In America, the saying ‘inner-city’ is that politically correct term that refers to Black people; and typically the given name is tied to people living in poverty in the ghettos (or poor areas) of America who don’t value work.
Urban, another word for describing ‘Black people’ started as only to describe the characteristic of a city or town, or the urban population when referring to a metropolitan city, but instead the term has been socially accepted to mean anything about ‘Black heritage’ and these words denote or relate to popular music of Black origin, or Black people themselves.
Conditioning has played a vital role in the continual manipulation or control tactics that have helped to attach key terms to certain groups of people, like the word ‘inner-city’ isn’t some expression to describe ‘downtown’ but to cleverly name the ‘po’ Black folk’ and ‘urban’ isn’t some name given to describe a metropolitan city or population but now also to cleverly say ‘Black’ or anything related to Blacks. Forget about a Black person being from a far away distance outside a metropolitan city because the name ‘urban’ still applies, but the common issue is that non-Black persons can magically avoid those ‘culturally assigned names’ no matter if they live in an urban, suburban, country or rural setting. Such terms have been carefully used and historically repeated over and over again to have an unconscious lasting effect in the minds of the people- and once these terms are cleverly used repeatedly it’s almost impossible to not think of Black people once terms like ‘inner-city’ and ‘urban’ arise in conversation.
Majority of African Americans aren’t living in depressed areas but all seem to be commonly grouped into the ‘inner-city’ or ‘urban’ category; unlike their counterparts who can live in urban, suburban, country or rural areas and still be fairly classified as individuals regardless of residency.
America’s long history of racist housing policies and practices are a cause for the huge American racial gap. The same housing policies that have helped to create the ghettos and inner-cities across America are the policies that have deprived whole communities of their wealth and opportunities, and these long-lasting policies are still harming these same communities today. The wealth and income gap, and education disparities in America were able to prosper by such housing policies that made ‘housing discrimination’ possible and played a large role in America’s formal or legal segregation era.
In the good old 80s, films like Wall Street were telling you what the 1980s was mostly about, an America flowing in abundance with a vision towards the future but a fondness for the past, thanks to the Reagan era. But also 1984 happened, when America had a wide-scale problem that was brushed under the rug which was the White-to-Black wealth ratio that was 12-to-1. If you thought it had improved because as life goes on progression is inevitable, then you would indeed be wrong.
We fast forward to the year 2009 when the racial wealth gap becomes worse; at 19-to-1 the White-to-Black wealth ratio gap skyrockets. Policies and practices that carried power over holding many Black people in the ghettos or poor areas of America were policies like redlining (banking or insurance industry discrimination) which performs discriminatory mortgage-lending practices, lack of access to credit, and lack of access to loans- this blocked Black persons from attaining homes or living in certain neighborhoods- which helped create and reinforce segregated neighborhoods.
Maintaining the ghettos and housing projects, keeping the poor Blacks in certain neighborhoods, and denying housing to Blacks who could afford certain neighborhoods is part of the redlining tactic. Denying key services like home loans and insurance or increasing costs for only a specific geographical area was a tool to force Blacks, along with other minorities like Latinos, into specific geographic areas.
Where did prejudice practices come from? We can start looking at the National Housing Act of 1934, which made the Federal Housing Administration, and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. This is the same agency that created ‘residential security maps’ for cities across America to determine the safety of real estate investments in selected areas. It doesn’t take long to figure out that it’s the Black neighborhoods that were somehow magically deemed as “unsafe” and thus ineligible for financing; a tactic that still applies today because where there’s an all-Black or majority-Black city in America there’s an underlining seed implanted that it’s bad. For any prospective property owner, this is bad for homeownership and business, and with no access to flowing cash there is no way to afford a home or a business in your own area.
Used as a double threat, both ‘redlining’ and ‘racial covenants’ together became a massive weapon to force Blacks into certain neighborhoods and starve their areas to death of affordable capital. Racial covenants go hand-in-hand with ‘redlining’ due to a similar practice of keeping Blacks in specific neighborhood zones, but this practice differs slightly because it directly barred Blacks from entering White neighborhoods, and made it possible to forbid property sales to African Americans and other minorities by violence and/or intimidation. Prejudice policies, combined with widespread job discrimination that barred Blacks from public employment which forced them into low-wage types of work, you had neighborhoods that were impoverished by design.
The influx of Blacks from the South migrating to Midwestern and Northeastern industrialized cities that were creating America made a problem worse; instead of making room for the increased numbers of Blacks, White real estate agents with the sanction of local government took advantage of their hopes by using a practice called ‘contract buying’ which made it exceptionally hard for Blacks to buy homes- some Blacks were poor but many were working or lower-middle-class. Contract buying or ‘selling on contract’ is selling a home to someone for a relatively low down payment- many times several hundred dollars would be sufficient enough for bringing the home closer within reach of a Black purchaser, as the agent extracts a considerable amount for himself. While the average increase of a home was 73 percent, the average increase of a home for Blacks were anywhere from 35 to 115 percent; with the Commission on Human Relations’ study finding that Blacks of that time were targeted by predatory lending practices. Unlike the modern-day predatory lending practices that would come to be known as ‘the housing bubble’ from 2006 to 2009 that would hit so many Americans hard, ‘contract buying’ was dramatically worse. Black tenants weren’t able to have equity in their own homes until the terms of the contract were fulfilled, and agents could evict tenants for missing one payment, regardless of good history. Their White counterparts had much assistance that included taking advantage of the G.I. Bill in the 1940s and 1950s, but Blacks had no access to even obtain conventional financing or subsidized loans so the predatory practice of ‘contact lending’ was their only option. This predatory practice that the government allowed and encouraged through intricate policies also stole wealth from the Black communities.
Another policy that was made-up just to fool around with Blacks’ wealth was ‘block-busting’ which pairs well with ‘White flight’ and just added to the problems in America. Many Northern cities were faced with a housing shortage, due to large numbers of Black migrants, but when White people panicked about having Black neighbors- along with the facilitation of highways and subsidized mortgage loans- countless Whites deserted the cities and fled to the suburbs.
There’s more to ‘White flight’ than White people not wanting Black neighbors, but the riots in the North and Mid-west became too violent and dangerous that it scared or forced many people out of the cities. Then there was the looting and arson that ensued, including people gaining that big pay-out for their business insurance before moving to the suburbs- people get scared and want to protect their personal interests.
Although race riots are nothing new to America, and have occurred since the first recorded race riot in Washington D.C. in 1835, riots are an interesting intricate story of America’s history and culture. Then came the 1960s which brought such American cities like Harlem and Philadelphia (race riot 1964), Omaha (1966 and 1968 race riot), Detroit (race riot 1943 and 1967), Baltimore and Chicago (race riot 1968), and our often forgotten city of Watts which had their race riot in 1965. California is often ignored when the focus is on race riots because society washes over that the great African American migration occurred in the West too. Let’s not forget too, that in the summer of 1919 the city of Omaha broke out in a race riot for two days, and this was followed by 20 other major industrial American cities breaking out in riots. The brutal lynching of an African American man by the name of Will Brown, who was a Black worker, and the death of two White men led to an emotionally angry White mob attempting to hang Omaha’s mayor Edward Parsons Smith, but luckily he was saved and resumed his mayoral duties. But it was the three African American men lynched in Duluth, Minnesota that shocked the nation; the “1920 Duluth lynchings” that occurred on June 15 surprised many just because these occurred in the North- although four earlier lynchings had already occurred in Minnesota before then.
But ‘block-busting’ became just another heavy brick to lay and block Blacks’ progression, and the policy was enforced by what you called ‘block-busters’ which were unscrupulous realtors who encouraged Blacks to move into White areas, zones, or neighborhoods. The policy created the appearance of a racially transitioning neighborhood, but it really sparked an explosion of racially violent occurrences. Block-busting was a risky move due to the high potential of extreme violence that could escalate, and in fact did escalate to violence. After unscrupulous practices were behind moving Blacks into White neighborhoods, then the more respectable realtors converted the homes and apartments into multi-family homes, which did nothing than cram large numbers into a home that was really meant for a small number of people. In fact, Whites and Blacks did live side by side in some of these multi-family homes but that same space was rented to White families at $25 per month, while Black families paid $100 per month. Not only was it financially unfair, but it created resentment from working-class Whites who were often outbid by Blacks but also couldn’t afford suburban housing outside the city either.
Two policies working together, Block-busting along with contract buying, that helped to destroy the tax base helped to create the perception that Blacks were responsible for the deterioration of a neighborhood. Don’t blame ‘the people’- well blame the people- but blame who supplied the tools and approaches that made it possible to accomplish this on a wide-scale-level, from the federal to state to local government it was a Democrat and Republican effort and project to appease the White supremacist majority- and why not because they often shared their assumptions and views.
The creation of depressed neighborhoods continued into the 1960s, and arguably it never stopped. The placement of public housing was calculated and placed in segregated and depressed neighborhoods as a compromise with conservatives who opposed them outright. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was originally created to tackle those issues, but what happened instead was it locked-in poverty, and what it produced was poor schools and public services instead.
After generations after generations of families, and after decades and decades of people have been left out of building wealth, accessing capital, and experiencing the killing of their community’s richness it leaves them impoverished, and guarantees deep cultural dysfunction and poverty. This is just a small part of what built the inner-cities and ghettos, and inner-city poverty.