April 18, 2005

"Red Lining" Governmental racism rears its ugly head again!

In a throw back to the Jim Crowe era in America, the Government is once again found to have a policy of “Red Lining”. Red Lining is a term that first entered the American lexicon in the late 1930’s. It is no secret that after the Great Depression America was in turmoil and in an effort to revive America President Roosevelt instituted many Acts’ and set up new government agencies. One of the many Agencies he set up was the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The goal of the FHA was;

“to encourage the building of new homes and, in the process, create jobs for thousands of unemployed construction workers and craftspeople. The FHA guaranteed mortgage program made possible, for the first time, the types of mortgage terms we take for granted today: only 10% down, up to 30 years to pay back the loan, and an interest rate of 5.5 percent.”

The government believed it could not make these loans available to everyone, thus the government initiated a nation wide inventory of residential areas. This inventory was carried out by the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC).

“The HOLC set strict standards. First, the appraisers (real estate personnel, mostly) looked for any signs of decay or neglect that might indicate a neighborhood was in decline. Surveyors also looked for any sign of minorities. This included not only African Americans but also Jews and "foreign born whites" such as Poles and Italians. Even a single home occupied by a minority family in a distant corner of a neighborhood could cause the entire area to be downgraded for mortgage insurance.”

It took this agency about a year to finish their inventory and come up with maps covering every city and town in America. These maps were classified and very few people had access to them. All residential areas on the Map were graded using a scale from “A” to “D” and a color was assigned to each letter. The grading went like this:

“The "A" or "First Grade" areas were colored green and had the federal government's full blessing. These were usually new or recently built neighborhoods on the edge of town that were virtually free of African Americans or "foreign-born whites." Lenders were encouraged to offer the maximum amount available in the "A" areas”

“The "Second Grade" or "B" areas were colored blue. These were still good neighborhoods but beginning to fray around the edges. Here mortgage lenders were advised to make loans at 10 to 15 percent below the maximum available amount.”

"Third Grade" areas were colored yellow. These were older neighborhoods with housing styles that might now be "out of fashion." Often neighborhood covenants had expired. And, of course, these areas were subject to "infiltration of a lower grade population."

"D" neighborhoods were usually struggling for survival -- and the "Fourth Grade" designation guaranteed the struggle would be a losing one. Characterized by "undesirable population or an infiltration of it," mortgage lenders would often refuse to make any loans on properties in these neighborhoods.

Red was the color used to indicated these "Fourth Grade" areas on the map and, thus, a new term came into our vocabulary: "redlining."

Red Lining of course is not limited to the building of Homes and the manipulation of the net worth of a home. Red lining is also the illegal discrimination in regards to what financial services are made available and where businesses are set up, and this is where the Government is practicing Red Lining today.

The Prince George County (PGC) Black Chamber of Commerce noticed that no federal leasing was developing to the benefit of its 70% Black county. The Black Chamber of Commerce knows that the number one employer of the D.C. area is the federal government which means no federal leasing means no or less job opportunities for the men and women that reside in PGC. The National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) investigated on behalf of the PGC Chamber and believe it or not they found that;

“The General Service Administration (GSA) has been carrying an official policy for the past decade or so to exclude Prince Georges County from the “marketing area” to be considered for government leasing. In essence, PG County has been redlined for future government relocations or development such as Home Land Security. This is having a devastating negative impact on the tax revenue and employment opportunities for the local government and people of this American community. Redlining is illegal – even if it is the federal government doing it.”

The NBCC has begun the fight and offered resolutions to end the governmental racist practice of Red lining PGC. PGC is not the first predominantly Black county to be red lined, the NBCC has laid out the examples of redlining as practice in the San Francisco area at the expense of the Oakland area and in Michigan with the development of the Oakland Michigan area at the expense of predominantly Black Detroit. One of the things that stand out in the PGC case is that because of the lack of development in the PGC area, PGC residents account for the majority of rush hour DC beltway traffic in the morning and in the evening traveling from their redlined living quarters to their jobs.

The question we must ask ourselves is are we surprised that the government continue to have racist policies on the books and continue to carry them out. I also wonder how will the negro who apoligize for white folk and the white folk they love justify this policy that is clearly racist and works against the uplift of predominatly Black PGC.

** Information Taken from Red Lining in the past.


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