THE REPENTANCE PROJECT / AN AMERICAN LENT
Red-lining and Neighborhoods Built by Bias
WEEK IV / DAY IV
Thursday, March 8, 2018
Scripture / Proverbs 22:7 and Ezekiel 22:29
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. — Proverbs 22:7
The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. — Ezekiel 22:29
Power is not neutral. It tends toward corruption. Through the story of Scripture, God’s people aren’t exempt from that corruption. Yet, scripture is consistent in its condemnation of the abuse of power. When Ezekiel speaks on God’s behalf to Israel, he condemns their disregard and abuse of the marginalized. The people of God, regardless of cultural norms, are always called to affirm human dignity and live generously.
Our History and Its Legacy
It may not be surprising that a country of people capable of brutal slavery would also carry enough racism to prevent equitable access to home ownership, but it is alarming to see how systematically and universally African-Americans have been excluded from home ownership.
“From the 1930s through the 1960s, black people across the country were largely cut out of the legitimate home-mortgage market through means both legal and extralegal. Their efforts were buttressed by the federal government. In 1934, Congress created the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA insured private mortgages, causing a drop in interest rates and a decline in the size of the down payment required to buy a house.” But “the FHA had adopted a system of maps that rated neighborhoods according to their perceived stability. On the maps, green areas, rated ‘A,’ indicated ‘in demand’ neighborhoods that, as one appraiser put it, lacked ‘a single foreigner or Negro.’ These neighborhoods were considered excellent prospects for insurance. Neighborhoods where black people lived were rated ‘D’ and were usually considered ineligible for FHA backing. They were colored in red. Neither the percentage of black people living there nor their social class mattered. Black people were viewed as a contagion. Redlining went beyond FHA-backed loans and spread to the entire mortgage industry, which was already rife with racism, excluding black people from most legitimate means of obtaining a mortgage.” — The Case For Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Without hyperbole we can say that large, racially monolithic communities were engineered by socially accepted racism. Furthermore, discriminatory hiring practices had the effect of colluding with discriminatory mortgage practices to produce high concentrations of poor in distinct city neighborhoods. We are still living with the consequences of that collusion.
Reflection and Response / The Pilgrim’s Prayer of Repentance
A prayer for response: "Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, especially mine, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatred cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"
Written by Ben Hoyer