Thursday, September 27, 2007

Racism in Housing: our history

Here are a few questions that absolutely fascinate me and that for the life of me I cannot fully find the answer to:

  • How does urban sprawl so perfectly move from the city center outward?
  • How has suburbia come to be what it is today?
  • Why do people willingly segregate themselves?
  • What are people most afraid of in their communities?
  • What does it take to make a difference in our cities?
  • What will happen to all the poor people as the rich flock back to the urban centers from the suburbs and tear down their houses?
So this week I've done quite a bit of thinking about typical North American cities and communities. Today I had the privilege of viewing a movie in my Cultural Diversity class about the construction of post-WWII cities. It had a great deal to offer in the field of racism and class status that influenced where new housing was being established during this time to accommodate such a large influx of primarily white families. Because the new home market was booming, the most logical place to plan neighborhoods was on the outskirts of town. What a great day for everyone. Families could purchase a cheap note on a house and pay it off with reasonable credit for up to 30 years, right?

Unfortunately what we didn't get taught in history class was that during this time, the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) intentionally adopted a racist policy in its official documents that prevented anyone of color from being eligible for such home loans. Therefore, there was virtually no way that African Americans could purchase a home anywhere remotely close to the new, white "suburbs" that were coming to exist.

What was the justification for such discriminatory policy?

From the FHA underwriting manual of 1934: "if a neighborhood is to retain stability, it is necessary that properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes." Blacks were forced into remaining mainly in concentrated public housing projects in the inner cities to prevent "problems" for the white neighborhoods.

It was all good business according to the Realtors. People wanted the luxuries of a new home, and were willing to pay for them. It wasn't so much that the common person was a racist, it was that there was a governmental protection on the current state of economic growth that no one wanted to halt by throwing in racial diversity.

It gets worse...

What makes the year 1968 significant? This was the year that The Fair Housing Act was enacted that prohibited discrimination based on the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and familial status. This is very interesting to me because of my own family history.

My dad and his family were raised in Pleasant Grove, which if you know Dallas, is just outside of Loop 12, the first loop in the strategically planned highway system of many Texas cities. My dad's family, along with about 6 other families living on the same street suddenly decided that it was time to move to Garland, which is just outside the city's second loop, Interstate 635. This was the case all over the nation.

Want to take a guess as to what year this occurred?

1969. The year after the Fair Housing Act was put into place.

As soon as it was suspected that blacks might be moving close, masses of people put their houses on the market. As soon as one person "sold out" it was a neighborhood wide-turned nationwide domino effect. Property values went down when African Americans moved in, as people protected their dearest asset, their home, and moved away.

I was born and raised in Garland not far from where they moved to, though there are two other loops outside this location. My family is a product of what occurred in the racist housing market of the 1950's and 1960's. My dad's not afraid to tell me of how his family left when "they started busing blacks in and letting them move next door."

It's so strange that as I would not consider myself a racist, I reap the benefits a racist past of white privilege in this society where whiteness means power.

People continue to move further and further away from what used to be considered the suburbs. People run in fear of what they do not understand. It's likely that the rich, the white are more fearful of what is coming from our neighbors to the South. It looks like this cycle will continue as many of my friends were raised farther than me from the center of Big D where the newer developments are.

You might be surprised to know that the newest development north of Dallas (where most economic growth occurs) is actually closer to the Oklahoma/Texas line than it is to downtown Dallas. And yes, people are commuting from there.

What will it take to change? When will segregation actually be part of the history and not part of the present?

Now is there any doubt as to why there are "ghettos" or "bad parts of town"?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Dance of Life

A close friend of mine added a link to this video on his blog earlier this month. This video left me with chills at how true to life it really is. It perfectly shows how so many of us feel in our relationship with God. Please take 5 minutes to experience the power of this video.

Missing Peru

Tonight has reminded me of how much my heart goes out to my family and friends in Peru. For spending such little time there, I long to know how each of my friends is doing on their walk lately. I often find my mind drifting to thoughts of what they might be doing at this very same moment, or where they might be headed in traffic, or if they're eating at some of the same restaurants where we shared good conversation.

I pray tonight for Flor in her difficult house keeping duties; I pray for Alan to be strong at work where he makes Chifa and as he might confront temptation daily; I pray for Miguel and Gladys that they're educational pursuits remain a priority; I pray for Corina and Jackie to stay women of God with pure hearts.

Culture has a way of sweeping you off your feet. It can change you and it can challenge you. I miss how exciting life seemed in Peru and how I saw something new each day. I'm charged up to keep those same eyes here in the states where God is clearly moving and as I take part in that. How great it is that God is the same there as He is here!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Management as Ministry

It is my belief that not very often do people find it romantic to relate organizational administration with the workings of God. However, the past couple years have offered a bit of insight regarding the whole concept of integrating faith and action. Since the time my eyes were opened to the vast needs of individuals in this world, I have found myself swept up in a relentless call to do something about it. This is tough, because I distinctly remember the urgency and passion that hit me all at once, but I had no idea how this was going to happen or by what vehicle God had in mind for such a desire to be executed into action. What's a guy to do with a good heart and a passion, but lacking in direction?

Last week I had the blessing of attending several lectures that pricked at my heart. The theme verse comes from Micah 6:8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." This automatically put me in an exciting state because it encompasses so much of what I have been trying to understand about God's design for your life and for mine. I have often placed too much weight on the specifics when God is asking for the common. It's so easy to get caught up in a frivolous interrogation of what exactly God would desire of me, but Micah puts it simply!

It's such a beautiful opportunity to see what we do each day in the light of God or as my freshman Bible professors used to say "with Kingdom eyes!". Lectureship helped me see how each of our desires, our gifts, our passions can be effectively used by God if we're willing to submit those to Him, for Him. Praise God for the blessing of being used by Him in an infinite amount of ways!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A cleaning of my head...

I keep letting lots of time go by between posts these past several weeks. I really can't believe that the month of September is almost half over! Time is flying by right now with the busyness of classes, studying, work, ministry, and friendships. Being back in in the states is a reminder of how laid back life seemed to be in South America this summer. Although I was in two of the largest cities on the continent, there was simplistic feel in the air of Lima and Santiago. I do, however, enjoy the daily happenings here in Abilene, Texas as I get the opportunity to prepare for what God will do through me in the future.

I've had lots of time to reflect and assess the overall experiences we had this summer. It was definitely full of ups and downs and high points and even a few low points. But one thing is for sure...God was glorified and lives were changed. I don't know if I've actually put that into words in this blog in the past, but it's something that's really been on my heart lately. Since we've embarked on the new semester, South America has really been heavy on my heart. I sit back and remember the places I went, the people I met and the culture I experienced, it gives me a sense of joy and peace. I'm not sure if it's just because I'm holding to an unrealistic memory, or because I'm still adjusting to being back, or if that's just the way the Spirit works, but I'm just desperately trying to figure out what to make of it.

I feel like God has brought me closer to him lately. It's strange, but I feel his presence in my life more than I have in a long time. My focus has been somewhat intensified as I seek to understand these experiences this summer and how they relate to where I've been and where I'm going. It's come to the point where I'm ready to stop allowing fear to motivate me to do things, and to start allowing the boldness of God to lead my life. I believe that ridding oneself of fear is a tremendous start to an attempt at living loud for God.

Lots of thoughts, lots of thoughts. I think I mainly just wanted to spill some before they build up to the point of forgetfulness setting in. Well keep praying for the people of Latin America...Chile and I look for ways to serve God.