Profits and losses
One column in this paper read, “I’m still surprised people are surprised how bad it can be to be black and in America.” I retorted: I’m still surprised people are surprised how good it can be to be black and in America. Words and phrases may be marshaled in every way, but they don’t always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
There was a bit more exchange between us, however, the columnist guided me to a story in “The Atlantic” magazine written by Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Case for Reparations.
There was new learning in it for me: how African American slum ghettos and America’s space deprived storied housing projects (“second ghettoes”) of our largest cities originated. Regardless of favored theories put forward, there remains clarity how an entire people were purposely disadvantaged with vulnerability to social problems without rightful government protection. If a man’s wife and he both work full time plus taking on two additional part-time jobs to maintain a purchased residence, then something is radically wrong. Especially, when it is noted that they were living thrifty austere lives.
The populations were forced into lower-income residential districts at the hands of unscrupulous businessmen. Manipulative salesmanship at its worst advancing their interests at the expense of the people. There was no escape. The people were taken in and tied into outrageous contracts merely because they desired a home of their own which had become a solid symbol of American citizenship.
Profits are deserved but not at the cost of financial loss and injury to the population. An obsession with profits is a capital pattern of divorcing function from purpose. I believe profits are the life support of any economic system. But the life support of one man may be a cancer and life-threatening to others.
First and foremost, privileged white speculators and the entire mortgage and real-estate industry “colluded with legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens” Coates wrote to maneuver and gain an end. This included inequitable and unjust federal housing polices, dishonest appraisers, and, subprime predatory loans and foreclosures by acquisitive “contract sellers” from the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation.
All, whom I have a minimum high regard for, were actively and exploitatively involved in mortgage lending discrimination, “redlining”, restrictive covenants, and other double-dealing and unprincipled practices of a thoroughly nasty business concern. This created the marginalized, residentially segregated ghetto and project communities, “where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated.”
One might ask if the people are unhappy with their dilapidated houses and deteriorating projects, why don’t they just move out? Well, that’s easier said than done. It takes money-means to just pack up and transport to another location. And besides, upon arriving, will good-paying work be available?