This country has and always will be fixated and sensationalized on the idea of owning property and pursing the “American dream.” But in modern talks about systematic oppression, we almost never talk about its role in segregation.
So let’s backtrack: to understand this complex dynamic between political racism and homeownership, it is essential to know what the New Deal was. This was the economic reform policy issued under President Franklin Roosevelt following the Great Depression, which saved a desperate and struggling American society that was at the brink of collapse. The New Deal was essential to keep the economy functioning and to help re-grow jobs and support the American public. It established things like Social Security and cemented FDR’s legacy.
But, it was also incredibly racist. Along with providing these benefits, the New Deal also allowed people to take out home loans. But to determine who would get a loan, the government divided land by a process called “redlining” and certain communities would end up being economically devastated without the loans. Those communities of course, were predominantly African American and thus the “ghettos” were formed.
The white families that got the loans had an influx of business and the value of their properties rose dramatically. This meant there was an abundance of wealth for one specific racial group, while minorities and poorer white Americans suffered greatly. And while those policies were eventually terminated, the toll is still incredibly evident and the wealth divide among racial groups still exists.
This country did end segregation policies, but it never amended the toll segregation took on society. While African Americans can now have the complete freedom to own land, they have virtually no assets or financial flexibility to their white peers who inadvertently benefited from the privilege of the New Deal. And that is what privilege is. It is the failure of a system to understand the damage segregation still makes in modern society.
This country needs to do something. Race still determines your financial success. Whether the federal government buys vacant homes and takes over part of the industry or institutes policies that helps African Americans gain a fair opportunity is unclear. Change is needed. Part of that change requires examining the homeownership history and the New Deal.
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