Black poverty and white poverty are not the same. As Ta-Nehisi Coates demonstrates in this brilliant article in The Atlantic, African-Americans have been subjected to continuous, intentional and organized theft by a kleptocracy masquerading as a democracy. If you’re not angry by the time you’re done reading about how the US government maintained black poverty to benefit white people, you haven’t been paying attention. The title, “The Case for Reparations,” is a bit misleading, as Coates is less concerned with a financial reckoning than with a moral one.
The article should be of especial interest to Chicago readers, as it includes an account of the scams and cheats and outright thefts which created today’s hopelessly segregated city. The nearly-forgotten “contract sellers” bought houses low because they’d terrified white owners with the prospect of black neighbors, and then sold the self-same houses high to black families barred from moving into unsegregated neighborhoods. Then they took the houses back on any pretext, or none at all, leaving their “purchasers” with nothing. But these sellers were the only option for African-Americans who wanted to own a home, because the Federal Housing Administration statute and regulations essentially precluded bank lending to black people.
Come to think of it, the article should be of especial interest to anyone who’s ever been moved by A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry’s version of the story of housing segregation is more uplifting, but Coates’s is truer.
Cross-posted with ChicagoNow.com/the-nonprofiteer