Black poverty and white poverty are not the same, and here’s why

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.

A must-read.

 

Cross-posted with ChicagoNow.com/the-nonprofiteer

Talking guns and youth violence at the Atlantic

Ta-Nehisi Coates and I recently had a nice dialogue at the Atlantic. We talked about youth violence in Chicago, and beyond:

I don’t know if I’ve told you how I come to this issue, but I should say for everyone reading this that I am from Baltimore — the West Side, as we used to call it. I came of age in the late 1980s and early 90s, a period in which violence spiked in our cities. I don’t know if Chicago today is as bad as it was in, say, 1988, but this was a period of deep fear for everyone in the black communities of Baltimore. And the fear was everywhere.

It changed how we addressed our parents. It changed how we addressed each other. It changed our music. The violence put rules in place that often look strange to the rest of the country. For instance, the mask of hyper-machismo and invulnerability — the ice-grill, as we used to say — looks strange, until you’ve lived in a place where that mask is the only power you have to effect a modicum of safety.

I’m in my late 40s. I was a typical suburban kid graduating high school outside New York. It wasn’t as tough for me as it was on the west side of Baltimore, but crime certainly touched my life. On one occasion, I was in Washington Heights on my way to an AP class at Columbia University. A group of middle-school or early-high-school kids jumped me in the subway station, and they attempted to wrest away my watch. My high school sweetheart had just given it to me; I didn’t want to give it up. So a kid grabbed me by the hair and smashed my head against the concrete floor until I finally relented. As you know, my cousin was beaten to death by two teenage house burglars a few years later.

So I remember very well both the fear and the anger that accompanies one’s sense of physical vulnerability. Of course this anger often comes with a race/ethnic/class tinge that poisons so much of what we are trying to do in revitalizing urban America…..

I’ll let you guess who-was-who there. More here at Ta-Nehisi’s place.