How the FHA Shaped Ferguson

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Ferguson is currently forced to hear, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would phrase, the voices of the unheard, through vitriolic protest in all forms imaginable. Although I would dare to say that Ferguson would not be currently seeking answers to W.E.B. Du Bois’s color line if not for the Federal Housing Authority. Many know the old adage, that those who do not learn from their history are doomed to repeat it. Sadly, this truism is playing itself out on the streets of Ferguson today, so much so that the President of the United States Barack Obama routinely takes to National News to advocate against the tide of violence, but forgetting the violence of plunder placed upon people of color in America.

One only has to look back over to the housing policies of the Federal Housing Authority in 20th century to grasp a full understanding of the pernicious ramifications at hand of their public policy. In 1974 a three judge panel of the Federal Eight Circuit Court of Appeals concluded, that segregated housing in St. Louis were systemically and deliberately the product of racial discrimination. After such a court decision the Department of Justice came to the same conclusion after reviewing the issues of the case but took no action. What housing policies were put in practice to draw so much attention to St. Louis itself? Redlining, housing covenants and blockbusting are some of the tactics, tactics endorsed by the Federal Housing Authority, that were used to separate White America from Black America and brought about federal investigation upon St. Louis.

I must pause for a moment for those readers who are under this misnomer that the United States of America currently stands in a post racial era. Dr. Beverly Tatum eloquently communicates and equates racism in her tome, “ Why Are the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria”, to smog. By the very nature of the inception principles upon which the country was founded, created a smog. Some days this smog is light and see through, barely noticeable. Other days this smog is thick, thick enough to touch. During the hey day of the Federal Housing Authority, the smog of racism was thick enough to swallow and often was by the FHA. Created during a progressive period of time, however to get progressive policies put into place special considerations were made. In the case of housing, Dixiecrats in the south, who had a firm control on Congress during the 1930s, only allowed progressive public policy to advance only when the tenants of racism were intertwined. Hence, why during the age of a Democratic Congress, people of color saw little social and economic advancement.

Resuming, we see in 1947 the Federal Housing Authority did away with literal racial discriminatory verbiage to deny African-Americans integrated housing, deciding instead on “compatibility among neighborhood occupants” to determine who lived where. Here we see the special considerations made to Dixiecrats stall genuine progress. You may ask why did the Federal Housing Authority wield so much power when determining who lived where? This is so because, in 1943 the Federal Housing Authority financed 80 percent of all private home construction. Consequently, if one was to obtain a home, the loan would have to come from the Federal Housing Authority. Some African Americans did receive money from the Federal Housing Authority, however that number only amounts to 2 percent, with most of these loans given to individual persons in the south, among other all African-American housing developments.

With African Americans under the FHA, restricted to only certain areas to live in St. Louis, which replicates other towns and cities across America, African-Americans began to face what Ta-Nehisi Coates notes as, the plunder of White America. According to “Better Together” a non- profit in St. Louis, 86 percent of all stops by police, 92 percent of all police searches, 93 percent of all arrests in Ferguson were of African-Americans. Despite the fact that only 22 percent of all stops and searches led to contraband versus 34 percent of their white counterparts. This not only helps fund local and city government but further oppresses the African-Americans of Ferguson.

So I say unto you, that the pictures that flash across your TV screens of Ferguson does not show the whole picture nor does it depict the events that led to the Ferguson of today. We must as a group of African-Americans do our homework on the issues in a clear, concise, thoughtful perspective and formulate action to make a difference in the every days lives of our communities. Anything else is akin to mental masturbation, relieving ourselves of the obligation of actually doing something tangible for ourselves and other African-Americans. Maybe then our brother’s keeper Barack Hussein Obama will have other recourse to aid in the ills of people of color in America other than a revision of Bill Cosby’s “pound cake” speech.

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