Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America
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by Beryl Satter
Hardcover: 512 pages
Book Review by Kam Williams
On April 3, 1964, in one of his most famous speeches, ’The Ballot or the Bullet,’ Malcolm X said African-Americans didn't end up stuck and suffering in the nation's ghettos by accident, but because of a government conspiracy to ’deprive you of your economic opportunities, deprive you of decent housing, deprive you of decent education.’ The late civil rights leader went on to conclude that the government was ’responsible for the oppression and exploitation and degradation of black people in this country.’
45 years later, we now have a book chock full of evidence confirming many of Malcolm's allegations, especially in terms of the real estate concerns. Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America was written by Beryl Satter, the daughter of a liberal Jewish lawyer who had dedicated his career to representing poor black folks being ripped off by a rigged housing market which favored whites while discriminating against blacks.
The basic problem was that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), from its creation in 1934, had a policy of refusing to insure mortgages in any African-American or integrated communities. Consequently, aspiring black homebuyers were routinely denied mortgage assistance and ended up dependent on unscrupulous lenders who resorted to a host of predatory practices knowing that the government wasn't doing business with African-American customers.
Encyclopedic in scope, but narrowly-focused on the City of Chicago where her father had his law office until his untimely death at the age of only 49, Family Properties exposes as lies the conventional wisdom which would blame black folks for their inability to escape the ghetto and all of its pathology. Instead, here we have proof positive that the slums were created and maintained by design by a racist federal government.
A brilliant expose’ belatedly uncovering the ugly underbelly
of another shameful, color-coded chapter of American history.