In Part 1 of the Interconnections: Injury, Reparation, and Realignment Series, I wrote about the way physical injury to one part of the body can result in misalignment and injury to other parts of the body resulting in the need to repair more than simply the original injury.
Looking at the national level, we as a nation have a great deal of damage that continues to need to be repaired despite the amelioration of the original problem. A prime example is the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws and the damage that remains to this day, over a hundred years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. This damage can be seen at the systemic level. When I speak about the “systemic level,” I mean society, its institutions and their policies and procedures. I wrote about this in my book, Repairing the Quilt of Humanity: A Metaphor for Healing and Reparation. There, I discuss the legacy of slavery in terms of the vast differences in wealth between Americans who are white and those who are Black.
Not only did freed slaves never receive the promised “forty acres and a mule,” but they were kept from opportunities that enabled a huge number of white Americans to obtain college educations and buy homes. This is because after slavery ended, laws were put into place that prohibited African-Americans from buying and owning land. And, once those laws were revoked, African-Americans were still prevented from buying homes. The affordable mortgages offered by the FHA after World War II that enabled a huge number of white Americans to become home owners were systemically denied to African-Americans for 30 years.
Many of you might be thinking, “But now that slavery and Jim Crow laws have been eliminated and African-Americans can obtain mortgages, everything is all better, right?” Well, if we fail to take a holistic view that is the way it might look. We need to go deeper to see the connections. In the years between 1960 and 1980, real estate appreciation was the prime mechanism for Americans in the middle-class to accumulate wealth. Because of the financial head start white Americans received in the form of government-supported loans and other subsidies that were denied to African-Americans, they have had the benefit of developing wealth merely through the appreciation of their real estate.
Thus, even though slavery and Jim Crow laws have been eradicated, continued economic damage can be seen in the relative lack of wealth on the part of African-Americans who were denied the opportunity to purchase homes and reap the benefits of real estate appreciation. The cycle of disparity continues generation after generation. For example, many white Americans who were able to buy homes with the aid of FHA loans were then able to fund their children’s college education by taking out second mortgages. This option was not available for most African-Americans.
Thus, we see the connections between the policies enacted years ago and the damage that remains in place today.