How systemic racism flares up in housing and neighborhoods | Michigan Radio
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How systemic racism flares up in housing and neighborhoods

Jul 24, 2020

On May 25, the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer set off protests across the country, as well as conversations about how racial discrimination and disenfranchisement are upheld by different sectors of American society. This summer, Stateside is conducting a series of conversations on what systemic racism looks like. This week we hear from a journalist, a landlord, and the director of a community center about how systemic racism affects housing, from property rental to the way neighborhoods are structured.

Listen to individual conversations below.

How “sundown towns” have shaped where we live, work, and play 

Institutional racism manifests in tangible and intangible ways. One historical example of this is “sundown towns”: municipalities that practiced segregation through a combination of discriminatory policies, intimidation, and sometimes violence against non-white people. Bryce Huffman, a reporter for Bridge Detroit, recently wrote a piece titled, “Detroit suburbs grapple with the history of being anti-Black ‘sundown towns’.” He said that while sundown towns may no longer be codified by laws, practices such as redlining have allowed racism to continue to structure communities.

“I think for Detroit, when we look at home ownership and the poverty rate, they go hand in hand,” Huffman said. “We can’t separate the segregation aspect, the lending practices, redlining, we can’t separate any of that from people wanting to be separate from what they perceived was a Black city that had danger and crime and all of these problems that they wanted to be no longer associated with. And that’s why metro Detroit looks the way that it does nowadays.”

You can read Huffman’s article here

Eviction disproportionately hits Black renters. Here’s what it looks like and what might help. 

Earlier this year, the University of Washington released a study showing black renters were seven times more likely to be evicted than white renters. Bonnie Billups is the executive director of Peace Neighborhood Center in Ann Arbor. He said we have a long way to go in terms of housing equity, in part because the United States is not as distanced from its history as many people believe. 

“The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, those things were just in the sixties,” Billups said. “And this country has, you know, a history of hundreds of years. And most of those hundreds of years were not pleasant years for people of color. And so, we’re really in our infancy of trying to bring real equality to all people in this country and to live up to the Declaration of Independence.”

Finding solutions for equitable housing and access to capital through a landlord's eyes 

Despite the fact that Detroit is an 80% Black city, mortgages in recent years have tended to go to white homeowners. Andre Watson, a landlord in Detroit, said a lack of access to capital plagues would-be buyers who are Black, making it difficult to dismantle an inequitable economy of renting and homeownership.

“Systemic solutions, I believe, would come by lending institutions really opening up their minds, challenging themselves to move beyond their norms and engaging the community that could be a viable customer. It really could be a win-win situation, but it does require more courage and more disturbance to the norms,” Watson said.

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Lia Baldori.