Color Within The Lines (#2)

REDLINING

Huong Trenh, Blog Assignment #2

I grew up in South Seattle and I’ve always loved it down here. I went to elementary and middle school down south, but as I entered high school I ended up going to a school up north. That was when I realized that Seattle is pretty segregated. I always thought, since I was young, that Seattle seemed like a diverse city with a good mixture of whites and colored people. After high school and college I came to a conclusion that that wasn’t the case. When I used to tell my friends who lived up north that I lived in South Seattle, they would look at me and ask me, “Isn’t it ghetto down there? Isn’t it dangerous? Are there a lot of fights that happen?” I was puzzled, why would they ask me something so silly? It never occurred to me that some of the people who lived up north had never gone down south before. So I assumed their depiction of what South Seattle must be like was influenced from shows, movies, and the media. If there were any incidents that involved colored people and South Seattle, the media would blow it up and make it worse than it actually was. Another thing I realized was that there were more whites up north and more colored people down south, which was probably one of the reasons why I thought Seattle was diverse because I only saw the colored part of it. In college, I learned about redlining and gentrification. Then it all made sense – why some places had more whites than others, why certain schools have better resources than others, why certain communities were portrayed as “better and safe”. For this blog assignment, I’m going to be talking about redlining, specifically in Seattle.

In class, we talked about the Great Migration, the first wave and the second wave. Though the First Migration did have an impact on history, the Second Migration, in my opinion, had a bigger impact due to the large numbers of migrants. The first migration occurred around 1910 to 1940, and about roughly 1.5 million Blacks left the South to find new places to live. The Second Migration happened around 1940 to 1970 and about 5 million Blacks migrated (Lecture Notes, Nov. 17). The Second Migration drastically impacted the population of African Americans in Seattle because the population had a huge increase from 1940 to 1960 (“The Seattle Open…”). Of course that didn’t make the transition of moving into Seattle any easier. Blacks along with other minorities were subjected to discrimination. One of which was through unfair housing and where they were allowed to live.

So, what is redlining? Redlining is the illegal practice of excluding certain people, mostly minorities, to live around certain areas, which can relate to the term that was brought up in class – “steering”, which was forcing minorities to buy in a specific region or community (Lecture Notes, Nov. 24). Another example that can be related back to having minorities live in certain neighborhoods is “gentrification”, where the minorities are being pushed out of their current place in order for people in power to create a “better” community, make it whiter.

How did redlining come into play? Redlining began when the National Housing Act of 1934 created the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which is a government agency (Lecture Notes, Nov. 24). The FHA oversees and regulated interest rates and mortgage terms. Through their process of doing so, it helped solidify the kind of racial segregation that we still see existing today. The FHA uses the Underwriting Handbook to determine which properties they would approve for mortgage and with that, ends up supporting redlining because it resulted in African American neighborhoods as ineligible for mortgages from the FHA (“1934: Federal Housing…”).

Come 1968 President Johnson signs the Fair Housing Act that made it illegal to discriminate certain people from buying or renting certain properties. This Act removed racial language that was in the federal housing policy. This allowed minorities to slowly move into the more traditional white neighborhoods. This soon led to “block-busting”; this term means that realtors used the racial fear of whites against them in order to get them to sell their houses for a cheap price and then resell it to the colored people for a higher price (Lecture Notes, Nov. 24).

Though it was illegal to discriminate buyers based on their race, it did not stop realtors, contractors, or banks from excluding minorities still (“The Seattle Open…”). Redlining was significant during this time period for African Americans because it was during the second migration with the largest amount of migrants. By redlining, it prevented them from being able to move into neighborhoods that would help them thrive and build a stable lifestyle for them and their families. This was their chance to start a new life and being restricted to places that were considered “bad, dirty” or “not livable” was only stopping them from being able to achieve the life they wanted. A lot of the communities that the Blacks were allowed to live in were poorly managed, not much room for economic growth with very little to no resources given in order for the community to grow as a whole. This caused a lot of challenges when it came to employment for the African Americans (Lecture Notes, Nov. 19). It was hard to find jobs within the area because the government didn’t help or offer jobs for them. Even if the Blacks wanted to start their own businesses, it was very difficult to do because they needed money to be able to start their own business or at least get a loan. Not only was it hard to get a job within your own community, it was also sometimes challenging to get a job outside of your community because some whites in other communities were still reluctant to hire Blacks and if they did, the pay wasn’t all that great. With the stress of trying to find employment and trying to support the family, it caused conflicts and tension within families.

Malcolm X said something very interesting in his “The Ballot or The Bullet” speech. He said, “…we have to become involved in a program of reeducation, to educate our people into the importance of knowing that when you spend your dollar out of the community in which you live, the community in which you spend your money becomes richer and richer, the community of which you take your money becomes poorer and poorer.” I agree because sometimes I see, and I do this myself too, others in my community go to another community because we believe, think, that they have “better” things, “better” produce, “better” everything just because it’s located in their community and not ours. Malcolm X continued, “And you and I are in a double trap because not only do we lose by taking our money someplace else and spending it, when we try and spend it in our own community we’re trapped because we haven’t had sense enough to set up stores and control the business of our community.” He’s basically saying that the man, who is outside of our community, has set up businesses within our community and by spending money in our community we’re just making his community richer. At the end, Malcolm X suggests that we really try to support one another and create businesses of our own within our community. That way, we are then able to provide jobs for people who need it, and we as a whole will become richer in the process. I think that it would be great if the redlining communities were able to do this because not only does it help just help out the small business owners, it helps out the overall community and the people in it (“The Ballot or The Bullet”).

The biggest reason why I decided to go with redlining for my blog assignment was not because I lived in the South End. It was because I work as a College Career Readiness Assistant (CCRA) at a high school down in South Seattle; I work with the freshmen all the way through to the seniors. A lot of the kids I work with are minorities and sometimes the stories I hear from them really makes me wish I could help out more than I could. As a CCRA, we are given data of how many students graduate from high school and go to college along with their ethnic information in specific regions within Seattle. When I help out some of these students, I hear a lot of them say it’s because where they live and grew up that affected their learning, which then results in them failing some of their classes preventing them from being able to graduate on time. These students would talk to me and tell me that sometimes they wished they had better resources that would prepare them to graduate high school and go to college, if that was what they wanted. They asked how come in certain areas in Seattle have better programs then where they lived, and had I not taken any classes that informed me about the discrimination of minorities in certain areas in Seattle, I wouldn’t have been able to answer that question. So this blog assignment really allowed me to go in depth with how redlining affected not just African Americans but also every other minorities. It showed that redlining existed far longer than I had expected and to this day, it still somewhat exists. You can say that subprime loans, discussed in class a few weeks back, contribute to redlining. It hides the fact that majority of the people who they’re giving these subprime loans to do qualify for regular loans. These subprime loans have a higher interest rate as well as being riskier. Redlining relates back to what we’ve been talking about in class throughout the quarter because it shows that there are many ways to discriminate against a race; that segregation still exists even when some people choose not to believe that it does. Hopefully in the future we will come up with a better solution to be more inclusive and allow minorities a chance to live where they want without the fear of being excluded from their own community.

These are the two maps I chose to show. One is from 1920 when the African American population was still growing. The second one is from 1960, when the influx of Blacks occurred. The reason why there is a heavily concentrated Black population in Yesler Way and the Central District was because that was one of the few places that the Blacks were allowed to live during that time (“Seattle Segregation Maps 1920-2010”).

1920Seattle - 1960

Bonus map! This map is just to give you an idea of how a redlining map looks like (in Seattle) with colors; each color represents something different (“Segregation by Design?”).

Redlining in Seattle.JPG

  • A (green) were new, homogenous areas (“American Business and Professional Men), in demand as residential location in good times and bad.
  • B (blue) were “still desirable” areas that had “reached their peak” but were expected to remain stable for many years.
  • C (yellow) were neighborhoods that were “definitely declining.” Generally sparsely populated fringe areas that were typically bordering on all black neighborhoods.
  • D (red) (hence the term “red-lining”) were areas in which “things taking place in 3 had already happened.” Black and low income neighborhoods were considered to be the worst for lending (“1934: Federal Housing…”).

WORKS CITED

“The Seattle Open Housing Campaign, 1959-1968.” – CityArchives. Seattle Municpal Archives, n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2015. <http://www.seattle.gov/cityarchives/exhibits-and-education/digital-document-libraries/the-seattle-open-housing-campaign&gt;.

“1934: Federal Housing Administration Created.” 1934: Federal Housing Administration Created. The Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston, n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2015. <http://www.bostonfairhousing.org/timeline/1934-FHA.html&gt;.

“Seattle Segregation Maps 1920-2010.” Segregation Maps. University of Washington: Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project, n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2015. <https://depts.washington.edu/civilr/segregation_maps.htm&gt;.

Kelety, Josh. “Segregation by Design?” Seattle’s Single Family Neighborhoods Have Roots in Segregation. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <http://www.seattlemet.com/articles/2015/7/20/no-single-family-zoning-isn-t-racist-but-many-single-family-neighborhoods-historically-were&gt;.

X, Malcolm. “Malcolm X “The Ballot or the Bullet”” Say It Plain, Say It Loud – American RadioWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015. <http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/blackspeech/mx.html&gt;.

Pittman, LaShawnDa. “The Great Migration.” African-American Studies 101. Seattle: University of Washington, 17 November 2015. Lecture.

Pittman, LaShawnDa. “The Great Migration 2.” African-American Studies 101. Seattle: University of Washington, 19 November. Lecture.

Pittman, LaShawnDa. “Lipsitz – Housing & Education.” African-American Studies 101. Seattle: University of Washington, 24 November. Lecture.

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