Who Had the Land 50 Years Ago? Redlining and Discrimination

If the ultimate biblical jubilee meant that the land was restored every 50 (or 49) years to its original owners, wouldn’t it be an interesting modern-day custom?  I’d love to know what my street would have looked like 50 years ago.  Or any section of Washington, D.C. where I live.

D.C. had 25% more people in 1960 than it does today.  White flight seems to be part of that though there is now a trend towards whites moving back into the city this last decade.

But I wonder what the city was like in 1960 when I was born.  Who lived where?  What was it like?

The practice of redlining was something I hadn’t been aware of before.  White cluelessness is a disease I have.  There is so much I never knew.  “Redlining” is the practice of delineating certain areas of a city (by marking a map with red lines) wherein services such as banking, loans, insurance, access to jobs and perhaps even supermarkets are denied to those living there.  The term later came to be applied to such discrimination beyond geographical boundaries, racially or based on gender.

Though the term wasn’t coined until 1968, the practice was happening as early as the 1930’s with the Fair Housing Act designating some neighborhoods (mostly inner-city black areas) as ineligible for mortgage capital.  These decisions and practices were based on assumptions and not fact about the families’ financial situations or character.

Restrictive covenants in white neighborhoods also sought to keep black families out.  Thus blacks were effectively left out of the home ownership realm altogether in many cases, with the blame for this falling on individuals and institutions.

In my own city, with historically one of the highest percentages of black residents and also one of the greatest disparities between rich and poor, patterns of home ownership would be an interesting thing to look at — as well as to consider gentrification’s effects on neighborhoods, for simply owning a home, or squatting in it, doesn’t mean that conditions are livable, that life is okay.

What’s the truth about housing laws and practices, about city planning and urbanization?  I know so little.

What would it look like to redress wrongs of the past?


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