by Yvette Carnell
One of the myths that just won’t d¡e in the black community is the idea that black people are, for the most part, responsible for our economic condition in this country. If you want to see this fairytale play out in real time, then just head over to the comments section here, where many of the commenters are praising Booker T. Washington for his largely conservative economic vision. What is absent from the arguments among those who cheer Washington, and Min Louis Farrakhan for that matter, is the role our own government played in undermining black life and living conditions.
You can pull up your sagging pants if you like, but a black college graduate still won’t earn as much as a white high school graduate over a lifetime. And what’s more, ghettos in America weren’t built by lazy saggy-pants wearing black folk too lazy to work. As Jamelle Bouie points out in The Daily Beast, the creation of urban ghettos was a consequence of policy decisions:
Redlining is the practice of denying key services (like home loans and insurance) or increasing their costs for residents in a defined geographical area. In theory, this could be used against anyone. In reality, it was almost exclusively a tool to force blacks (and other minorities) into particular geographic areas. The practice began with the National Housing Act of 1934, which established the Federal Housing Administration, as well as the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. It was this agency which created “residential security maps” for several cities to determine the safety of real estate investments in selected areas.
You should already see where this is going: Existing black neighborhoods were lined as unsafe, and thus ineligible for financing. For prospective property owner, this was terrible: Absent cash on hand, there was no way to afford a home or a business in your area. What’s more, blacks were all but barred from entering white neighborhoods, if not by restrictive racial covenants (which forbid property sales to African Americans and other minorities) then by violence and intimidation
This is what created ghettos, not black folk refusing to “do for self” or “pull themselves up by the boostraps.” And since U.S. policies created the ghetto, I’ve continually advocated for policy remedies to unmake the ghetto. Somehow, to the ears of Obama fanboys and girls, that’s akin to asking for a handout.
After a half century (or more), it’s not hard to see how we get to here from there: When you prevent a whole class of people from building wealth, accessing capital, or leaving impoverished areas, you guarantee cultural dysfunction and deep, generational poverty. When it comes to inner-city poverty—we built that.
And just so that those who traffic in black respectability politics are clear, when Bouie says “we” he ain’t talkin’ about black folk.