Home > Uncategorized > The Roots of Racism are Deep and Insidious as Illustrated in the US’s Longstanding Housing Policy

The Roots of Racism are Deep and Insidious as Illustrated in the US’s Longstanding Housing Policy

March 1, 2020

As noted repeatedly in this blog, the racial and economic segregation and stratification of public schools is a reflection of the housing patterns that, in turn, are the result of our official government policies and practices. A JSTOR Daily article by Mannish Claire, describes how “Better Homes in America—a collaboration between Herbert Hoover and the editor of a conservative women’s magazine—promoted idealized whiteness.” The collaboration between the efficiency minded Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, and Marie Meloney, the editor-in-chief of the women’s magazine The Delineator, resulted in the creation of the Better Homes in America (BHA), an organization that:

encouraged home ownership as a financial, social, and patriotic undertaking, with homemaking and consumerism at its core. BHA presented itself as a traditionalizing force for good, one that would help stabilize the country and raise up the next generation of patriotic citizens.

While Ms. Claire attributes a degree of malevolence to BHA, it struck me that the group reflected the thinking of the time. In our era the notion of a national organization dedicated to encouraging home ownership offering separate awards to homes designed by people of color and/or immigrants would be discredited. But in the 1920s and 1930s, a time when Plessy v. Ferguson’s “separate but equal” standard was the law of the land, such a system made perfect sense. It is easy to examine the BHA 90 years after the fact and see it as wrongheaded, but it also underscores how deeply seeded our racism is. My grandparents came of age in that time and the houses depicted in the article looked like the homes they owned in suburban Philadelphia and the ethos described by the BHA mirrors the thinking my grandparents had about the importance of industriousness, thrift, and efficiency. Part of me marvels at how much the thinking of my daughters’ generation has come, seemingly much more inclusive in their thinking and much more willing to live in an integrated and multi-cultural world. But another part of me is frustrated with the snails pace of change in government policy, a pace that MY generation has set because we have not been willing to accept policies and mental formations our grandparents and parents instilled in us.

And here’s what is particularly appalling to me: the conservative media insists on perpetuating the myth that immigrants and people of color are unfit for banks to lend money to by buying into the meme that the recent burst of the real estate bubble was THEIR fault because the government forced the banks to loan money to them…. and our President is reinforcing this notion in his rallies. I hope that this blatant display of racist “logic” along with the misogynistic and cruel barbs that are a feature of his rallies leads voters with a conscience to consider whoever is chosen to run against him. If we ever hope to put the Brown v. Board of Education ethos in place we need a change of ethos at the top.

  1. Byron Knutsen
    March 8, 2020 at 9:53 pm

    Recent housing bubble burst!!! Where? Real estate is booming here in the west. I think the time line is out of whack somewhere

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