The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Americans think that racial segregation ended with the Civil Rights Act of 1964; little do they know, it lays hidden in the very maps used to plan our neighborhoods.
Residential racial segregation comes in the form of redlining, a practice used by realtors, urban planners, and banks to decide which families got loans for homes. These maps showed neighborhoods, each given different grades, to distinguish the risk rating and perceived stability of certain areas. “A” neighborhoods were the most ideal and the most “stable,” colored in green on maps. “C” neighborhoods were colored in yellow, while “D” areas were colored red, both being characterized by older structures, poor utilities and transportation, and the “infiltration of a lower grade population” meaning those of African American, Hispanic, Asian, or Jewish background lived there (Pearcy, 2020). Those in redlined areas were less likely to receive loans from banks to move out of areas that did not allow for commercial development, most heavily affecting minorities in urban areas. Redlining then separates races into separate areas, continuing racial segregation post-Civil Rights Act.
Additionally, redlining contributed to continued ideas of eugenics. Eugenics are the theories and practices that encourage the elimination of a “lesser race” or “less ideal” heritable characteristics in an effort to regulate human populations. Throughout history, eugenics have been used by the Nazis to eliminate the Jewish population, psychologists to remove the mentally ill from society, and white supremacists to increase the white population and lessen the African American or other minority groups. Redlining, as a practice, was greatly supported by eugenic housing advocates who promoted developments and policies that encouraged large families for the reproduction of those considered to be “most fit” and desired the decline of “less civilized” races (Lovett, 2020). Redlining allows for suburban development in planned communities that discriminated against African Americans and other minorities. This was a racially restrictive practice that encouraged eugenics because placing racial minorities in areas that would deny their ability to grow their families, lessening their population growth and causing white populations to thrive in their “ideal,” “stable” communities.
Redlining has continued racist residential policies while additionally supporting eugenics. The consequences of this policy are profound. In areas that have been redlined, those who seek higher education have been limited or entirely excluded from this opportunity because they do not have access to loans. This has also been a major source of wealth disparity between white Americans and American minority groups. Not only is there a lack of loans, but the loans that are given are predatory and trap owners at very high levels of debt, causing many owners to lose their home when they cannot repay the loan (Lovett, 2020).
However, there are many strategies to fight against redlining. By focusing on inner city neighborhoods and developing plans to improve employment and social services, areas that have been historically discriminated against have a chance at economic development. Investments in infrastructure and utilizing inclusionary zoning ordinances, higher quality housing can be made for these redlined areas. Revitalization of these neighborhoods should be of utmost importance to both citizens and policymakers for the general health and happiness of our cities.
Lovett, Laura L. (2020). Eugenic Housing: Redlining, Reproductive Regulation, and Suburban Development in the United States. Women’s Studies Quarterly. 48(1). 67-83
Pearcy, Mark. (2020). “The Most Insidious Legacy”—Teaching About Redlining and Residential Segregation. National Council for Geographic Education. 17(2). 44-55.