By Megan Hayhurst, Student at Villa Victoria Academy
In North Philadelphia, redlining has historically created poor living conditions for minority groups that make up the majority of residents in the area. Redlining, the practice by which a bank, company or program lends disproportionately to a certain geographic area, has historically targeted predominantly mixed-race neighborhoods. These groups have been hit the hardest by discriminatory economics; in fact, the federal government has furthered the economic divide and promoted racial housing segregation. Passed in 1933 as a response to the Great Depression, The Federal Housing Administration restricted mortgages to primarily white neighborhoods, redlining “undesirable” neighborhoods that were predominantly of mixed race. The Homeowners Loan Corporation also followed discriminatory patterns, lending disproportionately with higher interest rates in redlined neighborhoods. According to Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law, construction and development has since aimed to maintain segregation. This sentiment can be traced back to highway construction projects, which often segregated black and white neighborhoods, and the promotion of unequal state-sponsored mortgage programs. As state officials were given control of determining the location of highway construction, these routes often reflected racist agendas. These corrupted living conditions have made economic mobilization virtually impossible for minority groups – and vice versa.
Despite the Fair Housing Act, discriminatory lending persists. According to the American Bar Association, more than 4 million cases of housing discrimination occur annually. As a result, poverty and homicide rates have since spiked in areas once redlined. A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia claims that highway construction following the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 created a decline in living conditions for “freeway neighborhoods,” leading to population and economic decline. The majority of these neighborhoods were historically of black descent.
Since the mid-20th century, predominantly black neighborhoods in Philadelphia have experienced higher levels of unemployment. The Poverty & Race Research Action Council claims that: “Rising black population pressure on limited inner city housing resources meant that dislocated blacks pressed into neighborhoods of transition, generally working-class white neighborhoods on the fringes of the black ghetto where low cost housing predominated.” These effects have proven to be long-lasting and widespread.
Today, discrimination continues to leave inequalities within America’s social and economic structures. Our civic responsibility to combat systemic racism includes several short-term and long-term actions.
To combat discrimination, progressive school reform advocates believe that Americans must first gain a fundamental understanding of its history. By implementing the history of racial inequality into school curriculums, reformers argue that adolescents will be equipped with the skills necessary to transform the work sphere into a more inclusive endeavor:
- Aliyah El-Amin, lecturer and researcher at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, proposes 5 Core Elements as basic steps any individual can take to drive out racial inequity.
- The Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation seeks to reverse the pattern of learned discrimination by incorporating civil rights education in younger generations of students. This organization utilizes donations to supply educators with the materials needed to highlight the racial injustice of American history.
- Human Rights advocate Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario proposes five strategies that educators could apply to youth school curriculums to overpower discrimination with an understanding of natural human rights.
Grassroot Movements have historically pushed for social change where political enforcement has failed. 20th-century technology and social media have made protesting global. Some courses of action include signing petitions, donating, and engaging in local organizations. These have been listed below, and are accessible to any individual.
- Organizations such as the United Nations Association of the U.S.A make it easy to contact local representatives by providing a free online template that can be personalized.
- Successful petitions provide a platform to educate others while building a community of advocacy and spreading global calls for action. Thousands of petitions calling for racial justice are available on change.org. Many of these petitions have become widespread on social media.
- Donation opportunities to advance economic aid for minority communities continue to diversify. The Black Table Arts engages the black community in all forms of art, with a goal to educate, build leadership skills, and encourage a successful future for each individual. The H. Patrick Swygert Fund is a scholarship that is available to low-income, minority students from Philadelphia (and other local counties) who are planning on applying to college.
Federal reform policy can quickly bring justice to historically disadvantaged communities. Prior presidential candidates Michael Bloomberg, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and others have proposed ambitious initiatives aimed to economically stabilize minority homeowners. Current Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden proposes to “Protect homeowners and renters from abusive lenders and landlords through a new Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights,” as mentioned on his official website. In contrast, under President Trump’s Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has recently reversed regulations of the Fair Housing Act.
As anti-discriminatory movements such as Black Lives Matter become a forefront issue, political candidates are experiencing more of a responsibility to offer policies that best reflect calls to end racial bias. Spending time Researching political candidates and their advocacy platforms has the potential to alter a substantial number of votes. Reputable and politically-oriented discussions, debates, articles, and stations can be utilized. While internet access isn’t available for many low-income families, federally-subsidized programs such as Lifeline offer low-cost plans. Gaining knowledge via intentional research is a crucial step in waiving future discrimination in our social, economic, and political spheres.
Take a Stand against discriminatory economics. Economic inequality automatically limits the influence of those unable to mobilize. As an individual, voter, and activist, you have the ability to create change. Gaining the knowledge on the issue will serve as the foundation of change, while becoming active in local or virtual organizations and choosing political leaders that reflect your activism will facilitate its overall, global impact.