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Arnold O. Beckman High School

Opinion: How redlining contributes to today’s inequities

Systemic racism is a term we have all — hopefully — become conversant with during these past weeks; it is one of the most indestructible weapons used to obstruct people of color and our nation from equality.

Democracy does not exist without equality. Therefore, these deliberately racist systems must be dismantled in order to achieve true representation within our democracy. Although this term has become inherently connoted with the police departments, one of the most perpetual forms of systemic racism occurs with the legacy of redlining. 

As I begin explanations and insights regarding the effects of redlining, it is important to note that this article exists as a result of my research on various topics. National Public Radio published a video regarding the history of redlining, which provided me with the facts for the basis of this article. 

Redlining emerged during the New Deal era of the 1930s, according to NPR. The New Deal gave birth to the National Housing Act of 1934; this act provided for low-interest rates to revive the depressed economy. However, this gave rise to residential security maps: the birth of redlining. These maps functioned to display mortgage risks within a city but immediately created decades of racial inequities, according to NPR

Each color on the map corresponded to the value of particular regions.

Green represented the business region of the city, blue was white-collar neighborhoods, yellow was the declining and working-class neighborhoods and red was hazardous and detrimental neighborhoods. Neighborhoods, where immigrants and African Americans had a large presence, were automatically put into the hazardous region on the maps, according to NPR.

Most white families of similar, if not identical, socioeconomic statuses as the African American families in the red regions lived in the yellow and blue regions, according to NPR. This means that white families had more access to bank loans and refinances, creating generational wealth that African American families did not have.

Despite redlining being deemed illegal in 1968, after the assassination of MLK, the racial effects are still deeply ingrained in our society — even 52 years later.

Redlining has strategically determined the future of thousands of African Americans to this day. Due to the fact that African Americans were prohibited from participating in suburban sprawl, they now suffer in an endless cycle regarding their education.

Redlining forced African Americans to live in low-value neighborhoods in primarily urban areas because they had little access to loans, according to NPR. This means that they pay lower property taxes which fund schools in their neighborhood. Thus, neighborhoods that collect lower property taxes will have less funding for their schools.

This results in worse facilities, inexperienced teachers and, most importantly, less access to educational resources, according to NPR. Students living in these neighborhoods are now at a considerable disadvantage because of a system established over fifty years ago.

When looking at the demographics of city schools compared to suburban schools, it is evident that equal opportunity does not exist, and African American students are disproportionately victims of the system. Education is unarguably the biggest catalyst of success, according to NPR; therefore, depriving students of equal educational opportunities ultimately deprives them of a chance at a better future. 

Furthermore, education is not the only future inhibiting system affected by redlining.

Redlined neighborhoods are also more likely to be near toxic waste, further from grocery stores, have less access to clean water, be surrounded with dilapidated infrastructure and this list only continues, according to NPR.

Each one of the latter causes severe symptoms of poverty, and once again this is a direct result of the deliberately racist systems that exist among cities. No person deserves to be faced with these life-threatening struggles; but because white families are less likely to experience these challenges, change has yet to be made. 

Our nation needs to face these issues in order to improve our democracy. Until serious change has been made in cities that are evidently still segregated, equality will never be achieved.

It is time to invest in the futures of thousands of African American families who will not have the opportunity to challenge their predetermined futures. It is paramount that funding is allocated to big cities to make education, infrastructure, health care and loans more equitable.