For anyone who wants to claim that discrimination is all in the past, and who asks why blacks and Latinos can'tjust get their own house (pun intended) in order, here's (more) evidence that such claims and questions are, shall we say, premature:
Discrimination against blacks, Hispanics and Asians looking for housing persists in subtle forms, according to a new national study commissioned by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
(snip) “Although we’ve come a long way from the days of blatant, in-your-face housing injustice, discrimination still persists,” Shaun Donovan, the department’s secretary, said in a telephone conference on Tuesday unveiling the findings. “And just because it has taken on a hidden form doesn’t make it any less harmful.”
(snip) White testers also were more frequently offered lower rents, told that deposits and other move-in costs were negotiable, or were quoted a lower price.
This is happening. Today. And bear in mind that this HUD study, although it deals with housing discrimination, doesn't include the added costs to non-whites (most typically blacks and Hispanics) resulting from racial discrimination in mortgage lending, something so well documented that Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke felt obliged to condemn it publicly just last November. And, on a related note, current racial discrimination in employment/hiring is well documented as well, as this study (which followed a similar method to the housing discrimination study) demonstrates.
In this recent study, HUD commissioned the Urban Institute to do 8000 tests, each one consisting of two people looking to rent or buy a home, people whose age, gender, and financial situation (as presented to the real estate agents) were identical. The only difference was that one person was non-white, the other was white.
The white person was, on average, quoted a lower dollar amount on the rent or on the purchase price, or was offered lower prices on other elements of the transaction (lower move-in costs, deposits, etc.) The study found no significant differences in the amount of discrimination taking place across the 28 metropolitan areas where it was conducted.
Additionally, it is worth noting that these testers all presented themselves as having strong financial backgrounds. According to the Urban Institute's Margery Austin Turner, racial discrimination in housing is even greater among those with worse financial situations. She stated: "The findings probably understate the overall levels of discrimination in the market today."
Now, for the good news. And there is some, so it's important to make that clear. This type of study has been done four times since 1977, and the article explains that discrimination has become less severe over time. Progress is good, but we must do better. We must eliminate discrimination completely.
Equally importantly, we need this kind of data to answer those who say "discrimination is a thing of the past," "slavery was a long time ago," and who offer other such pearls of wisdom to argue against necessary measures to counter the obstacles racism continues to place in the way of non-whites in this country today.
Racists -- and it doesn't matter whether the racism of these real estate agents is conscious or unconscious -- are stealing money from the pockets of black, Latino, and Asian Americans. This has to end. Now.
PS-Please check out my new book Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity, published by Potomac Books, where I discuss Barack Obama's ideas on racial, ethnic, and national identity in detail, and contrast his inclusive vision to language coming from Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh and (some) others on the right. You can read a review by DailyKos's own Greg Dworkin here.