Usually when I bring up housing racism, I get the same typical response; “That’s not accurate because people of color can choose where they want to live, just like white people!” I can understand where that viewpoint may be coming from, but it is also the easy and lazy way to slide out of an uncomfortable truth that America still faces.
Suburbia came around in order to create a segregated living community. We created rings and rings of suburbs that would primarily be given to white people. In order to keep people of color excluded, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), sent manuals to all of the real estate agents that said they were not allowed to sell houses to black people because the homes would depreciate. Otherwise known as redlining, homes closest to black communities had lower values. Homes furthest from black communities had higher values. Since Americans wanted homes with higher values, they fled to the whitest areas where homes were worth more. Here we now have legal segregation.
Now that white people are separated from people of color, we take the easy answer of saying people of color are lazy because they are stuck in the ghetto and don’t have a job. The more complicated answer is understanding how America has constructed institutional racism and has made it legal to discriminate against non-whites. Even today, our suburbs are still very segregated. While the FHA may have changed their rules and regulations, a lot of real estate agents may still have the unconscious bias that they may not want to sell a home to a person of color, just based off the potential buyer’s voice on the phone or their name. Voices and names are unconsciously put with a race and from that, the real estate agent may not want to sell.
To go along with the racism of American housing development, comes the parallels of education, security, healthcare, and the job market. In poorer communities made up of people of color, the schooling is going to be lower quality. Schools get a lot of their money from real estate value; therefore, schools are going to be more under-funded in non-white areas. In addition to poorer education, there is less access to healthcare, more under-funded jobs, more heavy policing, and higher insurance. The heavier policing means that more black people are going to be arrested than white people, which skews our crime rates to make it look like it is inherently black people who commit crimes.
A lot of racism stems from the housing segregation that is still occurring today. People need to be aware of other communities outside their own, and the struggles those other communities might be going through. It is really easy to assume negative stereotypes for people of color and why they are more likely to be in poverty, but we need to assess our poison and have the conversations that highlight all the complications of racism and what we can do to counteract it.
1934–1968: FHA Mortgage Insurance Requirements Utilize Redlining:
How Redlining’s Racist Effects Lasted for Decades:
Kayla Nessmann is a third-year student at SCSU. She studied abroad in Australia last semester and is majoring in English with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Writing and minoring in International Relations. Kayla is very passionate about writing, environmentalism, and violence against women’s issues. She wants to use her degree to combine writing with politics, to help make a change in the world. In her free time, she is writing her first novel, doing outdoor activities, and art.