Commentary: Connecticut Town Reminds Us of Redlining

Winchester is in trouble for using the exact same methods racist bankers used 80 years ago.

Posted: 08/09/2012 06:10 PM EDT

Throughout the era of codified racial segregation in America, besides the signs keeping Blacks away from certain restaurant entrances and water fountains, there was also what we’d come to call “redlining practices.”

 

The Encyclopedia of Chicago History defines redlining as “the practice of arbitrarily denying or limiting financial services to specific neighborhoods, generally because its residents are people of color or are poor.” The term came about in the 1930s, when many banks decided who they were going to lend home loans to by sectioning off on maps wealthy white communities from Black neighborhoods and poor white neighborhoods. The rich white sections would be outlined in green, meaning “go ahead and lend to these people.” The other neighborhoods would be outlined in red. That meaning was obvious: “stop.” And thus, redlining was born.

 

Many people thought that redlining was over when the Civil Rights Act came about and Jim Crow fell. Alas, it turns out that whites attempting to keep Blacks out of certain communities by not lending them money is a practice that never truly died. It just began hiding in the shadows.

 

To wit, the Connecticut town of Winchester is in a lot of trouble after it was discovered that the small locale of about 12,000 has been trying to keep itself white via illegal means. As BET.com’s own Patrice Peck reported:

 

In a blast from the Jim Crow past, a Connecticut town is being accused of “systematically and unlawfully discriminating against African-Americans and Hispanics,” according to a lawsuit brought by the Connecticut Fair Housing Center and plaintiff Crystal Carter.

 

 

The Winchester Housing Authority allegedly keeps out minority families by denying them access to federal housing vouchers known as Section 8, the lawsuit claims.

 

A residency requirement enforced by WHA requires voucher applicants to already be residing in one of 17 Connecticut towns, all of which are more than 91 percent white, reports the Huffington Post.

 

"These requirements are unlawful because in communities with populations that are disproportionately white and/or non-Hispanic they perpetuate segregation by excluding minority applicants who live outside those communities from obtaining housing here," the lawsuit states.

 

According to the New York Daily News, Winchester is nearly 95 percent white and 4 percent Latino, and the town’s Black population is “statistically zero.” Now that it’s being sued, it’s unlikely Winchester will stay as homogeneous as it has been for long (though one wonders if any Blacks are going to want to move there now knowing how racist it is). Nevertheless, the real takeaway from the story is that, once again, a relic from the past has reared its head in 2012 to remind us that America isn’t too far away from our ultra-bigoted past. Escaping history is hard.

 

 

These views do not necessarily reflect those of the BET Networks.

 

 

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(Photo: townofwinchester.org)

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