May 28, 2021 • 57M

The Counter Revolutionary History of Suburbs with Jane Ball and Jeff (Not That) Epstein

How suburbs spawned to stop equality

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Starting soon after the Russian revolution, we saw the advent of the suburbs. These suburbs served a counter-revolutionary purpose. They were deliberate effort by the government to prevent a similar kind of popular uprising. This was done primarily and essentially by dangling a nice home in the faces of white people, and by keeping black and brown people out via redlining and discriminatory ordinances. So not only was this country built long ago on the backs and with the blood of black and brown people, that virulent racism continues today in active policy, all around the country.

A Federally Designed Program of Social Control

The segregation of the suburbs was not an accident. It was a deliberate decision at every level of government intended to stave off the spread into the US of Europe’s worker uprisings and the spread of socialism by granting the racial privilege of land ownership to the same European immigrants that only a few years before were associated with public nuisance. The “Own Your Own Campaign”, started in 1916 by the National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAREB) and taken over by the Department of Labor in 1917 was the mechanism used to do this. Through this campaign, the government produced propaganda aimed at the white working class declaring it a patriotic duty to purchase a single-family home rather than renting. Under Secretary of Treasury Herbert Hoover, the federal government went further, using popular household magazines to warn potential homeowners of the problems of “racial strife” and declining property values in integrated communities. These publications, paid for by the federal government, drove interest in racial covenants that contractually bound segregation to the land in perpetuity. 

Working with the Department of Commerce, NAREB enforced the implantation of racial covenants by refusing certification to realtors who would not include racial covenants in their suburban subdivisions. The NAREB’s worked to make the threat of property value decline a reality; realtors would tell homeowners that Black families were moving into the neighborhoods, then hire Black folks to act as potential home buyers in that neighborhood, creating a slew of panic selling, artificially lowing home sales so the realtors could purchase it at a low price.

The federal government then acted to subsidize white flights through the Home Owners Loan Corporation and the Federal Housing Administration. These federal agencies would only provide loans and underwrite a mortgage for white people who were looking to buy in other all white neighborhoods/suburbs. Black people couldn't get approved for mortgages in their communities or in the suburbs. White people couldn't even get approved for mortgages in existing integrated communities. Without this access to these federal financial resources, homeownership was prohibitively expensive.

Through these programs, the federal government created a subsidized housing market for suburban land exclusively for white people and used this market to de-ethnicize and assimilate European immigrants into “white” identity, using racial privilege to create a white middle class that acts as a protective buffer between the ruling class and the most exploited among us, preventing true systemic reform. Through this market, white families have since been able to acrue generational wealth that has been by design denied to Black families. Further, because interest on mortgages is deductible on income taxes, white homeowners have received an annual federal subsidy that has likewise been denied to Black families. The result is the continued success of the marginalization of Black Americans unleashed by Jim Crow laws, almost 70 years after Brown ended legal race-based segregation. Until we address this legacy, abolish single-family residential zoning, and rid ourselves of half acre or more minimum lots, we will not be able to pull white supremacy in the 21st century out by its roots.  The longer we resist and insist on retaining our racial privilege in the form of property on large exclusive residential lots the longer we remain complicit in the perpetuation of white supremacy.

Podcast by (the non-billionaire, non-pedophile, non-dead) Jeff Epstein: You can find Jeff at Activists MMT here

Music by Wreck Tech, who can be found on SoundCloud and Spotify.