According to the documentary Race-the Power of an Illusion, race had long played a role in real estate agencies where blacks weren't allowed to purchase land/houses etc. Please discuss how you...

According to the documentary Race-the Power of an Illusion, race had long played a role in real estate agencies where blacks weren't allowed to purchase land/houses etc. Please discuss how you feel about these restrictions.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Episode Three of this documentary, there is a discussion of real estate practices that have to do with race.  These are practices that are done more by lenders than by real estate agencies.  For the most part, it is not that blacks are not allowed, legally speaking, to buy houses in a certain area.  Instead, the issue was that the federal government created its mortgage practices in such a way that it was very hard for people to get loans to buy houses in black neighborhoods.  The federal government essentially decided that the presence of black residents in a neighborhood made the values of homes go down and therefore made loans in these areas a bad risk.  This was a practice known as “redlining.”

I am of two minds on this issue.  On the one hand, redlining is clearly a pernicious practice that is based on racism.  On the other hand, it may well have been a realistic practice given the racial attitudes of the time.  In other words, I see this in sort of the same way I see slavery—it was reprehensible (though not nearly as evil as slavery), but I can see why it was done.

The idea of redlining is a racist idea.  It is based on the idea that somehow a neighborhood with African American residents is inferior to a white neighborhood.  It is also an idea that has racist impacts.  It keeps African Americans from having the sorts of quality housing that whites can enjoy.  This means that it is simply wrong both in its intent and in its impacts.

However, it is also a practice that is understandable given the racial attitudes of the time.  Let us say that you are a white person who owns a home.  If a black family moves in next door, you know that your house’s value will drop.  This is not because blacks are bad.  It is because whites think that blacks are bad and therefore white people will (by and large) not want to buy your house.  This means that there is less potential demand for your house and its value goes down.  As a homeowner, you do not want this to happen.  It has a serious negative impact on your financial status.  Therefore, regardless of your own racial attitudes, you are likely to approve of redlining when it comes to your own neighborhood.

So, I think that it was really terrible that the federal government practiced redlining.  However, I do understand why it did so.  It was very concerned with maintaining real estate values for the white majority.  It is very understandable that people would not want the value of their homes to diminish, even if it is horrible to think that the presence of people of color would cause such a decline in value.

In short, I abhor these practices, but I can see where they came from given the pervasive nature of racism in those days.

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