Here's a fact:
[D]ifferences in home and neighborhood quality do not fully explain the devaluation of homes in black neighborhoods. Homes of similar quality in neighborhoods with similar amenities are worth 23 percent less ($48,000 per home on average, amounting to $156 billion in cumulative losses) in majority black neighborhoods, compared to those with very few or no black residents
(And here is some analysis of that fact.)
Here is another fact:
The government-sponsored Home Owners’ Loan Corporation drew a line around Bedford-Stuyvesant on a map, colored the area red and gave it a “D,” the worst grade possible, denoting a hazardous place to underwrite mortgages.
Lines like these, drawn in cities across the country to separate “hazardous” and “declining” from “desirable” and “best,” codified patterns of racial segregation and disparities in access to credit. Now economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, analyzing data from recently digitized copies of those maps, show that the consequences lasted for decades.
As recently as 2010, they find, differences in the level of racial segregation, homeownership rates, home values and credit scores were still apparent where these boundaries were drawn.
And here is a recent data point:
Abena and Alex Horton wanted to take advantage of low home-refinance rates brought on by the coronavirus crisis. So in June, they took the first step in that process, welcoming a home appraiser into their four-bedroom, four-bath ranch-style house in Jacksonville, Fla.
The Hortons live just minutes from the Ortega River, in a predominantly white neighborhood of 1950s homes that tend to sell for $350,000 to $550,000. They had expected their home to appraise for around $450,000, but the appraiser felt differently, assigning a value of $330,000. Ms. Horton, who is Black, immediately suspected discrimination.
The couple’s bank agreed that the value was off and ordered a second appraisal. But before the new appraiser could arrive, Ms. Horton, a lawyer, began an experiment: She took all family photos off the mantle. Instead, she hung up a series of oil paintings of Mr. Horton, who is white, and his grandparents that had been in storage. Books by Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison were taken off the shelves, and holiday photo cards sent by friends were edited so that only those showing white families were left on display. On the day of the appraisal, Ms. Horton took the couple’s 6-year-old son on a shopping trip to Target, and left Mr. Horton alone at home to answer the door.
The new appraiser gave their home a value of $465,000 — a more than 40 percent increase from the first appraisal.
Nothing but facts and data here, no different from the fact (and it is a fact) that blacks are by and large better basketball players than whites, and that this is not because blacks are taller (because they aren't). To this point I have drawn no conclusions and made no value judgements. All I've done is cite facts from credible sources.
Now, I am going to draw a conclusion, and then I'm going to make a value judgement, but I want to make it very clear that I am not going to take a position on the titular question of this post (because I have learned the hard way that that is fraught with all manner of rhetorical peril). The conclusion I draw is this:
The facts I've presented above are an indication of the existence of a very serious problem in our society, and this problem has something to do with race.
Note well that I have intentionally said nothing about the exact nature of this problem except that it is serious and it has something to do with race. In particular, I have not said that it has anything to do with real estate prices nor with playing basketball.
Now, I can imagine at least three different kinds of reactions to this:
1. "Yes, there is a problem. It is mainly a result of some external influence over which blacks have little to no control, like systemic institutionalized racism, or well-meaning but ultimately misguided government intervention, or something like that."
2. "Yes, there is a problem. It is mainly a result of some deficiency in the black community and so only the black community can do anything about it."
3. "I disagree that these facts are an indication of a problem. This
is just the free market operating as expected (or something like that). Everything is as it
There is a fourth possibility. Someone could reject the premise that these "facts" are in fact facts and say that they are lies, the product of a disinformation campaign, or something like that. Fake news. For the purposes of this discussion we can discount this. The fact (and on this view it is manifestly a fact) that lies like this can so effectively masquerade as facts is a problem in and of itself, and that brings up back to 1-3.
Now I am going to make my value judgement: if you subscribe to reaction #3 then there is something deeply wrong with you. If you can look at the current state of affairs and say that there is no problem at all, that this is the best humanity is capable of, that there is nothing left for our society to aspire to, then you are suffering from some kind of serious mental deficiency. You either lack empathy or imagination or the ability to properly process information or something. If that offends you, then you should probably stop reading my blog and seek counseling.
If you are still with me, then we agree that there is a problem, but potentially disagree on its nature and source. That's fine, reasonable people can disagree about these things. But now here are a few more facts:
2. Neither slavery nor Jim Crow were ended by societal consensus. Slavery was ended by a civil war, and Jim Crow was ended by a series of Supreme Court decisions in the 1950s and the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s, i.e. well within living memory. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was highly contentious, with the Southern states overwhelmingly opposed to it.
3. Before the Civil War, negro slavery (as it was then invariably referred to) was openly defended by many Southerners as a positive good:
Slavery as a positive good was the prevailing view of White Southern U.S. politicians and intellectuals just before the American Civil War, as opposed to a "necessary evil." They defended the legal enslavement of people for their labor as a benevolent, paternalistic institution with social and economic benefits, an important bulwark of civilization, and a divine institution similar or superior to the free labor in the North. Proponents of enslavement as "a good — a great good" often attacked the system of industrial capitalism, contending that the free laborer in the North, called by them a "wage slave", was as much enslaved by capitalist owners as were the African people enslaved by Whites in the South.
The right of white people to own negro slaves was explicitly enshrined in the Constitution of the Confederate States of America, which specifically provided that, "No ... law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed."
So for hundreds of years there were substantial numbers of people in the U.S. willing to defend, at times quite literally with their lives, not just racial discrimination against blacks, but race-based chattel slavery, and willing to do so openly and on the merits. The defenders of slavery genuinely believed in their heart of hearts that they were the good guys.
Very few people openly advocate racial discrimination on the merits today, but there are some who do. That link is to a video, one which I find rather shocking, but it is worth watching. I am, of course, repulsed by the ideology espoused by the subjects of the film, but I really do think that these people believe in their heart of hearts that they are the good guys. Furthermore, I respect the fact that they are willing to stand up openly for what they believe. They wear the badge of "racist" with pride (4:00). They leave no doubt about where they stand: "We are a white nation, founded for and by the white man." (2:40). And, it is well worth noting, that that, too, is a fact.