Place, Race, and Generations of Wealth

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“This American Life”, one of my favorite public media shows, recently aired an episode called “House Rules” and it sang to me.  If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the entire podcast or read the transcript, it’s a must. Featuring ProPublica journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the hour-long show takes listeners through the story of how race and zip code have been used to determine access to opportunity in America, and still are today.

An important part of the broadcast has to do with “Redlining,” which means:

“Various maneuvers that banks and others have used to deny loans or services based on race. But most people may not know-- I didn't know-- that it wasn't banks that popularized redlining. It was the federal government under President Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, that drew red lines on maps around certain neighborhoods and refused to back home loans there. There were other designations on the maps, by the way, for areas with Jews and others, anyone who was perceived as risky.” From Nancy Updike, This American Life

In that vein, check out an old planning map from Minneapolis in 1935 that was recently re-discovered by the Harrison Neighborhood Association. Notice how sections are marked by class and race.

Once you’ve taken a look at the old map from 1935, check out a more recent map from 2012 to see how this story continues today in our community: wealth, homeownership and foreclosure across Minneapolis are still cut along the lines of race and place. The map depicts foreclosures in Minneapolis in communities of color.

These maps and stories like “House Rules” have the power to change the conversation and erode racist assumptions that we have about wealth disparities. Documentaries like “House Rules”, and another JCA favorite “Race the Power of an Illusion: The House We Live In” give a national and historical context to our work in the Twin Cities today.  

·         Have a listen and see our story in this story. Many Jews in America, and in Minnesota, were denied housing through exclusionary covenants and also participated in white flight.

·         Organize. We have the power to work as partners with other communities to advance equity and repair a system that denies opportunity on the basis of race and place.

·         Take Action. We are currently partnering with NCRC (the Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition) and CURA (the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs) to explore how lending and foreclosure disparities play out in neighborhoods today. Join us as we work to advance policies that proactively address equitable access to credit and banking services.

Contact JCA to set up an interactive presentation about fair lending in the Twin Cities with your organization, neighborhood, congregation or a group of friends.

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