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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.