Working toward cooperative solutions to promote equality for all

Filed under: Featured,Transforming Race Conference |

The election of Barack Obama as the first African-American President, gave me hope that our Country was at last moving forward from centuries of racist thought and practice.

Jimmy Carter

By the fall of 2009, the President was rejecting suggestions that political opposition was couched in racist thinking. US News on September 16, 2009, reported that “President Obama doesn’t believe that racism is much of a factor in the wave of opposition to his policies”. This followed a suggestion by former President Jimmy Carter that there exists in our country “an inherent feeling among many…that an African-American ought not to be president and ought not to be given the same respect as if he were white.”

Joe Wilson

Some people suggested that the now infamous “You Lie” outburst by Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina would not have happened had the president been Caucasian. Others in the media, began raising questions about whether criticism of President Obama might be motivated by racial prejudice.

These events roughly coincided with the call for presentation ideas for the upcoming Transforming Race Conference: Crisis and Opportunity In the Age of Obama, and have since been followed by comments made by Senator Harry Reid concerning the President’s “light skin” and “Negro dialect” and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s claim that his experience shining shoes qualified him to be “blacker” than the President.

Because I began to question whether overt racist attitudes may have actually resurfaced or increased as a result of Obama’s victory, I was moved to submit my ideas concerning  continued racism in the residential mortgage industry and my belief that strengthened financial regulation must also incorporate fair housing and fair lending concerns.

My work as Director of Research and Policy at the Baltimore based Community Law Center, targets predatory and deceptive real estate practices. Baltimore has an unsavory history of racially discriminatory practices in housing services, which have had long lasting effects on the local community. Unfortunately, Baltimore’s past is reflective of society’s attitudes towards race, and the denial of equal opportunities in education, housing and wealth building.

Despite legal advances in the 1950’s and 1960’s, such as Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, racially discriminatory practices continued to exist, in Baltimore and its growing suburbs. Many lenders refused to loan money to minorities and the practice of redlining was rampant within the City. Indeed, some developers refused to qualify families for FHA and VA loans, keeping the urban poor from attaining the valued American Dream of home ownership.

In the late1980’s, with many of the city’s steel mills and plants moving elsewhere, the city’s population began to decline, and violence stemming from a burgeoning drug economy began to devastate neighborhoods. Many whites and better-off black residents fled to the surrounding counties, leaving poor disadvantaged families left to struggle with the mess left behind in once thriving communities. Poor homeowners became the target of predatory lending—lenders who saw value in neglected, unassuming communities where residents were denied loans from local banks to move or improve their property.

Many predominately white areas of the city remained just that—the prices and property taxes on the more desirable homes and neighborhoods were too costly for many poor minority homeowners and first time buyers. Even the renter’s market remained highly stratified. The landmark litigation (Thompson v. HUD, 348 F. Supp. 2d 398 (D. Md. 2005) addresses practices determined to restrict African Americans to the most segregated areas of Baltimore.

While some subsidized developments in the city were almost completely occupied by whites, the worst developments were almost exclusively occupied by black families. The city was required to desegregate its housing in order to allow movement throughout the Baltimore regional area.

By the  1990’s and 2000’s, quick sale “flipping scams” were in their heyday, predatory lenders swindled many vulnerable people by giving them loans with exorbitant fees, lending more than the value of the property, and enticing unsuspecting homeowners into subprime loans even when they qualified for loans with more reasonable terms. A recent  New York Times article points out that Black women were five times more likely to receive subprime mortgages than white men, putting them at higher risk of foreclosure.

Many organizations such as the Community Law Center fought to clean up neighborhoods, seek prosecution and otherwise enforce laws violated by appraisers, contractors, landlords, lenders and other real estate bad actors. However the effects of discrimination can still be felt across the city.  As a result of banks refusing to lend money for business development in some areas, local business provided services for generations in city neighborhoods have had to shut down. While larger, modern stores are often located within the newer suburban communities the services available to the inner city population is often of lower quality and priced higher.

When businesses leave the inner city community, to relocate or close, they take much needed jobs with them, hitting these communities even harder. Many jobs that were once available in the city have moved into the often unreachable suburbs, further adding to the strain on the inner city.

A further consequence of this socio-economic imbalance can be seen in the disparities between urban and suburban school systems, with inner city schools often having substandard resources, contributing to reduced academic performance. Ultimately, cities like Baltimore struggle with providing services to the poor members of the city, fighting to keep a balanced budget, while money is funneled out of the city and into suburban areas. With a recent increase of 9,000 students, 84% of the students in Baltimore City Public Schools now qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program.

To have racially inclusive communities, we need solutions that take into account the sensitivities of race and the needs of the greater community. Housing, education, employment, transportation and commerce can not be viewed in a vacuum. We must recognize the interconnection of these issues and the need for collaborative solutions. Only through discourse and multifaceted solutions such as a revitalized transportation system, affordable and sustainable housing, and neighborhood rejuvenation will racial equity be achieved.

Today, in the age of Obama, although this crisis continues, we have a chance to move forward with cooperative solutions to promote opportunity and equality for all.

Contributing to this article:

Antonia Cuffee
Juris Doctor Candidate, Class of 2011
University of Maryland School of Law
Community Law Center Intern, Spring 2010

Friday 12, 2010 at the Transforming Race Conference from 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Robert Strupp is the Director of Research and Policy with the Maryland based, non-profit, Community Law Center ( His projects combat predatory and deceptive real estate transactions and related practices that can lead to foreclosure, abandoned properties and other consequences detrimental to individuals, families and communities.  Strupp serves on the homeownership preservation coalitions in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, and chair the statewide enforcement committee, bringing to the table the regulated, regulators, public officials, advocates, funders and others concerned with residential real estate. He is a resource for the media, government and other organizations seeking information on the latest trends in residential real estate practices and have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Baltimore Sun, US News & World Report, and other publications. Strupp was featured in a 2009 documentary on the mortgage crisis entitled “American Casino”, which premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City and is being released nationally.


Line Break

Author: Robert Strupp (1 Articles)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook


* 8 = sixty four

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>