Carlette Duffy, a Black homeowner in Indianapolis, felt as though her appraisal was suspiciously low, leading her to request another. This time, Duffy removed all family photos and cleared her home of any indicators suggesting she was Black. When she concealed her race, her appraisal value doubled (Bahney).
Duffy is merely one example of this common injustice. The deep history of the devaluation of residencies in majority-Black neighborhoods further inhibits Black people from accumulating wealth in America through property, which has and will continue to generate instability within the United States economy. Through my research, I have noticed a connection between states with bans against the teaching of critical race theory and states with high devaluation rates in their metropolitan areas. This correlation asserts that the source of devaluation is a lack of education and identifies future threats to housing equality as bans against critical race theory education. The solution to this injustice involves protecting and promoting the study of critical race theory in schools and workplaces to generate awareness. Focusing on education will lead to small and large-scale change that works to dismantle and retroactively heal the damage inflicted on communities through devaluation and other racist traditions within real estate.
While the term critical race theory, or CRT, originates in legal studies, it has been commonly applied to the American Public School system in modern discourse. This form of CRT education is built on antiracist teachings, evaluates race on a systematic and institutional level, and does not practice colorblindness. This form of education that I have branded as CRT undergoes a detailed evaluation of America’s history of injustice and the modern implications of these historical events. While a part of this education focuses on implicit bias and microaggressions, it more largely addresses the connections and interactions between individual racism and institutionalized racism.
Similar to all issues of systemic racism in the United States, the housing market’s generation and promotion of racist tendencies dates back to slavery. Black people were not allowed to own land until the Homestead Act of 1862, and the Southern Homestead Act of 1866 offered sets of land to those willing to farm it (“The Civil War”). Once land ownership became an option for Black people, many barriers were put in place in order to inhibit this process and slow the accumulation of wealth for African Americans. During the Great Depression, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation and the Federal Housing Administration were established. As explained by Dima Williams in a Forbes article, these two fiscal establishments were fond of the “two-tier housing approach,” which promotes segregation by withholding investments towards predominantly Black areas. At this time, redlining became a prominent practice that considered the “quality” of the neighborhood an individual resided in when deciding their loan status. Essentially, “The HOLC [Home Owners Loan Corporation] … institutionalized redlining as a way to evaluate the quality of neighborhoods based on their racial and ethnic makeup” (Zonta). The system of redlining further prohibited Black people from advancing their socioeconomic status. It was another way for institutions run for and by white people to promote white supremacy and perpetuate the ideologies of slavery long after its abolition.
Today, due to the ratification of slavery in 1865 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, both slavery and redlining are outlawed (United States Department of Justice). However, their ramifications still contribute to racism within the twenty-first-century housing market through a multitude of factors, including the devaluing of homes in predominantly Black areas. When the Brookings Institute compared the prices of homes similar in quality of neighborhood and amenities, they found, “[Homes] are worth 23 percent less in majority-Black neighborhoods, compared to those with very few or no Black residents” (Perry). On average, the difference in value between similar white and Black homes is $48,000 per home, resulting in $156 billion in cumulative losses (Perry). These significant losses show how prevalent the disparity in home pricing is and how economically detrimental the devaluing of homes is to monetary gains for the Black community.
The effects of redlining are still prevalent in today’s housing market, which emphasizes the importance of teaching critical race theory. Through these teachings, educators can address systems, including redlining, that have led to wealth disparities today. When an issue is taught in school, it helps to spread awareness while also deeming it as an issue of importance. The recent bans against teaching race in schools send the message that issues of institutional injustice, similar to those displayed in the Brookings Institution data, and their sources, redlining, are not important issues. Therefore, the mistreatment the issue presents is not only able to continue, but it can thrive. In areas where bans against teaching CRT have already been implemented, and similar bans against the discussion of race have been practiced for many years, devaluation rates are prevalent. In places that have successfully enacted laws against educating on CRT, that the Brookings Institute has data available for, five-sixths have a devolution difference of at least -10% (Perry; Ray and Gibbons). Bans against CRT education allow problems of devaluation to continue, and racial injustice is deemed an issue not valuable enough to be incorporated into curricula.
The long-term impact of the losses experienced by Black people due to home devaluation enables the systemic oppression of the Black community. Although the physical act of redlining neighborhoods has been abolished, Black people still struggle to acquire loans due to their location. When a home is underappreciated, there is less collateral, which lowers the odds one is granted a loan. Due to the devaluing of Black homes, Black people are systematically less likely to acquire loans. In the United States, it is challenging to grow wealth without loans; therefore, it is challenging to gain access to improved opportunities. It is difficult to create generational wealth for Black people. Without inheritance, most Black people remain in the same location and socioeconomic class for centuries.
Today, in metropolitan areas with greater levels of devaluation, segregation is more common. Segregation allows for less upward mobility for Black children in these areas (Perry). As these children become adults, less vertical mobility during their youth results in fewer opportunities to seek higher education, find employment, or invest in their communities. Since African Americans are less likely to acquire loans, they are far less likely to have the opportunity to move out of segregated neighborhoods, which would allow for greater access to systemically superior communal amenities.
Bans against the teaching of critical race theory within schools encourage less vertical mobility among Black children in the public school system. In September of 2021, an NBC News article focused on interviews with Black students at The Living School in New Orleans whose education was being challenged by proposed bills that threatened to inhibit schools from discussing specific concepts related to race. In response to this bill Re’Kal Hooker, a seventeen-year-old student, stated, “If we don’t know our history, how can we come up with our own point of view? How can we grow?” (C. Adams). These powerful words from Hooker exemplify the effect limiting discussions of race in school can have on mobility.
Within the New Orleans-Metairie area, where Hooker attends school and where legislators are considering bans against teaching CRT, the average devaluation of homes in majority-Black neighborhoods, according to the Brookings Institute, is -20.8%. Students from The Living School said they were given little to no education on critical race theory in school but did occasionally discuss race-related issues. Students were hoping to adopt more race-based discussion into their classrooms following the Black Lives Matter movement, which exploded in the summer of 2020 (C. Adams). Many of the schools that have been barred from teaching CRT (or are potentially going to be barred) were not necessarily practicing it to begin with. The bans are put in place to limit that as a future option. Minimal previous discussions of CRT in public schools in the area and a state government against practicing CRT education can be a potential source for these high devaluation rates. If the ban in Louisiana is put into action, there is a high risk that devaluation rates will increase or stay the same, continuing the injustice.
The positive effects of education I have discussed can only be achieved through the model of CRT I explain above. In terms of the housing market, the disparity between the values of homes in predominantly white and Black neighborhoods can be attributed to institutionalized racism and implicit bias within the appraisal process. The results from a 2021 Brookings Institute study show which states passed laws restricting the teaching of critical race theory within schools. Through comparing these states to the Brooking Institute’s data that shows the devaluation rate of Black homes across metropolitan areas, I have recognized a positive correlation. For example, in Texas, a state with some of the strictest curriculum limitations, the two major urban areas have very high devaluation rates. In the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington areas, the percent difference in appraisal between similar white and Black-owned homes is -28.4%, and the absolute price difference is $46,718. In the Houston, Woodlands, and Sugar Land area, the percent difference is -27.6%, and the absolute price difference is $53,408 (Perry). States crafting legislation against the teaching of critical race theory tend to also be states with high devaluation rates. Embracing hegemonic curricula is likely to increase microaggressions fueled by the ignorance of being unaware of systemic issues and one’s internalized racism (Allen, Scott, and Lewis, 120).
The adverse long-term effects of devaluing homes are also seen outside the Black community. Although the struggle Black people face economically is incomprehensible for other groups, negative effects are still present for all groups. Other non-dominant racial groups also experience underappreciation for their residential properties when compared to white properties. It affects every homeowner and person in the United States; as Martin Luther King, Jr. once famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” While this statement still possesses many truths, unfortunately, many Americans are not adequately educated about racial injustice. Without sufficient education, many will not fully understand the implications of racial injustice, leading to minimal action on the individual level.
Through CRT education, individuals can fully comprehend the injustice that currently functions within all of our systems, including housing. A large part of the critical race theory curriculum is teaching about implicit bias, recognizing it, and understanding its ability to enable systemic racism. It is likely that individuals who have received this form of education would be more aware of their implicit biases and, therefore, would more accurately value a home in a predominantly Black area if they were responsible for an appraisal. Through complete comprehension and deep understanding, issues of racial justice will shift to the forefront of the public agenda for a variety of Americans.
Another reason why everyone should care about this issue is that it has an overall negative effect on the United States economy, particularly during economic recessions or depressions. According to Joseph Losavio of The International Monetary Fund, “A less racist society can be an economically stronger one.” Black people have much to offer the business sector but are usually not allowed the opportunity to enter the field or excel in it. To be a business owner or investor, a loan is typically required. Considering the difficulty Black people have acquiring loans due to intentional devaluation, business creation and investing becomes nearly impossible. America’s systems purposefully encourage less contribution to its economy by inhibiting mass economic involvement from African Americans. The economy affects everyone’s life, especially during times of poor economic performance. Preventing economic involvement from the Black community means uneven contributions, which bolsters economic instability, thereby increasing the chances of entering a recession or depression and elongating their duration.
In order to create positive change in real estate, it is important to focus less on legislation and more on education within schools and workplaces. While policy is a vital tool for housing reform, it is not the most sustainable course of action due to changing administrations and partisanship. Education reform offers long-lasting improvements within schools and workplaces as it is not subject to change every four or even two years. Education reform will also put issues of systemic racial injustice at the forefront of future policy makers’ and world leaders’ agendas. From historical and systems-based racial education, extensive and justice-oriented legislation will follow. An education-first and legislation-second approach can inform future lawmakers to craft justice-oriented and robust legislation. Initially, focusing on education is far more sustainable as it has little dependency on administration and can be utilized in the workplace to ensure faster change and help heal generational divides surrounding the understanding of racial injustice.
Some may argue that the effects of education can take much longer to present themselves, yet this issue is incredibly pressing. Therefore, the best approach is through legislation similar to the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Although the Fair Housing Act promised positive progress in dismantling the systems that perpetuated racism during its time to ensure a better future, it overlooked the importance of mending the damage already done. Since it did not focus on compensating for the harm already caused, the problem manifested into new forms and continues to cause harm (Zonta). I believe that both education and legislation would be the best approach; however, creating large-scale change towards racial equality through legislation is a grueling task. In a political climate as polarizing as today, I do not see the possibility of officials passing a bill progressive enough to promote the distribution of reparations nationwide. There is a possibility of passing a bill that solely improves current conditions, but it would be a temporary solution and eventually generate further harm. Instead, if the focus is placed on a push toward education, future politicians will be better equipped to address this issue adequately.
Education offers a far more sustainable solution to housing injustice than policy does, as it is typically not dependent on changes in power within Washington. While policies at the state and federal levels inform issues surrounding the public school system, school districts are the backbone of education reform in America. National legislative reforms such as the Fair Housing Act of 1968 tend to be enforced or prioritized depending on administration and organizational leaders. For example, quickly after the law was implemented, “the HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development] Secretary George Romney … tried to require that a white Detroit suburb accept affordable housing in exchange for federal funds. His efforts failed miserably: President Nixon killed the initiative, and Romney eventually resigned” (M. Adams). This attempt led to prolonged inactivity surrounding programs that the Fair Housing Act promised to generate and uplift. Late in the eight-year-long Obama administration, the Fair Housing Act’s programs were revisited, yet these quickly terminated as the Trump administration entered office. Thus, the promises of the Fair Housing Act once again became empty ones.
When utilizing education in public schools, the results may not present themselves until much later, allowing the damaging cycle of underappreciation to continue and further obstruct the accretion of wealth among Black people. My solution also includes education being implemented in the workforce. Government legislation has little involvement in corporate America compared to the public school system. There have been regulations banning the teaching of critical race theory in some schools; however, companies do not have to abide by these rules and can more easily educate. There are often generational divides surrounding these issues, as older generations feel as though enough has been done to address racism in America. In comparison, younger generations recognize this as untrue (Morano-Williams). Older generations’ misconceptions stem from a lack of education and awareness surrounding institutionalized racism, which can be addressed through instituting CRT education in the workplace. The principle of education-first will be most effective if it is implemented in both public schools and corporate America.
Education can also inform Black homeowners of the possibility that devaluation is occurring within their own neighborhoods. With such awareness, it becomes far easier to see how the devaluation of Black homes has sprouted from an institution built upon racist ideologies, which are perpetuated through microaggressions by the employees of said institution. Awareness also allows people to recognize the impact of racist housing policies within their communities and surrounding areas. Observation and awareness are the gateways to action; similarly, education is the gateway to just and sustainable legislative policies.
The previous, current, and future threats to educating on critical race theory impact systemic issues like racially motivated home devaluation. While some may argue with the concept of teaching critical race theory by labeling it as anti-American, I believe it is the most patriotic course of action. The constitution claims all men are created equal, yet the poisonous routes of colonialism and inequity are embedded in the foundation of all American systems. The ability to critique and attempt to improve the United States to cleanse it of its hypocrisy grows from the foundations of patriotism.
Adams, Char. “Here’s What Black Students Have to Say about ‘Critical Race Theory’ Bans.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 24 Sept. 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/s-black-students-say-critical-race-theory-bans-rcna1862.
Adams, Michelle. “The Unfulfilled Promise of the Fair Housing Act.” The New Yorker, 11 Apr. 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-unfulfilled-promise-of-the-fair-housing-act.
Allen, Ayana, Lakia M. Scott, and Chance W. Lewis. ”Racial Microaggressions and African American and Hispanic Students in Urban Schools: A Call for Culturally Affirming Education.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning 3.2 (2013): 117-129.
Bahney, Anna. ”When a Black homeowner concealed her race, her home’s appraisal value doubled.” CNN. 19 May 2021, cnn.com/2021/05/19/homes/black-homeowner-home-appraisal-feseries/index.html.
Bonilla, Sade, Thomas S. Dee, and Emily K. Penner. “Ethnic Studies Increases Longer-Run Academic Engagement and Attainment.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 14 Sept. 2021, https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2026386118.
“Geographies.” Census.gov, US Census Bureau, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.census.gov/geographies.html
“The Civil War: The Senate’s Story.” U.S. Senate: The Civil War: The Senate’s Story, 19 Feb. 2020, https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/civil_war/CivilWar.htm.
“Critical Race Theory FAQ.” NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 2 Nov. 2021, https://www.naacpldf.org/critical-race-theory-faq/.
“The Fair Housing Act.” The United States Department of Justice, 16 June 2021, https://www.justice.gov/crt/fair-housing-act-1
Kearse, Stephen. “GOP Lawmakers Intensify Effort to Ban Critical Race Theory in Schools.” The Pew Charitable Trusts, 14 June 2021, https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2021/06/14/gop-lawmakers-intensify-effort-to-ban-critical-race-theory-in-schools.
Losavio, Joseph. “What Racism Costs Us All.” International Monetary Fund, Fall 2020, https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2020/09/the-economic-cost-of-racism-losavio.htm.
Mock, Brentin. “What It Will Take to Close the Race Gap in Home Appraisals.” Bloomberg.com, 3 Mar. 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-03/appraisers-acknowledge-bias-in-home-valuations.
Morano-Williams, Emilia. “Black Lives Matter Activism: The Generational Divide.” Stylus, 5 June 2020, https://www.stylus.com/black-lives-matter-activism-generational-divide.
Perry, Andre M., Jonathan Rothwell, and David Harshbarger. “The Devaluation of Assets in Black Neighborhoods.” Brookings Institute , 17 Feb. 2021, https://www.brookings.edu/research/devaluation-of-assets-in-black-neighborhoods/.
Ray, Rashawn, and Alexandra Gibbons. “Why Are States Banning Critical Race Theory?“ Brookings Institute, 9 Mar. 2022, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2021/07/02/why-are-states-banning-critical-race-theory/.
Torino, Gina C., et al. Microaggression Theory: Influence and Implications. Hobokon, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2018.
U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts: United States. Census.gov, US Census Bureau, 2019, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045221.
Williams, Dima. “A Look at Housing Inequality and Racism in the U.S.” Forbes, 11 Jan. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/dimawilliams/2020/06/03/in-light-of-george-floyd-protests-a-look-at-housing-inequality/.
Zonta, Michela. “Racial Disparities in Home Appreciation.” Center for American Progress, 20 Dec. 2016, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/racial-disparities-home-appreciation/.
About the Author
Jaclyn Wickersham is a first-year student at Fordham University from Andover, Massachusetts. She’s currently studying Political Science at Fordham College at Rose Hill. Her interest in economic injustices and their intersection with race and gender inspired her to write this essay. Outside of academics, Jaclyn enjoys collecting records and spending time with family, friends, and her dog, Sunny.