Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Slate: Persistent Racism in Housing is a Tax on Blackness

According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, redlinng is "is the practice of arbitrarily denying or limiting financial services to specific neighborhoods, generally because its residents are people of color or are poor. While discriminatory practices existed in the banking and insurance industries well before the 1930s, the New Deal's Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) instituted a redlining policy by developing color-coded maps of American cities that used racial criteria to categorize lending and insurance risks." The creator of redlining was Homer Hoyt (1895-1984), who was a well-known (1895–1984) was a land economist and real estate appraiser. He conducted path-breaking research on land economics, developed an influential approach to the analysis of neighborhoods and housing markets. His approach combined multiple factors (e.g., condition of dwelling, transportation access, proportion of non-whites) using overlay mapping. The approach enabled the FHA to assess the risk a neighborhood posed for mortgage lenders. Unfortunately, this groundbreaking approach led to the institutionalization of racialized neighborhood vitality assessments by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

Jamelle Bouie of Slate describe the history of persistent racial discrimination in housing in America:

Hoyt, as chief economist of the Federal Housing Authority, wanted to improve the accuracy of real-estate appraisals so that an affiliated agency—the Home Owner’ Loan Corporation, established by the Home Owners’ Refinancing Act of 1933—could standardize the process for making mortgage loans, avoid undue risks, and bail out homeowners who lost their homes in the economic crash. Working with Hoyt at the FHA, the HOLC would map cities and divide neighborhoods into various risk categories that were based on his ethnic hierarchy and coded accordingly. A “green” neighborhood was white, affluent, Anglo-Saxon, and appropriately Protestant. A “blue” one had less desirable whites—Jews, Irish, and Italians—but was stable and upwardly mobile. A “yellow” one had undesirable, often working-class whites, and a “red” one was predominantly black or Mexican, regardless of wealth or class. And in these “redlined” areas, loans were either expensive or nonexistent, forcing families to rely on speculators and private sales by unscrupulous homeowners.


Under this system, whites had more flexibility in terms of where to live in a city or metropolitan region. If the individual or family were of the right stock, they could live anywhere in the "green" or "blue" neighborhoods. Additional benefits included access to mortgages, lower interest rates, and better neighborhood conditions (i.e., safety, amenities, better schools, and access to jobs). Under this system, whites are perceived as good neighbors aka the "norm") while blacks are perceived as bad neighbors (aka undesirables). Why do Americans accept this view as fact? It's due to an outdated racist housing policy developed by Holt and the FHA that still dictates racial residential patterns. As a result, race has become a proxy of neighborhood value. Bouie continues:

This is obviously racist, but it’s also unsurprising. As the Hoyt story shows, this discrimination is in the DNA of American real estate. For most of the last century, lenders and brokers—including national realtor organizations—used race as a proxy for neighborhood value. “Appraisal manuals,” writes Pietila, “continued to repeat Hoyt’s hierarchy until the 1960s … implying that the groups lowest on the ladder were detrimental to housing values.” These manuals also pushed realtors and homeowners to use private agreements—called covenants—that forbade sale to “undesirable” neighbors.


Though racial covenants and blockbusting are illegal today, realtors are using subtle racial methods to keep neighborhoods "white" via economics like gentrification, which can lead to displacement (long-time, low income residents are forced to move out because of rising rents). Low-income residents are forced to move further away to neighborhoods with fewer amenities and less transit-friendly.

A recent WBEZ article in Chicago revealed that there is no concentrated pockets of whitewhite poverty in Chicago. Yet the map easily points out concentrated pockets of black (and Latino to a lesser extent) poverty in Chicago. Low-income and middle-class whites left Chicago for the suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s when the rents began to increase. Blacks could not leave the ghettoes since racist realtors refused to grant mortgages for blacks to live in better neighborhoods. Thus, a century of racialized housing policy created the pockets of concentrated black poverty in Chicago. Blacks are not poor because they want to; it's because institutional policies isolated them to primarily the South Side of Chicago.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Featured Reference Books about Macro Social Work

As students prepare for a new academic year, I have provided a list of featured books about macro social work. I hope that this list is useful to prospective students, current students, and practitioners in the field. If I am missing a reference, please post a comment. I will add the book after further review. 

General Reference

Community Organization and Human Services Management

Policy Practice

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Featured Resource about Macro Social Work Practice

Online MSW Programs has a comprehensive featured article about macro social work, Introductory Guide to Macro Social Work Practice. It provides an overview on careers, entry into macro social work, and why macro social work is important to the field. Examples of macro social work careers featured in the article include the following:
  • Policy advocates and analysts
  • Community and health services specialists
  • Program development specialist
  • Research associates and analysts
  • Community educators
  • Community outreach specialists

Friday, July 31, 2015

Detroit Free Press: Is a college degree a lost cause these days?

Policymakers are debating whether a liberal arts education or skills-based training for high-demand jobs is the future of postsecondary education in the United States. Most pundits agree that a liberal arts degree no longer cuts it in today’s global economy. But is this viewpoint really true? Brian Dickerson asks the readers to consider these questions:

But should a perfect match between employers’ needs and graduates’ skills be the ultimate objective of higher education in Michigan? Or, to put it another way: When is training workers for specific jobs the responsibility of colleges, universities and taxpayers, and when is it a cost that should be borne mostly, or exclusively, by employers themselves?


Fareed Zakaria, author of In Defense of Liberal Education, argues that favoring job-specific training over a broad-based curriculum (keyword: well-rounded) is not only shortsighted and “un-American.”

The solution is not that more students need to major in marketing or engineering, Zakaria, argues, “but that their liberal education should be more structured and demanding,” with greater emphasis on reading and writing.

Zakaria, a native of India who emigrated to the U.S. to attend Yale University, also warns that “Americans should be careful before they try to mimic Asian educational systems, which are still oriented around memorization and test-taking.” He credits the Asian model for generating impressive test scores, but adds that it’s “not conducive to thinking, problem-solving or creativity” — the skills that have allowed American workers to maintain their productivity edge.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

NYTimes: Poll Finds Most in U.S. Hold Dim View of Race Relations

Since the Charleston massacre at Emanuel AME Church, there has been a growing divide on race. According to a New York Times/CBS poll, there are stark differences in discrimination and race relations between whites and blacks. Furthermore, most Americans think race relations in the U.S. are generally bad, and blacks hold a particularly negative view of the nation’s racial climate – the worst since the country’s first black president took office in 2009.

A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week reveals that nearly six in 10 Americans, including heavy majorities of both whites and blacks, think race relations are generally bad, and that nearly four in 10 think the situation is getting worse. By comparison, two-thirds of Americans surveyed shortly after President Obama took office said they believed that race relations were generally good.

How the Poll Was ConductedJULY 23, 2015 The swings in attitude have been particularly striking among African-Americans. During Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign, nearly 60 percent of blacks said race relations were generally bad, but that number was cut in half shortly after he won. It has now soared to 68 percent, the highest level of discontent among blacks during the Obama years and close to the numbers recorded in the aftermath of the riots that followed the 1992 acquittal of Los Angeles police officers charged in the beating of Rodney King.