To the editors:
Re: John Holden’s coverage of Guaranteed Home Equity Programs in the Neighborhood News column on March 20, 1987.
The rapid racial resegregation that occurred in many Chicago neighborhoods in the 1960s and ’70s has slowed in the 1980s. It has slowed because economic conditions until quite recently made it more difficult for home owners to panic. Suburban prices had so escalated and interest rates were so high that the economic penalty in moving was prohibitive. In addition, the northward migration of southern blacks slowed.
But the juxtaposition of white neighborhoods and black neighborhoods is an uneasy one. As black families seek to improve their living conditions by moving into white neighborhoods, white home owners fear that the patterns of the 60s and 70s may reappear. In the last 12 months interest rates have fallen dramatically and, once again, conditions are conducive to “white flight.” At the same time, the irony of the 60s and 70s continues: blacks who move into white neighborhoods do so not because they hope that the neighborhood will resegregate but, on the contrary, because they hope to live in a stable integrated neighborhood.
Thirty-five years after Brown v. The Board of Education residential segregation continues as the norm of this nation. Nineteen years have passed since the Kerner Report warned that the United States was moving towards two separate but unequal societies. Yet integration itself as a public issue is moribund. It is not fashionable to argue against American apartheid; Americans prefer to offer summary judgment to South Africans instead, and the American dilemma so clearly foreseen by the Myrdals moves inexorably towards its Armageddon — not in this century, but, if the evil of segregation is not destroyed, inevitably in the next.
Because the issue of integration is on the national back burner, there are few enough positive programs that even reach the proposal stage. The heroic work of Jean Mayer and others to design some economic protection for white and black home owners who choose to remain in imperiled neighborhoods must be commended. She and her coworkers deserve every Chicagoan’s gratitude for their willingness to stay in the city and fight, the more so because, as the Chicago Neighborhood Organizing Project points out, so many others are fleeing. She has the economic ability to run, and so do many of her neighbors. Prima facie, their motivations are commonsense concerns like security and safety; those who scrounge around in a quixotic search for racism lay bare their own guilty consciences. They doth protest too much. The intensity of their idealism is in direct proportion to their distance from the problem: segregation.
What is needed in addition to the guaranteed home equity program is for white people who define themselves as nonracist to consciously seek out areas which are integrated or about to become so. People do die; job transfers do take place. Homes do come on the market. Inevitably and inexorably neighborhoods change from all white to all black if white demand ceases. We are where we live.