Foreclosure: Economic Disaster for Black America
"Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed by high numbers of foreclosures.”

There is now no place of refuge from the actions of rapacious banksters who stole trillions of dollars from the public. New York City was never a real estate bubble hot spot in the way that Florida and California were. Yet like a contagious disease, the foreclosure crisis continues to spread. It has now arrived in the New York City area in full force, and black homeowners and renters are the biggest victims.

As always, racism makes black Americans more vulnerable to economic downturns. Redlining forces black workers, even those with sufficient income and credit, into mortgage plans given only at subprime rates. Now the bursting of the real estate bubble has driven down the value of real estate, leaving a community with only property as a source of wealth in a particularly weakened state. Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed by high numbers of foreclosures, which effect not only homeowners, but also renters who are made homeless. Ordinarily secure homeowners are also victimized by falling property values.

It is extremely unlikely that black Americans’ uniquely terrible situation will ever be addressed by the president most of them love so much. He steadfastly continues to leave them and their agenda items off of the political table. At his 100 days press conference, the president was asked about high rates of unemployment in the black community, exemplified by the nearly 50% rate for black men in New York: “My question tonight is given this unique and desperate circumstance, what specific policies [italics mine] can you point to that will target these communities?  And what's a timetable for us to see tangible results?”

“Obama’s foreclosure prevention plan is woefully inadequate.”

Obama not only ignored the crux of the question but replied in some sort of odd, indecipherable double speak. “Well, keep in mind that every step we're taking is designed to help all people.  But folks who are most vulnerable are most likely to be helped because they need the most help.” He made reference to black and Latino unemployment when BET reporter Andre Showell specifically asked about African Americans. Obama then went into “rising tide lifts all boats” mode and bragged that his inadequate stimulus plan would help all of the unemployed.
If the president has no desire to address the specific needs of the black unemployed, he will be equally unresponsive to the needs of homeowners in foreclosure. His foreclosure prevention plan is woefully inadequate and has done little to stem the tide of financial destruction.

Despite blatant propaganda about “green shoots” and positive “stress tests,” the fundamentals of the economy are bad and not getting any better. Black America is looking at a catastrophe in terms of losses of jobs and wealth but is not predisposed to speak up and confront the man whose photo hangs on the walls of their living rooms.

Saving the American automobile industry would have been a means of strengthening a large segment of the black community. Instead the Obama administration has forced the auto industry to disappear from this country and import cars from foreign countries. General Motors alone will lose 140 out of 175 [4] black owned dealerships as part of its bankruptcy plan along with thousands of jobs, many of them employing African American workers who are not likely to find comparable employment if any at all.

“General Motors alone will lose 140 out of 175 black owned dealerships.”

The day of economic reckoning is appearing early on in the Obama administration, and not just for the president. This is the day of reckoning for the black citizens of this nation, who must soon decide if they will voice their grievances or silence and diminish themselves for the sake of a man who cares so little about them.

The president can do more to prevent foreclosure, he does not have to favor finance capital to such an extent that he destroys manufacturing capital and the jobs that go with it. In short, he could do something for the group of people who give him such unswerving support. On election day in 2008, many of the African Americans who jammed polling places to vote were doing so for the very first time in their lives. Such was the appeal of seeing a black president, even one who ignored the needs of people who idolize him.

Before the Obama rise to power, black voters would at least complain that the Democratic Party took them for granted. There was sustained debate about how to make that party more responsive to its most loyal constituency. Now the Democrats are let off the hook entirely because a brown-skinned man is in the White House. People in danger of losing jobs and homes have decided that a politician’s career is more important than their very survival. At the hour of their greatest need black Americans have willfully muted themselves and will be the first in line to go over the precipice of economic well being.

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Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City.
 

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