models and reserve housing lots for African-Americans in mixed and accelerating value neighborhoods. 

Other policies may include anti-gentrification tax relief to allow people of color and poorer individuals to take advantage of newfound prosperity in gentrifying communities.  I know some may cry reverse racism or suggest I am dreaming the impossible.  However, it is not just good enough to emotionally atone for past wrongs and creations, but we must have retribution to create a more equitable society.  One of our greatest dreamers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died days before the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was passed.  I say we dream a little harder.

Patrick C. Graham Ph.D. is an economic and social sectors leader with over 21 years of executive level experience and professor of history and humanities.  He is the creator of the At- Opportunity Paradigm and Career4All movement.


Excellent article. Another way we can help to increase black wealth and opportunities is to support black owned businesses. We don't have to wait on laws or policies for this. FYI https://shopwithleslie.blog/
Posted on October 21, 2018

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