"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, July 10, 2015

Segregated Housing and the Results That Follow

In an excellent piece at Alternet, Richard Rothstein turns his attention to conditions that made racial incidents in Ferguson and Baltimore entirely predictable. 

The history of U. S. housing for non-whites is one of labeling, containment, and exclusion, and all of it has been and continues to be inspired, funded, and embraced by federal and local governments.

Today we see the same discriminatory model used in the institutionally-racist policies applied to education in the No Excuses charter hellholes that celebrate segregation, containment, close policing, and psychological sterilization.

A clip from Rothstein's article:
It was government—federal, state, local—whose explicitly racial laws, policies, and regulations ensured that black Americans would live separately. St. Louis and Baltimore, the bookmarks of our recent incidents, illustrate this.

A hundred years ago, both cities adopted ordinances prohibiting African Americans from moving to blocks where whites predominated. After the Supreme Court banned such rules in 1917, St. Louis’s planning board preserved the policy. In neighborhoods where deeds prohibited sales to African Americans, the board prohibited anything but single family homes. Where neighborhoods had black families, it permitted multifamily structures, saloons, and factories. It changed zoning designations when necessary to enforce racial boundaries. Baltimore’s official “Committee on Segregation” coordinated building and health inspectors’ efforts to condemn black residences found in white neighborhoods. The committee also organized neighborhood associations to adopt pacts pledging white homeowners never to sell to black purchasers.

The federal government led nationwide to enforce segregation. In the 1930s, many urban neighborhoods were modestly integrated when both European immigrants and African Americans walked to factory jobs. Cities razed such neighborhoods to construct federally financed segregated public housing—in St. Louis, for example, for blacks on the north side, for whites farther south.

During World War II, the government built segregated housing for defense workers. In cities with previously few black residents, this imposed rigid segregation on burgeoning black populations.

Faced with post-war housing shortages, President Harry Truman proposed expanding public housing. Conservative Republicans, rejecting government participation in private markets, introduced a “poison pill” amendment requiring that public housing be integrated. They knew that if the amendment passed, Southern Democrats would oppose any public housing, defeating the program. Northern liberal Democrats like Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota campaigned against the integration amendment, uniting with their Southern colleagues to defeat it, and the 1949 Housing Act funded segregated housing.

When civilian housing construction recovered, the government promoted suburbanization. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) guaranteed bank loans to builders on condition that no homes be sold to African Americans. The FHA even provided model deed language barring re-sales to non-whites.

Such subdivisions blossomed in virtually every metropolitan area. Best known is Levittown, N.Y.—17,000 homes for veterans, sold initially for about twice national median family income (less than $125,000 in today’s dollars). Affordable to working class families of any race, federal policy restricted them to whites.

As suburbanization accelerated, whites left segregated public housing, lured to racially exclusive communities by FHA or G.I. bill mortgages. Soon, white projects had vacancies while black waiting lists were long. Housing authorities then opened all projects to African Americans. When industry also left inner cities and black workers couldn’t get to good suburban jobs, ghetto impoverishment grew.

The FHA refused to insure mortgages in black neighborhoods as well—“redlining” neighborhoods to indicate they were uncreditworthy because African Americans lived in (or even near) them.

Unable to get mortgages and restricted to overcrowded neighborhoods where housing was in short supply, African Americans paid rents considerably higher than those for similar dwellings in white neighborhoods, or bought houses on installment plans with no equity rights. Higher housing costs forced black families to double-up, sometimes subdividing single-family homes. City services declined where black populations increased and neighborhoods turned into slums. If they were close to downtown businesses, federal, state, and local governments collaborated in “slum clearance” programs that relocated black residents to outlying areas.

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