“We believe so firmly in our individuality that we don’t see how much of us is unoriginal, imitative, someone else’s—everyone else’s….”
My latest at Eclectica:
NPR’s Marketplace reported yesterday about a family in a town in Ohio being victimized by a very pernicious real estate scam. That family is one of many in the area and across the country who lost their homes following the 2008 financial collapse. Unable to get a regular mortgage, they were offered and accepted a “rental to buy” at what seemed reasonable terms. But it turned out there were tens of thousands of dollars in liabilities with the property that they were responsible for, including 112 building violations and $3,000 a year in taxes. This, despite their being just renters.
Half of their monthly rent, just $400, is supposed to go toward eventual ownership of the house. But it they fail to make a single payment they will be evicted, with no equity due them no matter how much they have paid in toward the house’s purchase and no reimbursement for any monies they have spent to maintain/restore the property or for taxes paid on it.
This situation is going on all across the country and comports, the NPR report concluded by saying, with the history of redlining practiced by banks in African American and other minority communities.
What the report did not point out is the historical context that would explain why African Americans and others are freely preyed upon this way in 2018.
When low-down-payment, low-interest, low-monthly-payment mortgages became available to working-class Americans under an underwriting arrangement between developers and the Federal Housing Administration set up in the FDR administration in the 1930s, African Americans were deliberately and specifically excluded from those mortgages. Sharks like the ones who are victimizing that family in Ohio and others stepped in back then as well to offer the same kind of rent-to-own arrangements, under the same installment-plan conditions: one missed payment and you’re out, no matter how long you have paid into the property. No chance of selling even at a loss. Nothing.
That the same scam is being perpetrated on the same group of people eighty years later should be a national scandal, not a five-minute story on public-radio. If the FHA and later the Veterans Administration had not excluded African Americans from affordable home ownership over several decades (it only ended, legally, in the 1970s), that family in Ohio and millions more like them would not have found themselves prey to such victimization. African Americans would, over the generations, have been able to amass the kind of home equity that the children and grandchildren of poor European immigrants were able to do. That Ohio family’s situation has deep historical roots that deprived two or more generations of the economic leg-up “whites” were granted, not to mention the job discrimination that accompanied their inability to gain homes of their own on an equal footing. As it is, today African Americans only possess 5% of the wealth whites do, wealth that would have lifted them into the middle-class along with their white working class fellow citizens.
Make whole is a term used in reference to compensating a party for a loss sustained… It may include either actual economic losses or… non-economic losses… —U.S. Legal.com
Why has there been no mass extermination of people of African descent in the United States? Why no Final Solution like that of the Nazis in the 1940s, no ethnic cleansing such as took place in the former Yugoslavia of the 1990s? We have had lynchings by the thousands, mass incarcerations, and to this day we see routine violence enacted on African Americans by police and civilians alike. The sum total of the treatment of African slaves and their descendants amounts to an American Holocaust but, with some exceptions—Tulsa, East St. Louis, notably—there has been nothing as blatant in its intensity and scope as the Nazi atrocities….
I heard a guest on Bloomberg Radio today predict a coming “crisis” for the American economy: soon we will not have enough skilled workers, or workers of any kind, to meet the needs of the labor market.
I’ve suspected for many years the reason we’ve been so willing to accept large numbers of immigrants into the country is because immigrants, especially well-educated ones, are a cheap way to meet our labor needs. I mean “cheap” in both the economic and moral senses – we don’t have to pay for the educations or training they already have, and we don’t have to face the moral and fiscal obligation of educating tens of millions of our own citizens who are unemployed or underemployed for lack of a comparable education and training.
We have been a nation of immigrants for the same reason we were once a slave nation. We needed the muscle of millions to take possession of a continent we decided to claim as our own. Later we needed brains to develop our technology and staff our professions. We could have developed our marginalized poor and disenfranchised, but instead we chose to write them off.
Those disadvantaged Americans are descendants of the original “dreamers” – the ones who freed themselves from slavery or whose ancestors came here in search of a better life wherever they originated. We should not be throwing anyone out of this country who was born here or is an established resident (my grandfather was an “undocumented” immigrant). But we might want to consider putting some of the empathy and effort we put into regularizing the status of millions of undocumented immigrants into rehabilitating the tens of millions we continue to exclude from the benefits most immigrants to this country were afforded in the early decades of the last century. That was the same period when African Americans were deliberately denied access to home ownership under the New Deal and were excluded from good public and private employment.
Home ownership accounts for the greatest part of the wealth of ordinary Americans. It not only makes possible a nest egg to pass on to offspring, it also provides equity to be used for a student loan or to start a small business. Thanks to those New Deal policies African Americans today possess only 5% of white wealth. Their not having access to good jobs since the days of slavery has had consequences that don’t need to be spelled out.
It’s easy to support a law that gives legal status to deserving immigrants. It’s quite another matter to make a commitment to atone for three or more generations of deliberate public policy of segregation and economic disenfranchisement. We embrace one because it makes us feel good to do so. We shy away from the other because we have not been taught the roots of the present crisis for people of color in this country but also because the effort required to make those citizens whole is so daunting. But it’s time we started to learn our history, put it into the textbooks we use to teach our children, and make meaningful reparations for it.
A newly published short story of mine:
By Thomas J. Hubschman
“Which would you go back to? If you were forced to choose. Which of the two?”
The sun had so warmed the room that even naked he felt uncomfortable. She, who got a chill when others were going about in T-shirts, seemed to feel just right. He sometimes told her she was part reptile, only fully mobile after she had reached a body temperature well above what was adequate for warm-blooded creatures. But at the moment she looked very mammalian indeed, her pink skin traced with pale veins and selectively sprinkled with freckles and discreet moles. Propped up on one elbow, she could be the older sister of the woman who had lain beneath him a few minutes ago. But instead of drawn tight to her jawline, the flesh now gathered slackly to one side of her face. Her breasts, no longer spread hemispheres, strained earthward like weighted sacks.
“It’s an impossible question,” he said, fighting a keen urge to close his eyes.
“Why impossible? Just imagine you had to go back to one or the other.”
He knew what his response had to be as soon as she spoke, herself full of mischievous energy after their sunny lovemaking. Above all, his answer had to be plausible, even true if possible, the truth one told a woman being of a different kind than what one told a friend or even one’s child. But woman-truth was also the most difficult, bearing the dual burden of not being a lie and yet never being what the woman did not want to, or must not, hear.
“I wouldn’t go back to either one….”
Read the rest of “Sunbath” at:
“We should be called homo narrans, Storytelling Man, not homo sapiens. We spend our lives spinning narratives about everything, from how the universe began to why we were late for work. We make sense out of the reality we live in by making stories about it. Mind, I didn’t write “making up” but “making.” A narrative is not by definition a fiction, though we love that kind of story as well.
“We’re so immersed in our story-telling, we rarely acknowledge our dependence on it, or we think we use it just as a convenience. But despite our insistence that we are a reasoning creature, it is narrative we rely on to make sense out of virtually everything, even our most abstract scientific ideas….”
My latest in Eclectica. Read more: http://www.eclectica.org/v22n1/hubschman_salon.html
Does the US constitution ensure our freedoms even if those freedoms may occasionally cost the lives of others? Is sexual predation also about freedom, albeit of a different sort?
Numerous women came forward last year to say they were victims of acts of sexual aggression perpetrated by the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Similar allegations have been made against the sitting president, and a new charge surfaces almost every day against one or another male in the public eye.
Meanwhile, mass shootings by lone gunmen have become as predictable as the change of seasons. Each time one occurs we react with shock and horror and the usual debate about gun control is raised and then fades away. When recently an especially egregious slaughter occurred, 58 people with scores wounded at a concert in Las Vegas, we went through the usual ritual of trauma and grief with more calls for stiffer legislation on one side and the blockage of any such effort on the other.
But this time I heard something that caught my attention that may help explain our inaction about both gun violence and sexual predation. The World Service of the BBC in covering the shooting in Las Vegas interviewed some Americans about what they thought. Along with expressions of outrage at our lax gun laws and the countervailing insistence on our constitutional right to “bear arms,” the reporter came upon one man who calmly stated that incidents like the one that had just taken place in Nevada were deplorable but that the occasional shedding of blood was the price we pay for this precious freedom we enjoy under the constitution.
That honest statement may help explain both our unwillingness to change our attitudes toward both the possession of weapons capable of mass murder and sexual assault. I don’t mean to suggest that anyone who’s in favor of the freest interpretation of the Second Amendment is also a sexual predator. The correspondence between the two attitudes lies in our willingness to make a trade-off between security from gun violence/male predation and our “freedom” as Americans and/or males.
Freedom, as Orlando Paterson has pointed out in his classic work on the subject, is not just the absence of constraint. It can also mean the ability and the legal right to constrain. It was a freedom of the slaveholder to own other human beings while also enjoying the freedom not to ever be a slave himself. Sexual predation is freedom in this second sense, specifically male sexual freedom or power. We tolerate it for different reasons than we do gun ownership but with a similar reluctance to question its basis.
The British actress Emma Thompson stated in an interview she gave following the Weinstein revelations that virtually every fifteen-year-old girl has already been groped on a crowded train or otherwise sexually abused. But without a sense of license to exert their sexual privilege if only anonymously on a crowded train, males would not behave as they do. Society, male-dominated and male-protective, gives them the permission to gratify their sexual urges, and it does so from a very early age.
If, for whatever the reason, we choose to let things remain as they are it’s because not enough of us are willing to tip the balance between containing sexual predation and gun violence and the sacrifice of our (mostly male) freedom such restrictions would entail. For a similar reason we don’t care to acknowledge the modern economic and social disenfranchisement African Americans have endured under modern federal, state and local government policy over the last hundred years, as documented by Richard Rothstein in The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America – and then face up to the substantial efforts required to make amends. Such a recognition would mean supporting a substantial national program to make up for those disenfranchisements, and that would entail a diminishment of white freedom – i.e., white economic and social preeminence.
So, we will likely go on enduring the occasional shedding of blood that gun-holder frankly accepts, along with recurrent tales of men in high places abusing women (preferring not to look at the daily abuses that take place right under our noses) as well as the next entirely predictable instance of an unarmed African American being killed by a policeman without cause. We will not acknowledge why we endure them: our refusal to tolerate any restriction on a constitutional liberty however dangerous, our protection of male dominance, the privileges we enjoy as whites. To act otherwise just wouldn’t be American.
“My mother believed in spontaneous generation. She thought spiders were produced out of balls of dust. My mother was an intelligent woman. Had she been born a couple generations later, I don’t doubt she would have been a successful professional. In the matter of spiders she was simply reasoning from the evidence she had before her: leave some dust alone in a corner for a while (something she never willingly did; she cleaned every day) and you’ll find a spider in it….”
My latest at Eclectica.
Click HERE to read more.