Discrimination in the Housing Market

      

Below is a modern-day conversation between WEB Dubois and Martin Delany on the topic of discrimination in the housing market.

Martin Delany:

Housing equality is something that should be demanded! The right to attain equal housing should not be exclusive to the upper classes, especially the upper class whites. Us hard working, working class black folks deserve the chance to rise above the forsaken housing projects we are perpetually stuck in. We live with a lower quality of life than the rest of the United States. One may ask why this is the case, and the reason is that us lower class African Americans are discriminated against by property owners everywhere. Simply put, because we are working class, we are seen as bad people. There need to be laws put into place, people need to become aware that this is happening. Good people in our free country do not have an opportunity to live where they please, and this is downright outrageous.

WEB Dubois:

Yes, there is clear discrimination in the housing market against African Americans. Yes, this is a huge problem that needs to be fixed, but maybe protesting and demanding reform is the wrong answer. Working class African Americans are usually confined into all black communities, in ‘bad parts of town’, and the places where these working class citizens reside are usually very run down. My idea is that we end the discrimination by example, not with protest. If we could create nicer communities, my view is that the discrimination would simply end. Over time, the discrimination would go away because we would all essentially have the same living situations. As I wrote, “million black youth, some were fitted to know and some to dig; that some had the talent and capacity of university men, and some the talent and capacity of blacksmiths” (713). For some reason it is not known that we have the talent and capacity to live in equal housing, so let us as a people show that we truly have this talent, and have truly earned this talent!

Martin Delany:

Mr. WEB Du Bois, you say that we have to show the white people who are currently discriminating against us that we have the talent to live among them?! Surely you cannot be serious. A war has been fought because people realized that we were equal to white people. There is no reason why us being discriminated in the housing market is something that we have to earn. We have earned it simply by being human beings. Mr. Dubois, you once wrote, “The double life every Negro American must live, as a Negro and as an American, as swept on by the current of the nineteenth while yet struggling in the eddies of the fifteenth century” (731). IS this situation any different than that of slavery? We are being un-rightly discriminated against because of our race. Yes we are free, but we are not free to live in the same quality of housing that white people are. You did not think that African Americans had to earn our way out of slavery, so why do we have to earn our way out of the discriminatory housing market?

WEB Du Bois:

Mr. Martin Delany, I do not believe that your aggressive strategy will be able to change the discrimination that is currently in place in the housing market. I am not arguing that African American working class people do not deserve equal housing; I obviously believe that we do. However, an aggressive strategy full of protest and hatred will not be the one that leads to equal housing rights. Hatred for our discriminators will only make things worse for us all. Our hard work in attaining better quality housing will be enough. Who is to say that the law, which you hope to be passed through protesting, will immediately work? Laws also have a history of loopholes and then your process of protests will have to begin anew. The simplest solution, and most effective one at that, will to be to work towards attaining a better community by ourselves.

Martin Delany:

WEB, I do believe in hard work, and that is just what protesting is. Our protests, and our battle is comprised of hard work. I personally wrote, “How to affect a remedy; this we have endeavored to point out. Our elevation must be the result of our own self-efforts, and work of our own hands. No other human can accomplish it” (211). With our own hands, we will picket government buildings. With our own voices we will shout! Our efforts, our hard work will be what attains equality in the housing market. Hard work does not only apply to your cause, hard work also applies to us, as a people, being forceful for what we deserve. It offends me that you see a forceful manner in a negative light. If anything, you should see it as being positive, we are showing strength, power and perseverance. WEB, you need to have pride in your people, do not succumb to white oppression.

WEB Dubois:

Martin, have you not been watching the news?! Protesting, no matter how righteous the cause, is always seen in a negative light. Just a week ago, the news portrayed the happenings in Baltimore as a riot. A RIOT! You would have to be insane to think that the news would not spin your protest as something negative. We have to learn how to break the system of housing inequality, and acts of forcefulness and violence would only perpetuate this problem. We would be seen as criminals if we followed your plan. We would be seen as violent people, and our cause would be lost. The whole issue of housing equality would be masked in the violence and attention that your so-called ‘protest’ would bring along with it. Your idea would bring negative attention, and this negative attention would eventually overpower the real reason you are protesting. This protesting idea has been tried before, and has failed.

Martin Delany:

Mr. Dubois, you are completely and utterly missing my point. I am not calling for violence, that is flat out absurd. A protest, picketing a government building, having a sit in, are not acts of violence! This would not get out of hand; we would not resort to violence. The goal of my protests would be to act peacefully and informatively. As I wrote, “We have but a single object in view, and that is, to inform the minds of colored people at large, upon many things, pertaining to their elevation, that but few among us are acquainted with” (213). We would inform everybody, of every race, the oppression that we face in the housing market. Now, there is no possible way that you can argue against this idea. If there is some option better than peacefully enlightening people about our problems, I would love to hear it.

WEB Dubois:

Martin, I agree with your ideas on being peaceful, and your ideas about informing people. However, history repeats itself, and recently, protests have only been shown in negative light. It is not the idea that is faulty; it is going to be how the idea plays out. Now, I believe that if you listen to me, I have a better plan. We can flat out skip informing the public, and begging for legal help, because we can fix this situation through improving our communities. All that we have to do is improve our communities. If we can make African-American communities more desirable to live in, the problem will be gone, because the discrimination would eventually be integrated away. This would be peaceful; it would bring our communities closer, and would improve our living conditions! There is no downside to putting in hard work as a community, and ending this problem once and for all.

Martin Delany:

To be honest WEB, I feel that my idea is more effective, but I do like the sound of yours. I have been watching the News, and I do not want our cause to have a negative light shined upon it, even though it is a righteous cause. The question I have for you is, how will your idea work? I understand that it will build and reinforce community bonding, but how does it end the housing discrimination? This seems like a good project to improve our communities; it just doesn’t seem like the way to end a systematic problem. My ideas may be a tad brash, but your idea seems way to passive. Your passiveness may not be as effective as you believe it to be. This is not a problem that will magically disappear. Just how do you plan on this plan working out?

WEB Dubois:

Thank you for allowing me to explain myself, Martin. My point is, if we can work together as a community, in the areas where people don’t want live, in the communities we are forced to live in, we can improve them. The safer, cleaner, and more comfortable we can make our living conditions, the more people will want to live there. The more people want to live in these communities, the less discrimination there will be, because our communities will match those of other races, and people will begin to integrate into different communities, because they will all be similar. As I wrote, “The history of the American Negro is the history of strife, this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge himself into a better and truer self” (689). IF we merge ourselves into better selves, society will merge with us. Lets improve ourselves as people, and allow society to improve with us. Hope is not lost, the United States can, and will, improve.

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