Did the FHA create Ferguson and Baltimore?

Obviously that’s way too simplistic of a view on a horrendously complex issue, but let me walk you through a couple of realities.

Reality #1 – for hundreds of years, the white people in America (and elsewhere) treated the black people in ways that no human should be treated.   They were treated as property, as “less than full people,’ as people who had to “go over there” and weren’t allowed in the same places that the whites were.

As part of that separation, the FHA instituted programs that wouldn’t make it possible for black people to buy houses.    This isn’t a matter of “qualifying for the loan” or any special requirements, this was a plain and simple, “If you are a “colored” person” then the answer is no.”

Reality #2 – people of color who had good jobs, people who could afford to buy a house, had no choice but to move to the cities.    This had the long term effect of creating ghettoes.   The people of color who couldn’t get a loan to buy a home ended up renting in the city.     This created more segregation and more “rich white” in the suburbs and “not rich black” in the inner city.

Thus the ghettos were the result of mortgage lending practices instituted by the government.    The rules were designed to encourage homeownership by white people and discourage homeownership by black people.

And it worked.

Now obviously, it’s a stretch to say that FHA created the problems in Ferguson and in Baltimore.    They didn’t create the problems.

But they did lay the groundwork for it.

Their policies created an environment where racial isolation became built into the very fabric of our cities.

I’m guilty of saying it myself.    Quite often I will have people ask me, “Is it safe to go to Haiti?”

My standard response is this – “Haiti is a lot like New York, LA and Chicago.   There are places that are totally safe.    There are places that are safe to go if you know where you are and you are someone who knows the area.   There are also places where you JUST DON’T GO.”

You see what I did there?   I just reinforced the stereotype that the areas in our big cities that are predominantly black are not safe for white people.

And how did those areas “happen?”

In large part because the government, in their infinite wisdom from many years ago, implemented housing and mortgage lending policies that,  while not creating the “separate but equal” malarkey, engrained it further into our society.

That engrained policy that created the ghettoes in this country made riots in Baltimore and Ferguson possible.

As a former mortgage lender, I have to admit that I’m glad that those policies weren’t in place when I was writing mortgages, but it does not feel good to know that what was “my” industry was in large part responsible for the creation of the ghetto.

Reality #3 – The government, in this particular area, is part of the problem, not part of the solution – at least not yet.

TJV

Does the Devil Know Your Name?

So, I was listening to a podcast from one of my favorite remote churches to listen to by podcast.   The name of the church is Austin Stone and it’s in, surprise, Austin Texas.

The minister (and I don’t remember which one) preached a sermon on Spiritual Warfare and how it’s misunderstood in many ways.    It was a very good sermon and one that made me think about a lot of things relating to being a Christian and what that means.

One thing that the minister said that really stuck with me was this:

“Does the Devil know your name?”

His question actually made two points:

  • If you are living a comfortable “middle class” American life, the Devil probably doesn’t know your name.   He doesn’t have to.   You don’t matter to him.    All he is focused on is the complete and utter destruction of the Christ followers and your mediocreness (how’s that for a word?) doesn’t matter to him.   When it comes to the success of the kingdom (either the kingdom of evil or the kingdom of God) you don’t matter.   Ouch.
  • If you are living the way Christ wants you to.   If you are truly open and honest and sold out to doing whatever God calls you to.   If you love God and care for others because, as Bob Goff so eloquently says,  “Love Does,” then you  can be confident that Satan knows your name.

Satan knows your name because he considers you a threat.

Satan knows your name because he knows that you are sold out to God and are his enemy.

Satan knows your name because he knows that every day, when your feet hit the floor, you’re saying, “Okay, God.   What’s up?”

And that scares him.   And when Satan gets scared, he gets mad.

That’s a good thing.

So, back to our original question – “Does Satan know your name?”

If not, what can you do so that he notices you?

TJV

P.S. If you want to listen to Austin Stone’s podcasts, they are available on iTunes.

Ramblings of a White Dad……..

A quick scan through social media can quite quickly tell you that
we have a problem.

It’s figuring out what that problem is that’s the hard part.

Is the problem police violence?

Is the problem poverty?

Is the problem the media?

Is the problem government policies?

Is the problem racial stereotypes that exist from prior to Martin
Luther King Jr.’s time?

Is the problem the significant rise in single parent black homes?

What is the problem that has caused things like Baltimore and
Ferguson and others to happen?

Pick one?

Pick all of the above?

What do you think?

I’m going to go on record and say that I believe that the problems that we’re facing today are stemming from government policies that were put in place in many cases decades if not centuries ago.

The rest – they are  all symptoms of the problem – not causes.

For over 400 years, the “white man” on this continent and
elsewhere mistreated black people. Mistreated is actually
significantly too nice of a word to describe slavery.

Even after the Civil War, there were still systems and policies
that discriminated against blacks. The right to vote, the right
to own property, the right to get an FHA mortgage all were just a
few of the examples of what was limited for black people after the
Civil War.

An FHA mortgage? How is an FHA mortgage a discriminatory tool
against the black people? Did you know that early in the 1900’s
the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) would not do loans to
blacks.   Subsequently, the black population was “pushed” into
smaller and cheaper areas in places like Baltimore, Chicago,
Detroit and other big cities.   What that did was essentially
create the ghettos that plague cities to this day.

And those “ghettoes” had significantly lower property values, so
the money to pay for schools in those areas was less. Less money
for schools means that Johnny who grew up in the ghetto was going
to be less likely to learn to read, less likely to go to college,
less likely to get a good job.

So, then our government decides to do a “war on poverty.” “We
have all of these citizens of our country who are living in
poverty, we must do something about it.”

So, what does the  government do?

They create a new program.  Actually, they create a lot of
programs. These programs are designed, supposedly, to create ways
for the poor to be taken care of and ways for the “not poor” to feel
like they are doing something good for the less fortunate.

What was the end result of these programs? The creation of the
welfare society.  A society where people didn’t feel like they had
to work because “Uncle Sam” would take care of them.  A society
where the “nuclear family” became irrelevant – because the male,
particularly the black male was in many ways replaced by Uncle
Sam.  A society where the politicians used that support to
encourage people to think and vote in ways that would keep them
in power.

A couple of more  detailed results of that were extremely negative for many of the black population in America:

1. As we mentioned before, the caliber of education in the schools
in the government “created” ghettoes made it very hard for black
males to feel important, to have hope, to see and have the
possibility of a future where they can be a contributing part of
it.
2. The “ripple effect” of that education is the higher unemployment
rate for under educated black males. That’s a proven phenomenon
not only here in America but around the world. If there isn’t
quality education, there will be significantly higher
unemployment rates.
3. So, we have low educational standards, high unemployment and
“Uncle Sam” who will support single moms. That’s a classic mix
for giving black males not only nothing to work for but nothing
to hope for either. They don’t feel important, no one wants them,
no one needs them and no one wants to listen to them. So what
happens? Crime goes up. Single parent rates go up, the number and percentage of black American males who are incarcerated goes up.

So, crime levels go up. What happens then? In order to keep the
peace, police officers have to be more aggressive. If you don’t
believe that, ask yourself whether a police officer in an upper
middle class suburb has to deal with the same type of challenges
as a police officer in Cabrini Greens in Chicago.

So, is police violence the cause of these problems we’ve been
having?   While there very well might be police who are being more
violent than they are supposed to, the crime levels in areas where
there is less hope and more struggle are a large part of the reason, so yes, I do believe that there are situations where police are not following their rules but in the entirety, I don’t believe that police brutality is the cause of the problems we have.    It’s a symptom.

Are government policies the cause of the problems we have today?   While they have made it significantly worse, I do not believe they are the cause, at least not the policies that have been around for the last 50 years.  

It’s the policies that made slavery legal  that are a large/huge part of the problem.   It’s the policies that, after the Civil War, continued to cause problems in the way that blacks were treated.   Those policies created inherent and built in problems for the black people that are still significant problems today.

Is the media the cause of the problems today?   No, they wish they were that powerful.   In my mind, the media is like throwing a dry piece of wood on a fire.   It makes the fire bigger, it makes the problem bigger, but it doesn’t start the problem.   Did the  media make Ferguson and Baltimore bigger than it would have been?   Absolutely.   Did it cause them?  Nope.

Government policies – redlining practices in the housing market, the “war on poverty” that misguidedly made many black men feel unneeded cause the problems we have today.   Many of the details of the current issues stem  from those problematic policies.

A quote from Dr, Martin Luther King Jr.:

“…I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

So, after that long rambling look at the mess that we have right now, what do we do from here?   A couple of suggestions that I think would help……

  • Improve the inner city schools – yeah, I know, much easier said than done – but if the students aren’t given a good education, then they won’t be able to experience a good possibility of a job, the ability to be a contributing member of society and have a hope and a future.
  • Create economic incentives for companies and businesses to employ people who live in “designated” urban zones.  
  • Churches and schools must create mentoring programs that will team both whites and blacks, both adults and kids, in programs and activities that will instill hope, that will encourage those who are struggling and will give voice to those who don’t feel like they have a voice.
  • Writers, bloggers, speakers, counselors, pastors – all must continue to talk about the realities of today’s environment, the inequities that are present and the realities of how we have to jointly work at creating a new environment.

It all comes down to hope.   We, white and black, need to work together to understand each other and to put in places, ways and encouragements that will help build an atmosphere where people feel that they have an opportunity, they have a future.

That’s when we can move towards being a nation that truly is a land of opportunity for everyone.

I’m a white dad.   I have Caucasian kids and I have Haitian American kids.  

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

We’ve got work to do.

TJV

But it feels……

Been thinking about it a lot lately.

It doesn’t feel good.

It stretches, it pulls, it pushes.

It goes way beyond where we want it to.

Sometimes it actually hurts.

Actually, it hurts a lot of times.

Sometimes it’s good for us.

Sometimes it’s good for others.

Sometimes it hurts us.   Actually a lot of times it does.

But it doesn’t feel good.  

It’s different for each person.   Quite often it’s different for different times in life and even different  different times in the day.

Some people fight it.

Some people embrace it.

Some encourage others to join them in it.

What is it?

Uncomfortable.

“But it feels uncomfortable!”

“But I don’t like to talk to people I don’t know!”

“But I freeze if I have to talk in front of a crowd.”

“But I like to pretend that everyone has enough food to eat.”

“But I like to pretend that everyone is warm and dry when it’s cold and rainy.”

“But I like to think that everyone who comes to church on Sunday morning is as happy as they look.”

“But I like to think that racism doesn’t exist.”

“But it feels really yucky when people remind me that not everything is good.”

Uncomfortable.   It’s not a fun way to be.

But as long as poverty exists, there will be uncomfortable.

As long as mental illness exists, there will be uncomfortable.

As long as people won’t love their neighbor as themselves, there will be uncomfortable.

As long as malnutrition exists, there will be uncomfortable.

As long as corruption exists, there will be uncomfortable.

As long as human trafficking exists, there will be uncomfortable.

As long as illegal drugs still find their way on to the streets, there will be uncomfortable.

God hasn’t called us to be comfortable.   He’s said we’ll have plenty of time for that in Heaven.

God has called us to be a light in the darkness.

It’s hard to push back the dark.

An Open Letter to Those Who Write Open Letters

Dear Writer,

You know who you are.   You spend countless hours on the computer……

Pouring out your soul.

Raising hard questions.

Poking at the comfortable realities of middle class life.

Forcing yourself and others to look at the hard questions.

The uncomfortable realities.

The inconsistencies.

The biases.

It’s hard to write those things.  

It takes a lot of energy.

it takes a lot of soul power to hit the “send” button.

Sometimes you hear nothing but crickets when you put it out there.   And then you wonder, are people reading?   Are they listening?

Sometimes you get positive feedback.

Sometimes you get attacked.   And it hurts.

But we hear you.  

And quite often, we don’t like to hear you. 

Because you’re making us think hard about questions we want to ignore.

You’re making us look at things we thought were good and seeing the “other” side of them.

You’re making us uncomfortable.

You’re showing us the pain that others are feeling.   And we don’t like that.

You’re making us look at the neighbor across the street and the neighbor across the ocean.

You’re making us look at things like family and church and sexual orientation in ways we never wanted to before.

So,  writer of the open letter, we hear you.

We don’t like to hear you, but we hear you.

And deep down inside, we know we need to hear you.

So keep hitting that “send” button.

And stay strong and true to  your beliefs.

TJV