“It is tempting to divorce this modern campaign of terror, of plunder, from enslavement, but the logic of enslavement, of white supremacy respects no such borders. And the god of bondage was lustful and begat many heirs: coup d’états and convict leasing, vagrancy laws and debt peonage, redlining and racist G.I. bills, poll taxes and state-sponsored terrorism.” Ta-Nehisi Coates before US Congress, June 19, 2019
I had already decided to use “Plundered” for the title of this blog. But Ta-Nehisi placed it in an even broader context in his historic Juneteenth testimony on the necessity for our nation to discuss what steps should be taken toward restorative justice for Black communities, including the topic of reparations.
I had already been inspired by the May 30, 2019 Chicago Sun-Times story by Carlos Ballesteros: ‘Plunder of black wealth’: Predatory housing contracts gouged Chicago’s black homeowners, new report says.
The report — “The Plunder of Black Wealth in Chicago: New Findings on the Lasting Toll of Predatory Housing Contracts” — was produced by a dozen researchers from Duke, Loyola University, Roosevelt University and the University of Illinois at Chicago and published by Duke University’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity.
It is the first study to put a dollar amount on how much wealth was extracted from Chicago’s black community in the 1950s and 60s through home sale contracts. “The total amount expropriated from Chicago’s black community due to land sales contracts,” the report concludes, is anywhere “between $3.2 billion and $4 billion.”
I have blogged before about the predatory rip-off of “contract sales.” I noted Beryl Satter’s book “Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America” about the work of her father Mark Satter, an activist attorney seeking justice. I commented in December 2014 that in these current turbulent times “it merits remembering that justice has been sought for decades.” Ta-Nehisi Coates reminds us that it has been over 150 years.
Mark Whitehouse in his June 17, 2019 Bloomberg Opinion, Black Poverty Is Rooted in Real-Estate Exploitation, recaps the continued plundering in the 1970s. The federal government offered Federal Housing Administration [FHA] as an alternative loan that blacks assumed was a good product. Instead it too was used by sleazy real estate brokers to “block bust” and sell shoddy homes to unsuspecting black buyers. Whitehouse cites the FHA scandal of the 1970s, in which indiscriminate federal lending and outright corruption enabled speculators to sell inner-city homes to blacks at inflated prices, resulting in widespread foreclosures.
This is where the vicious cycle of plundering was when I began my organizing career in 1974. Whitehouse embeds in the word scandal above a link to Cities Destroyed for Cash: The FHA Scandal at HUD published in 1973. As a volunteer graduate student, I was inspired by Brian Boyer, who investigated and wrote this book, when he spoke to over 1,000 multi-racial community leaders from across the country gathered in a Chicago Catholic school hall.
When he was done, Gale Cincotta [a white ethnic Greek] told the extraordinarily for the time diverse crowd: “We have met the enemy and it is not us. It is our own government.” Witnessing the launch of a national movement, that would take on the American Bankers Association, the Federal Reserve Board and the US Department of Housing & Urban Development, was a career motivator. Having Gale as a mentor for over a decade was worth the PhD I never got.
Whitehouse embeds in the word enabled a link to a 2014 blog that quotes Beryl Satter from her book:
“The scandal involved the abandonment and ruin of over 240,000 units of housing nationwide—enough to house over one million people. In Detroit alone, more than 25,000 houses had been abandoned—about 10 percent of the city’s housing stock. The cost to the U.S. government was estimated at close to $4 billion, in preinflationary, early-1970s money.”
Most recently, we had the plundering of the subprime boom of the 2000s. Whitehouse justly condemns it for steering blacks into “inappropriately expensive loans that enriched a whole ecosystem of mortgage-industry professionals, but often left borrowers with nothing but an eviction notice and a bad credit history. In the wake of the subprime bust, investors including private-equity firms have again targeted the same neighborhoods, buying up houses on the cheap and renting them back to black and other minority tenants — sometimes under contracts very similar to those of the 1960s”
This Whitehouse embedded link takes us to Old Wine in Private Equity Bottles? The Resurgence of Contract‐for‐Deed Home Sales in US Urban Neighborhoods by former colleague Dan Immergluck from my years at the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations [CANDO].
Whitehouse opens his column with the question that every Presidential candidate should answer:
One question is — or should be — central to any assessment of the state of America: Why, more than a century and a half after slavery ended, does the typical black family remain so much poorer than the typical white family?
My answer: They continue to be plundered. It is in all of our interests as a nation “indivisible” for it to STOP to assure “justice for all!” That’s the country I pledged my allegiance to.