This blog is a little different than the usual ones. I try to keep my blogs focused on climate change, but this is a very important issue that I thought I should write about.
There are many reasons why white privilege and systematic racism exist, but one of the main causes of this inequality is redlining. Put simply, redlining is when banks would refuse to offer mortgages or offer worse rates to customers in certain neighborhoods.
The US Government was not involved in housing until 1934, when the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was created as part of the New Deal. The FHA sought to restore the housing market after the Great Depression. Instead of creating policies to make housing more equitable, the FHA did the opposite. They took advantage of non-white neighborhoods and made cities even more segregated. They drew color-coded maps of cities (see the Los Angeles map below) that helped the government decide which neighborhoods would make secure investments and pay their home loans and which neighborhoods should be off-limits for issuing mortgages because the people were untrustworthy. This is how the maps were color-coded:
Green (“Best”): Green neighborhoods represented the up-and-coming, in-demand, predominantly white neighborhoods.
Blue (“Still Desirable”): Blue neighborhoods had already reached their peak and were not in demand anymore, but were still predominantly white.
Yellow (“Definitely Declining”): Yellow neighborhoods usually bordered predominantly non-white neighborhoods and were at risk of “threat of infiltration of foreign-born, negro, or lower grade populations” (that quote truly shows the racism of the FHA).
Red (“Hazardous”): Red neighborhoods were the neighborhoods that had little to no white inhabitants, or in the words of the FHA, places where the infiltration had already happened.
The people in the green and blue neighborhoods got fair loans on their houses, and were able to spend their money on getting ahead. The people in the yellow and red neighborhoods could not get home loans so they had to spend all of their money on their houses. This meant that they could not fund schools and other necessities very well, putting them back even further. Families got stuck in the poverty loop and have stayed in it for generations. Even though redlining was banned in the Fair Housing Act of 1968, non-white communities are still suffering from the effects of redlining today.
Surprisingly, redlining actually affects the climate of a local area. A study by the Virginia Commonwealth University found that “in 94% of the 108 cities examined, once-redlined neighborhoods experience increased average daily temperatures compared to non-redlined areas, and in Philadelphia, the disparity is almost 10 degrees Fahrenheit.” The lack of trees, parks, and other public spaces traps the hot air near the ground. This hot air can spread into other neighborhoods, slightly increasing the temperature of the whole city. If we can transform these neighborhoods and get the people living in them out of the poverty cycle, it would solve a lot of problems.