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Anti-Racism Update

Kalamazoo area residents may wonder why our neighborhoods are so highly segregated by race. The vast majority of people of color in the city and county, live in just three neighborhoods—Northside, Eastside and Edison.

Matt Smith of the Kalamazoo Public Library provided the Anti-Racism Task Force with an answer: federal government policy. During the end of the Depression and just after World War II, many African Americans moved to Kalamazoo from the South. At that same time, federal policies dramatically increased home building, home loans and home ownership.

The catch is, federal policy explicitly prohibited federally-supported mortgages and home improvement loans to people living in areas where African Americans lived. This policy is known as red-lining for the red lines drawn around the areas where even a few African Americans lived. On top of that, federal guidelines directed local officials to prohibit African Americans from moving into other areas. The prohibitions—racially restrictive covenants–were written into the deeds for houses.

These policies caused segregation, disparate loss of wealth for African Americans, and blighted areas. The Anti-Racism Task Force continues to educate itself about how our history of racist policy explains the disparities we see today.

– Denise Hartsough, Anti-Racism Task Force member