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Why My Opinions of FDR Have Changed Over Time

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  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    This will come across as blasphemous to some, but I have come to accept that FDR isn't the knight in shining armor that I once considered him to be. This realization didn't come out of nowhere, but instead after countless hours of research and soul searching.

    It's true that FDR helped guide the American people out of the worst economic downturn in a generation, but it's also true that he injected steroids into Jim Crow laws in the south *and* the north. In the south, racism was blatant; in the north racism was economic. In that respect, FDR failed miserably and signed multiple pieces of legislation into law that created the bedrock of the institutionalized racism we are still grappling with to this day.

    The National Housing Act of 1934, which FDR signed into law, gave permission to the Home Owners' Loan Corporation to create "residential security maps," which were used to single out minority neighborhoods from receiving any federal funding. These minority neighborhoods were literally outlined in red and allowed banks to deny all mortgage capital to people living within them.

    Author Richard Rothstein recently explained on NPR:

    "It takes many people by surprise. This whole history has been forgotten. It used to be well-known. There was nothing hidden about it. The federal government pursued two important policies in the mid-20th century that segregated metropolitan areas. One was the first civilian public housing program which frequently demolished integrated neighborhoods in order to create segregated public housing.

    The second program that the federal government pursued was to subsidize the development of suburbs on a condition that they be only sold to white families and that the homes in those suburbs had deeds that prohibited resale to African-Americans. These two policies worked together to segregate metropolitan areas in ways that they otherwise would never have been segregated."

    So FDR signed legislation into law that "demolished integrated neighborhoods in order to create segregated public housing" *and* used federal dollars to develop suburbs "on a condition that they be only sold to white families."

    I fully understand that many people will retort with "he was simply doing the best he could during the times he was living in," but I just don't buy that. He picked winners and losers and the losers are still grappling with the housing choices he made nearly a century ago.

    I also fully understand that many people will vehemently disagree with my having the audacity to criticize a man countless Democrats look to as a hero and I am ok with that. I don't idolize anyone. It's important for us to understand history and why decisions made decades ago are still negatively affecting the lives of millions of people of color to this day.

    We can dig our heads in the sand and act like none of that ever happened, or we can learn from it. I understand many people will continue to dig their heads in the sand, but I'm choosing to learn from it.

  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Pensacola, FL
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    jaredsxtn Wrote:

    This will come across as blasphemous to some, but I have come to accept that FDR isn't the knight in shining armor that I once considered him to be. This realization didn't come out of nowhere, but instead after countless hours of research and soul searching.

    It's true that FDR helped guide the American people out of the worst economic downturn in a generation, but it's also true that he injected steroids into Jim Crow laws in the south *and* the north. In the south, racism was blatant; in the north racism was economic. In that respect, FDR failed miserably and signed multiple pieces of legislation into law that created the bedrock of the institutionalized racism we are still grappling with to this day.

    The National Housing Act of 1934, which FDR signed into law, gave permission to the Home Owners' Loan Corporation to create "residential security maps," which were used to single out minority neighborhoods from receiving any federal funding. These minority neighborhoods were literally outlined in red and allowed banks to deny all mortgage capital to people living within them.

    Author Richard Rothstein recently explained on NPR:

    "It takes many people by surprise. This whole history has been forgotten. It used to be well-known. There was nothing hidden about it. The federal government pursued two important policies in the mid-20th century that segregated metropolitan areas. One was the first civilian public housing program which frequently demolished integrated neighborhoods in order to create segregated public housing.

    The second program that the federal government pursued was to subsidize the development of suburbs on a condition that they be only sold to white families and that the homes in those suburbs had deeds that prohibited resale to African-Americans. These two policies worked together to segregate metropolitan areas in ways that they otherwise would never have been segregated."

    So FDR signed legislation into law that "demolished integrated neighborhoods in order to create segregated public housing" *and* used federal dollars to develop suburbs "on a condition that they be only sold to white families."

    I fully understand that many people will retort with "he was simply doing the best he could during the times he was living in," but I just don't buy that. He picked winners and losers and the losers are still grappling with the housing choices he made nearly a century ago.

    I also fully understand that many people will vehemently disagree with my having the audacity to criticize a man countless Democrats look to as a hero and I am ok with that. I don't idolize anyone. It's important for us to understand history and why decisions made decades ago are still negatively affecting the lives of millions of people of color to this day.

    We can dig our heads in the sand and act like none of that ever happened, or we can learn from it. I understand many people will continue to dig their heads in the sand, but I'm choosing to learn from it.

    "So FDR signed legislation into law that "demolished integrated neighborhoods in order to create segregated public housing" *and* used federal dollars to develop suburbs "on a condition that they be only sold to white families."

    Are those your words and your interpretation. Are you saying his purpose was to create segregated housing and his purpose was to sell only to white people?

    My reading of similar material was neighborhoods were graded and as it turned out the worst grades went to the worst incomes, buildings etc that also happened to be people of color. Which at that time was representative of income/ethnicity.

    The question is whether the purpose was racial discrimination and segregation or the purpose was affordable housing that turned out to be racially discrimatory and segregatory.

    Racist by design or evolution. In either case still racist but important to know the "facts".

  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    Chet Ruminski Wrote: Are those your words and your interpretation. Are you saying his purpose was to create segregated housing and his purpose was to sell only to white people?

    Yes, that's what I'm saying. I'm saying that because that is what the law establishing the FHA explicitly said.

    You may not like that, but facts (you know, the things that are true) don't care what you like or don't like.

    Chet Ruminski Wrote: My reading of similar material was neighborhoods were graded and as it turned out the worst grades went to the worst incomes, buildings etc that also happened to be people of color. Which at that time was representative of income/ethnicity.

    The question is whether the purpose was racial discrimination and segregation or the purpose was affordable housing that turned out to be racially discrimatory and segregatory.

    Racist by design or evolution. In either case still racist but important to know the "facts".

    Your "reading" doesn't matter. The law establishing the FHA was explicit. Black people were to be screwed over. Period. End of sentence.

    I know it hurts to hear your hero was a racist, but your hero was a racist. He also ushered in an era of discriminatory housing policies that made it so people of color couldn't get a mortgage. We are still dealing with his actions to this day. You may not want to admit it, but those are the facts.

  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Pensacola, FL
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    jaredsxtn Wrote:
    Chet Ruminski Wrote: Are those your words and your interpretation. Are you saying his purpose was to create segregated housing and his purpose was to sell only to white people?

    Yes, that's what I'm saying. I'm saying that because that is what the law establishing the FHA explicitly said.

    You may not like that, but facts (you know, the things that are true) don't care what you like or don't like.

    Chet Ruminski Wrote: My reading of similar material was neighborhoods were graded and as it turned out the worst grades went to the worst incomes, buildings etc that also happened to be people of color. Which at that time was representative of income/ethnicity.

    The question is whether the purpose was racial discrimination and segregation or the purpose was affordable housing that turned out to be racially discrimatory and segregatory.

    Racist by design or evolution. In either case still racist but important to know the "facts".

    Your "reading" doesn't matter. The law establishing the FHA was explicit. Black people were to be screwed over. Period. End of sentence.

    I know it hurts to hear your hero was a racist, but your hero was a racist. He also ushered in an era of discriminatory housing policies that made it so people of color couldn't get a mortgage. We are still dealing with his actions to this day. You may not want to admit it, but those are the facts.

    I am not denying that the results of those laws including the 1934 Law resulted in Racial injustices.. I am asking you if that was the purpose of the laws or was it a result of the laws. I know the neighborhoods were graded accordingly and somewhat prior by banks for suitability for credit. As it happened to be in that time period the worst neighborhoods were typically the lowest incomes and the lowest incomes were typically minorities. It was no secret that white neighborhoods were the better neighborhoods because whites had all the advantages. That is how the phrase "there goes the neighborhood" got started. Any person at that time that was grading neighborhoods for credit worthiness would have come up with the same grades.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Pensacola, FL
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    Well, I am starting to see a pattern of racial discrimination that I was not aware of. It is easy now to see that this happened because as you pointed out the 1934 Law was rooted in blatant racist practices.

    The GI Bill (1944)[edit]

    At the end of World War II, the GI Bill furthered segregation practices by keeping African Americans out of European American neighborhoods, showing another side to African American housing discrimination. When millions of GIs returned home from overseas, they took advantage of the “Servicemen’s Readjustment Act,” or the GI Bill.[19] This important document was signed in 1944 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and gave veterans education and training opportunities, guaranteed loans for home, farm, or business, job finding assistance, and unemployment pay of $20 a week for up to 52 weeks if a veteran could not find a job.[20] This law allowed millions of U.S. soldiers to purchase their first homes with inexpensive mortgages, which meant the huge growth of suburbs and the birth of the ideal of a suburban lifestyle.

    African Americans were met with discrimination when trying to purchase a home in the overwhelmingly European American neighborhoods. The realtors would not show these houses to African Americans, and when they did, they would try and talk them out of buying the home. This discrimination was based on the fact that realtors believed they would be losing future business by dealing or listing with African Americans, and that it would be unethical to sell a house in a European American neighborhood to African Americans because it would drive the property values of the surrounding houses down.[21]

    This is far more direct and obvious. No doubt that it wasn't original but followed the lead of the National Housing Act of 1934.

  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Dallas, TX
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    Chet,

    FDR partnered with segregationists. This is not new information. He also interned Japanese Americans. Segregation was believed to help keep the peace and keep worse racism at bay. It’s horrible but there was a logic to it. It was embedded institutionally in the south and by defacto in the north. After the abandonment of Reconstruction, no politician could have done much to change things pre WW2. Truman’s integration of our fighting forces and Cold War strategy against the Soviets set the forces in motion for change.

  • Strongly Liberal
    Independent
    Ohio
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    You would struggle to name a president , senator or judge who was not what you would consider bigoted in the history of our country . Kennedy , was no fan of black people. He would not allow Sammy Davis jr at the white house , frank Sinatra had to beg him to allow Sammy in.

    Lincoln believed that African Americans were inferior and did not want to emancipate them . Wilson was very strongly bigoted. Racism is embedded in our culture. It's embedded , because a long time ago , our American ancestors ,along with the Dutch slave traders , invented a myth that Africans were not human. They taught this for so long it became part of our culture it became an accepted truth. It's was the only way to justify the practice of slavery. To this day , it's is still taught to millions of children .

    On top of that , we have active political terror campains , groups and lobbyist working to attack minorities of all types. The ignorance is astounding. The rest of the world is amazed at how mean Americans are to each other . The effort to maintain the status quo as far as these stereotypes go is another crime against humanity against America. It's is now a part of the war on drugs. Harry Anslingers bigoted career as the DEA head has done tremendous damage to our country. Corporations are behind this crime against humanity , of course.

    And I am sure that the corporation were the reason for the FDR policies .

  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Kenosha, WI
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    I never had an opinion of FDR, I only know that he saved the country from economic disaster, but I knew most good jobs were given to lily white folks, blacks ended up on the short end of the stick. This nation hasn't seen a great depression since, and we might want to be thankful that we have not, I cannot picture myself digging through garbage cans scrounging for my next meal, or standing in line for a piece of bread and a bowl of soup, I just can't. My parents told me of what it was like back then, and how many lily white people suffered, but it must have been tenfold for blacks.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Central, FL
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    Every day there are more negatives that are illuminated. Our past is covered in the stench of bad actions. American Indians, Blacks, Mexicans... who can we enslave to easily have our way.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    TJ Wrote: Every day there are more negatives that are illuminated. Our past is covered in the stench of bad actions. American Indians, Blacks, Mexicans... who can we enslave to easily have our way.

    I agree, but I'm genuinely not trying to shit on FDR. My goal is to open peoples eyes so they may one day understand that decisions he and the Federal Government made decades ago are still affecting society to this day.

  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    I was talking with a friend of mine about this topic today and he pointed me to a great video explaining in layman's terms what these New Deal housing policies did and why they are still having an impact to this day. It's explained in a humorous way, but the underlying message is spot on.

  • Independent
    Washington
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    Yeah, I tend to think a lot of historic figures were more flawed that we are lead to believe and even modern biographers who know a lot of the details re-frame from talking about negative side. Political deals they made that benefited the country, but did great harm to some (ie American Indians). It makes me think of the question posed in Star Trek II - III (Paraphrasing): When does the needs of many out weigh the needs of the few, and when does the needs of few (or the one) out weigh the needs of the many?

    And in general the public does not want to hear personal dirt about american heroes. They don't want to hear that a hero beat his wife throughout his marriage and she ultimately died from the beatings. Or that a hero had a sexual fetish for very young girls, and often had late night visits to his stable of slaves. Such details are never included in the history books.