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Racial justice lawyer Heather McGhee opens up about racism and housing in Utah

By on April 19, 2021 0

SALT LAKE CITY – A renowned racial justice advocate told Utah housing advocates on Thursday that they have a unique opportunity within the Black Lives Matter movement to educate state lawmakers on how the Racism has shaped and continues to shape housing inequalities nationwide.

“This is an important moment,” Heather McGhee, political analyst at NBC News and senior member and former chairman of Demos, a progressive American nonprofit think tank, told the Utah Housing Coalition annual conference. ‘she appeared at the digital conference as a keynote. speaker.

“The movement… even as the backlash intensifies, has opened up a political space where it’s not a conversation killer to talk about the racist impacts of things,” McGhee said. “That’s big. Because I have many memories of trying to have conversations in Washington about tax policy or loan policy and knowing that it would be harder for me to be successful if I talked about race. And that’s a shame. ”

McGhee, throughout his speech, explained how American history is replete with racist housing policies that have resulted in generational disadvantages for black Americans and minorities, including the more “explicit” segregation policies of the United States. past and now more “implicit” racism in policies that disadvantage tenants, allow predatory lending practices, exclusionary zoning and the placement of low-income neighborhoods in areas that present the most threats to health.

In predominantly white Utah, the poorest neighborhoods and towns also have the most racial diversity, including West Valley City or western Salt Lake City neighborhoods like Jordan Meadows, Rose Park, Poplar Grove, or Glendale. These areas have also been hit hardest by COVID-19.

“There is just no way to accurately describe our accommodation in America without talking about racism,” she said. “Racism shapes where you can live, your home finances and your quality of life.

McGhee said it’s often “more comfortable” to discuss affordable housing purely in terms of class issues – and that’s probably a more familiar conversation in predominantly white Utah. But she said throughout her career it has become clear that her racism comes at a cost to all of us, with policies that have built-in drawbacks for the poor.

“The way racism shapes where we live, the finances of our lives and the quality of our life is a moral stain,” she said. “And we can’t think that we can replace four centuries of use of race to determine every aspect of housing and land use policy, then plug our ears and close our eyes and keep walking on the same.” way and say: saying race and we don’t see the race as we progress in a different direction. We are not moving in a different direction from the one racism has already set before us. ”

McGhee explained how the United States continues on the same trajectory, from “the loss of black wealth to the financial crisis, the racial expulsion of black communities from burgeoning cities, the segregation of our schools, the way – surprise, surprise – a pandemic (infection and death) would be more concentrated ”in minority communities.

“We have been explicitly racist for the vast majority of our history. So the new disfavour of breed mention while we’re still going down this racist path is leading us in exactly the same direction, ”McGhee said.

She said mortgage lenders can benefit the poor with high predatory interest rates, and how black and brown homebuyers with good credit have been geared towards high cost loans. She pointed out homeownership rate, which showed in 2018 that the gap between white and black ownership was 30 percentage points in the wake of the Great Recession. She also referred to a recent New York Times article who detailed how black homeowners were discriminated against in home ratings.

“It’s such a common acquaintance for me,” she said. “I always knew before that if I rent or sell a house, in my community you take away your photos and your art that looks like a black person. It’s kind of a no-brainer that you’re going to pay a tax on your home’s valuation or on the possibility of renting it out if it looks like the home is owned by a black person.

She urged Utah housing advocates to support movements like Black Lives Matter and the National Conversation on Systemic Racism, while pushing for “structural change” in housing policies at all levels.

“We can’t keep snacking on the edges,” McGhee said. “We have to demolish the house and build a new one. “

Tara Rollins, executive director of the Utah Housing Coalition, thanking McGhee for speaking, said at this time, with the full impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, “the eviction is in all our minds “.

Racism, Rollins said, needs to be part of political conversations about evictions and more.

“You know, all lives won’t matter until black lives matter,” Rollins said.

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