By Lisa Swanson of the NUBIANO Exchange
Over the past decade, the United States has seen many instances of housing injustice which have disproportionately affected blacks, women and low-income families. From the escalating subprime mortgage crisis to dwindling units of affordable housing, from increasing gentrification to decreasing funding for public housing, from the swelling homeless population of New Orleans to the progressing permanency of the Gulf Coast Diaspora, the most direct and devastating consequences of housing injustice, including the loss of homes, communities, and even lives, have consistently and overwhelmingly been borne by blacks.
This pattern is not coincidental. If we choose to view each of these problems and its race dynamics as separate issues, then we are guilty of ignoring the points of origin which connect them all together. According to Max Rameau, an organizer with the Center for Pan-African Development in Miami, Florida, the root problems of gentrification in the 2000s are the same as the root problems of segregation in the 1960s: people of colors’ lack of power and control over land, and white supremacy.
Typically, the phrase “white supremacy” is associated with hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the National Alliance. This extreme mental association hinders our recognition of white supremacy, also referred to as white privilege, in our everyday lives. Many white people would be very upset by the suggestion that white supremacy is a part of their everyday lives, and I think that most white people would say very firmly that they do not believe that white people are superior to black people. I agree that white people are not superior to black people, and that people of all shades and appearances are inherently equal. The first calling of my faith as a Unitarian Universalist is to “affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” I believe in every corner of my heart that we are all human beings with worth and dignity, and that the color of our skin does not matter.
I also believe that, in this society, the color of our skin matters; I believe that our society functions in a way which favors people with white skin and makes things harder for people with skin that is brown or black. This favoritism reinforces the superiority of white people, and white privilege becomes a self-sustaining cycle. There is nothing inherent in skin color with makes a group with one shade superior to a group with another shade of skin. But the racism that all of us in the United States experience every day is no less real for being manufactured.