Time to Wake Up to the Racism in Our Housing Midst

By Julianne Hing May 19, 2009

Seth’s got an op-ed up over at the Huffington Post about the housing crisis, its historical roots and the people he met around the country while researching for "Race and Recession."

In Detroit, I talked with 55-year-old Sandra Hines, who fell irreparably behind on her ballooning subprime refinancing payments (at the peak of the subprime frenzy, the majority of high cost loans were for refinancing). Through foreclosure, Hines lost the house where she and her two sisters grew up. It was the house that held 40 years of her family’s wealth and memories. The losses didn’t end there.

A few months later, Hines and her family were renting a home that also went into foreclosure (its owner was also Black). Hines was evicted again. Hines’s story illustrates the fundamental way in which racism works today – through rules and policies rather than through blatant individual discrimination. This new form of discrimination didn’t come from an individual banker who hated Black people. Rather, it resulted from financial deregulation that didn’t explicitly target people of color, but that nevertheless produced a racialized impact because it was blindly laid on top of decades of blatant housing segregation.

Check out the rest of Seth’s piece for more. I was shocked to learn that it was primarily refinancing loans, and not defaults by new home buyers, that was bringing families to their knees. In my small social circle, parents of several loved ones have been struggling to stay in homes they’ve lived in for decades. Parents who worked hard to finish paying off their mortgages but who’ve been saddled anew with debt in recent years. It’s wrong. When we look back decades from now, we’ll think of the foreclosure crisis as the culmination of decades of condoned, systemic inequity. Our racism blowing up in our faces. We can recognize this now or keep floating along in ignorant slumber as our communities are broken up all around us. Check out arc.org/recession for more resources and ways to take action.