The Scarlet E, Part II: 40 Acres
BOB GARFIELD This is On The Media, I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE And I'm Brooke Gladstone. This is episode two of our series called The Scarlet E, wherein we probe the origins and true nature of our eviction epidemic–millions each year, and take on some of its most durable myths. One popular idea is that eviction is a grim but inevitable byproduct of natural market forces. More along people nothing to see here. But the data tell a different tale. One of a plague that could have been contained had it not been purposefully designed to diminish the wealth and power of specific populations–black and brown ones. I think that's the idea that must be driving a House Judiciary Subcommittee this week to hold a hearing on the continuing impact of the transatlantic slave trade and the path to restorative justice, with testimony from the journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates who's made a powerful case for reparations. It's also why we've called this episode 40 acres.
MATTHEW DESMOND When we first created this map, this is not what I thought it would look like. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Our partner in the series is Matthew Desmond author of a Pulitzer Prize winning Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City and founder of the Eviction Lab at Princeton. Matt pulls up on his cell phone a U.S. map charting our eviction hotspots. The places hardest hit are not the ones most covered.
MATTHEW DESMOND This is kind of a shocker to me. These counties are shaded here in the darker shade means higher proportion of African-Americans in the county.
BROOKE GLADSTONE It's blue.
MATTHEW DESMOND Right. And so if you just follow the blue when you go through Alabama and Georgia and up to South Carolina, North Carolina, you see incredibly stunningly high eviction rates through Virginia. These are pretty low cost areas that have these exploding eviction rates. And then you go up the Mississippi and you can keep going into Detroit as if that eviction problem follows like the trail of the Great Migration. Black families searched for economic security and ran away from racial terrorism to go into North cities to be corralled into ghettos, where they didn't own the land again. And so it's an old story but it's kind of like our story. [END CLIP].
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE The great northern migration is a major way station on the road to today's eviction crisis–and the interrelated racial wealth gap. The net worth of the typical black household is just 15 percent of the typical white one and the gap is growing. But the path to the present moment begins even earlier when European colonists built the nation's wealth on stolen land, with stolen labor and then fought over the continuance of slavery to sustain it. In fact, you could argue that the Emancipation induced a kind of mass eviction for African-Americans and it was into a most peculiar kind of freedom.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. In 1863 the Negro was freed from the bondage in physical slavery. But at the same time the nation refused to give him land, to make that freedom meaningful. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE As Martin Luther King often noted, the nation was keen to provide millions of acres out West to whites from Europe as a foundation on which to build their lives, but to the former slave it offered not a patch, not a stick.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. Frederick Douglass could say that emancipation for the Negro was freedom to hunger. Freedom through the winds and rains of heaven. Freedom without a roofs to cover their head. Freedom without bread to eat. Freedom without land to cultivate. It was freedom and famine at the same time. [END CLIP]
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Beginnings can determine endings. The rate of white homeownership is almost 73 percent. But black homeownership languishes at about 43 percent. And that can be a deep disadvantage because if you don't own property, you can't transfer it to your kids. Only 13 percent of kids from college educated black families get an inheritance of more than ten thousand dollars as opposed to 41 percent of their white counterparts. Actually, white families average a lot more than that but ten thousand was deemed a transformative sum, one that could change the course of a life. So those who aren't bequeathed property deserve at least the chance to buy it wherever it is sold. For African-Americans it took another century plus five years for that right. Even then the exclusionary policies of many banks and brokers and our laws ensured that only a few African-Americans would get a toehold in the housing market before prices zoomed into the stratosphere.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Which is why many argue that the wealth gap now is too large to seriously address without moving decisively to correct an old injustice.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE In 1865, as the civil war wound down, President Lincoln ordered General William P. Sherman to come to terms with America's newly emancipated citizens. So he and the Secretary of War Edwin Stanton gathered a group of black ministers to ask what they wanted. Garrison Frazier. A Baptist minister who purchased his own freedom some years before, spoke for them all. Land, he said. To have it. Turn it. Till it. Would sustain them and even leave them something to spare. Sherman then issued an order allotting the newly emancipated a 30 mile tract held by former slave holders from South Carolina to Florida divided into 40 acre plots. And then he promised the Army's help in supplying mules. Tens of thousands of free people settled in. Then, we're driven out. Because President Andrew Johnson overturned the order.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Thus was that promise parcel in the American South recompense for centuries of barbarism clawed back. Even as slaveholders were compensated for the loss of their slaves. It took the agonies following reconstruction, the trampling of basic freedoms, the unbridled exploitation, the gleefully executed lynchings to spur the historic exodus of the incompletely emancipated north.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER].
ISABEL WILKERSON Six million African-Americans departed the caste system of the Jim Crow south from the time of World War I until the 1970s. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Isabel Wilkerson is the author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration.
ISABEL WILKERSON The only group of Americans who's had to actually leave the land of their birth for another part of their own country just to be recognized as a citizens to which they have been born.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
ISABEL WILKERSON And it changed every single city in the north and Midwestern. And as it changed our culture, it changed the music that we listened to, it changed literature, it changed politics. [END CLIP]
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE When the great migration began, 90 percent of African-Americans lived in the south. When it was over, more than half were living elsewhere.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE In 1916, the Chicago Defender, an African-American newspaper, beckoned their quote, 'southern brothers to come north.' Quote, 'better a thousand times to run chances of being nipped by the fingers of Jack Frost that to shake off this mortal coil at the end of a lyncher's rope.' The white perspective was displayed in a 1918 headline in The Chicago Tribune. Quote, 'Fearing Negro invasion crowd attacks House.' That chilly reception warmed only slightly by the need for cheap labor in the slaughterhouses and elsewhere underwent a hard freeze when the depression blasted in.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE After the crash, black unemployment doubled or tripled that of whites–as the latter moved in to take the grueling jobs they'd previously shunned. In 1936, African-Americans finally deserted the party of Lincoln and voted for FDR. But though the New Deal appointed many African-American advisers, its programs were managed on the local level where racism thrived. FDR couldn't afford to lose Southern Democrats so his administration overlooked the Jim Crow laws and the monstrousness of lynching. But it was worse than that. Southern congressmen demanded that agricultural and domestic workers, guess who held most of those jobs, be barred from the shiny new programs like Social Security and the minimum wage. Black veterans were denied the educational benefits and low cost loans whites enjoyed under the G.I. Bill. In these and many ways, blacks were denied the helping hand extended freely to whites in pursuit of the American dream.
MALE CORRESPONDENT Homeownership is the basis of a happy contented family life. And now, through the use of a National Housing Act, insured mortgage is brought within the reach of all citizens on a monthly payment plan no greater than rent.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT I see one-third of the nation ill-housed, ill-clad and ill-nourished.
MARTY WEGBREIT What did they need? Houses. Who had the money to loan to developers? Banks. Who would insure the banks? The Federal Housing Administration. And the Federal Housing Administration had one tiny little condition–don't sell to black people. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Marty Wegbreit is the director of litigation for the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society.
MARTY WEGBREIT It wasn't just the south. It wasn't just the Northeast. It was Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami–every place across the entire country. That's how the country got segregated. Moreover, what the government was doing as a policy was perfectly legal. And if you were denied rental, if you were denied home purchase until 1968 there was nothing you could do. Now 51 years ago that got changed but by then the pattern had set in. Homeownership for white people, rental for black people. And we're still living with that legacy today. [END CLIP]
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE With us, generation after generation were corralled into areas outlined on maps in red–legally designated as risky. These areas, disinvest it in and underserved, were snapped up by speculators and then rented at above market rate to citizens fleeing the horrors of Jim Crow. It didn't really matter how much you earned, if you could have qualified for an FHA loan, if you were black, you wouldn't. With your options limited, your home most likely would be located within the red lines. A fitting color for a place engineered to bleed you dry. So there's no denying that when the nation was born its wealth was derived in large part from theft. That's the easy part. Now is the hard part. And where the denial of fair access to land, to housing, continues north, south, east and west. For half a million people on the Great Migration, Chicago was the last stop. So next we go to Chicago.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE This is On The Media.
BROOKE GLADSTONE This is On The Media, I'm Brooke Gladstone. And in this part of the hour I'm in the second city, the windy one. The one that works with big shoulders, Chi town, Chiraq. Chicago.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER] [CLIP]
MALE CORRESPONDENT Chicagoans claim their skyline as one of the most beautiful in the world, Etched against the impressive clearness of Lake Michigan. Perhaps this is the scene that most catches the visitor's eye when it comes to the city for the first time. A picture of wealth and serenity.
NATALIE MOORE Right. I call it Jim Crow in the north. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Chicago is the nation's 13th most segregated metro area. As the sun sets, we drive through the nation's number one evictions zip code, the South Shore, with Natalie Moore. She's a reporter for WBEZ radio and author of The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation. With Natalie at the wheel, we see a place of infinite variety. True, some of it doesn't look too good.
NATALIE MOORE If you look here, this used to be a grocery store. Dominic's was a chain that went out of business and it was hard to get a new tenant for that space. There was a police shooting. The police killed somebody. Here on 75 and there was a protest. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE But some of the South Shore looks grand. Many of the houses we pass are gorgeous, a mix of styles dating back a century to the present in a harmonious flow. But here, fancier houses do not mean fancy or retail. Again, it doesn't matter how much you earn if people don't want to serve you.
NATALIE MOORE That's the thing about black neighborhoods in Chicago. This is a racial issue because you can have six figure households that still are asking for some of the same amenities like a grocery store. [END CLIP].
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Out of the car, Natalie observes that the fanciest streets have the fewest outlets, the least access–gated without the actual gates. She says this and other parts of the South Shore close to the lake and public transportation should be worth more. But this is a black area so retailers, realtors, banks and brokers have decided its value is less than what a similarly situated white one would be. And segregated its residents in the sense that matters most, not necessarily from white people but from the privilege that empowers them to demand what they deserve.
NATALIE MOORE Segregation isn't about, oh I need a white neighbor, as a black person, to be better. Segregation is about resources and access. Removing barriers to access, people can live where they want to live, but this idea of choice can be complicated because, yeah you chose to live here but what helped you? Did you get a downpayment from your family? How did the bank view you? There are a lot of elements that go into someone's choice.
BROOKE GLADSTONE Tell me about your grandparents.
NATALIE MOORE So my mother's parents are from Georgia. They were part of the second wave of the Great Migration. They came after World War II. And they moved to West Woodlawn neighborhood. That's the neighborhood that Lorraine Hansberry's father tried to buy a house and the white people got mad. Lorraine Hansberry's mother had to patrol the house at night with a gun.
BROOKE GLADSTONE And in the end they threw a little Molotov cocktails and--.
NATALIE MOORE Yeah.
BROOKE GLADSTONE --set fire to the place.
NATALIE MOORE Yes. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE As a young man, Carl Hansberry, Lorraine's father moved up to Chicago from Mississippi. He became a real estate broker and an activist, and in 1937 bought a house in White's only West Woodlawn. Mobs attacked his home and his neighbors took him to court. Later, that ordeal inspired his daughter's classic play "A Raisin In The Sun.".
[CLIP OF A RAISIN IN THE SUN]
LINDNER Do you really feel -- ?
WALTER No, no. Don't worry about how I feel. Get out of my house.
LINDNER All right. What do you people think you have to gain by moving into a neighborhood where you're not wanted? You know, people get off or worked up and they feel their whole way of life, everything they've worked for, is threatened.
WALTER Get out. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Hansberry actually won his case on a technicality. Later of course, his angry neighbors could not have sued.
MALE CORRESPONDENT The Civil Rights Act of 1968, included in the measure was a landmark Open Housing Bill, which when fully effective, would rid discrimination in approximately 80 percent of all housing offered for rent or for sale in the United States.
MALE CORRESPONDENT It proclaims that fair housing for all, all human beings, who live in this country is now a part of the American way of life. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE The Fair Housing Act, also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1968, passed only after the riots caused by the murder of Martin Luther King. I'm running through history here to show that these aren't settled matters. Today, black and brown people are still denied equal protection under the law. They're still denied access to services, even to the interest rates extended to whites. They're still excluded and still preyed upon with near impunity. But for now, let's stay in the 60s.
MALE CORRESPONDENT There are blocks like this scattered throughout the Lawndale section of Chicago's West Side ghetto. The people who live here block their homes from real estate speculators at double or triple their value and they bought on contract because they couldn't get conventional or FHA mortgages. Under the contract, the buyer makes installment payments at high interest, but he builts no equity. If he defaults on even one payment at any time during the contract, he loses the property and everything he's paid into it. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE These contracts, common enough in some cities from the 1930s through the 60s, weren't mortgages.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE They were layaway plans carefully crafted to fail. The buyers paid taxes on dwellings they didn't own. And they paid inflated prices to repair damage previously concealed from them. They paid and paid. When squeezed dry, the tenants were evicted and the contract sold to another black family seeking a toehold in the American dream. The reason for the decline of so many black urban neighborhoods into slums historian Beryl Satter observed in her book Family Properties, wasn't because they lacked resources but because they held riches that could be drawn from the hard pressed but hardworking and ambitious African-Americans who lived there. The problem, she wrote, was that the pickings were too easy and the scale of the profits too tempting. For many of the city's prominent citizens, attorneys, bankers, realtors and politicians alike, to pass up.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Back in 1961, Clyde Ross, a Mississippi refugee, signed a $27,000 contract on a Lawndale home that speculators had purchased weeks earlier for twelve thousand dollars. To make the payments, he worked three jobs from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. He hardly knew his kids anymore, and still he lost ground. Just as his parents down south had been robbed of the land they'd owned for generations, Ross saw that the hamster wheel he and his neighbors had set themselves on for a better future but only delivered destitution and defeat.
CLYDE ROSS These people who have cheated us out of more than money. We have been cheated out of the right to be human beings in this society. We have been cheated out of buying homes at a decent price. [END CLIP,]
BROOKE GLADSTONE In 1968, Ross became co-chairman of the Contract Buyers League.
MALE CORRESPONDENT The people of Lawndale organized the Contract Buyers League, and during the past year the league began urging large numbers of buyers to withhold payments on their contract.
MALE CORRESPONDENT They have look at the other side too. These people have something to buy. They bought it. I mean the investors. And now they have something to sell and they sold it. You're going to say because they made what is termed here excess crap--
MALE CORRESPONDENT Amoral.
MALE CORRESPONDENT Immoral. I don't know if it is. And I talk to the student here was saying, 'they make profits.' And I said, 'what is a fantastic profits?'
MALE CORRESPONDENT It seems pretty clear that the house is sold for $25 thousand, which is valued by the FHA at $15 thousand, that this excess profit. Right.
MALE CORRESPONDENT Possible. Yes. I won't say definitely, but possibly. It would appear that way, but it's not necessarily so. But there are many businesses that do make 50 or 100 percent profits.
MALE CORRESPONDENT No.
MALE CORRESPONDENT Not many, not many but there are some. And the greater the risk they're entitled to. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Hank Roberts, a substantial man in his 60’s was 15 when his family was evicted.
HANK ROBERTS Mound Bayou, Mississippi. That's where my history really starts. My grandfather, he came here really just seeking opportunities to be an entrepreneur. He actually had his arm severed in the cotton gin. He came here and he started his own grocery store and had one of the largest grocery stores on the West Side of Chicago. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Hank takes me to the scene of his worst memory. His parents had bought a newly constructed home on contract in 1968. The street is quiet and clean.
HANK ROBERTS You could imagine I was just like seventh heaven. We're moving into a five bedroom, two full kitchen houses. All my family was going to be there.
BROOKE GLADSTONE What was it like back then? How many white people were here?
HANK ROBERTS Well, if you look across the street and you see that they're kind of older homes. And white families were starting to move out but there were still some white families there. But all of this land pretty much on this side of the street was vacant. There was a builder called Universal Builders who was just redeveloping all of these lots. That area was really not welcoming and then and an exclusively white area. As a matter of fact, when we first moved I wanted to get on my bike and ride around and see what the area was like and that was a mistake. Because I rode south and some guys quickly jumped me and let me know that I wasn't really welcome around here. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE The Roberts family settled in, unaware that despite making their monthly payments they'd never hold title on the house. And that the contract was a scam. Once they understood, they joined the Chicago Contract Buyers League.
MALE CORRESPONDENT You haven't been sending your payments sir.
MALE CORRESPONDENT Because I feel that the contracts that we have are illegal.
MALE CORRESPONDENT I see there are so many people around. Would you tell me a little bit about it. Why are they here sir?
MALE CORRESPONDENT We're together. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Four hundred contracts were renegotiated between the tenants and the owners, but not all of them. Not Hank's families. It happened on a March morning in 1970.
HANK ROBERTS It had to have been a weekend day. And we were all at home and we were having breakfast. And, um, it was all over the radio.
MALE CORRESPONDENT Four more members of the Contract Buyers League were evicted this afternoon on the South Side in the 800 block on South St. At the same task force commander William Mooney says some arrests have been made in connection with the evictions. This is John Adams--.
HANK ROBERTS Quiet, sunny kind of a day. And I can recall sitting at the kitchen table and hearing like a baton or something banging on the door like boom, boom, boom, boom. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Police were conducting mass evictions block after block. From his front door he could see his older sister's house, her stuff being dumped.
HANK ROBERTS When you're evicted. They don't just carry your stuff out. So I mean we had dishes on the table all of that was just thrown out in the street and broken and, um...Anyhow, anyhow, anyhow, so getting getting to what you asked me on that, and I'm just going to get through the day. So I ended up everything thrown out in the street. Contrary to what would have expected, people start coming around trying to steal some of the things that were thrown out into the street. So it was just total chaos. Later on that evening. There was like a torrential rain storm and it just destroyed everything. So in essence, my family were starting off from scratch. It was especially devastating for me because I was an all city athlete playing football at the time and living so far away, I was now out of the district. So. I kind of snuck my way to stay here. But that was a two train and one bus ride to get here. [END CLIP].
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE A 15 minute walk to school turned into a 90 minute commute for more than two years. After high school, Hank earned an MBA from DePaul University and began his professional life managing real estate. Sometimes he had to evict people.
HANK ROBERTS If a person did not follow the guidelines or the rules, you know, you have to enforce the rules. So that was never a struggle for me. If I needed to evict someone, I could evict someone. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE He started his own construction company but then came the 2007 recession and a family event, a private matter, that sparked a kind of spiritual awakening.
HANK ROBERTS I had to make some decisions I'm getting older and what was most important, making a lot of money or trying to yield to your call, which probably included not making a lot of money and I yielded. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Hank has since spent his life advocating for low cost housing as a developer and founder of a community housing nonprofit. He owns a small 9 unit building that has been filled with formerly homeless veterans and some families too. But since he earned almost nothing from the nonprofit, his family had long relied on his wife's salary as a bookkeeper. Once she retired they depended more and more on the income he earned from a market rate rental that he designed himself. And Catherine was a great renter until she wasn't.
CATHERINE When I realized that I was not going to be able to pay the rent, it was hard for me. Because I was able to pay the rent, always. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE For more than 20 years, Catherine had held a steady job at United Health Care. Hank offered her a good deal about twelve hundred dollars for a big rental that even had a deep soaking tub. He lavished a lot of attention on the place and she cared for it and paid on time for nine years. Then she fell, had a concussion, seizures, heart problems, surgeries, migraines. As her disabilities mounted, Hank dropped the rent to 1025 and 950. But finally Catherine could no longer work. She got some medical insurance but no long term disability benefits, no state disability insurance. She told Hank she didn't know when she could pay.
CATHERINE Social security is a process of three years. Long term disability was a process months.
BROOKE GLADSTONE What was his reaction?
CATHERINE We'll work this out. It'll be OK. Don't worry about it. We'll get through this. I've never met anybody like that. Never met anybody like that. Not even in my family. Never met anybody like that. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Hank carried Catherine's rent for five months until he himself was threatened with foreclosures both on the rental and his own home. Up against it he filed to evict.
BROOKE GLADSTONE How much do you do you have to pay a month on your claim?
HANK ROBERTS On my mortgage? $1,100. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Finally Catholic Charities agreed to cover two months of Catherine's back rent. Her son, who she saw didn't want to ask, moved back in to help. Despite the risk of seizures like those that cost her her old job, catherine started driving an Uber on and off, slowly paying back what she owed. Enabling Hank to stave off foreclosure.
BROOKE GLADSTONE So why do you think that you get so upset? You get agitated whenever you remember the stuff thrown on the street.
HANK ROBERTS There was just no sympathy from anyone to our plight. From the guys that threw the things in the street to the people they were coming by trying to take stuff to, I just have to say this, the way that I saw it then, I mean I sit there, 'God, did you have to do it that way.' It was a torrential rain storm. It's like everyone just pounded on us and all that we were sitting there doing is saying, 'this is wrong.' [END CLIP]
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE The storm was horrible luck. The thieves, that was brutal. But the legal exploitation, the police that enforced it, the national priorities that reduce panic and desperation to just a cost of doing business. The laws are written for people like Hank and Catherine. They are written for people who can afford to wait out bureaucratic delays or can rely on others to help them out. People like me. And statistically speaking, probably you. Martin Luther King.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. Many of the people who supported us in Selma and Birmingham were really outraged about the extremist behavior toward Negroes. But they were not, at that moment and they are not, now committed to genuine equality for Negroes. It's much easier to integrate a lunch counter than it is to guarantee an annual income, for instance, to get rid of poverty for Negroes and all poor people. It's much easier to integrate a bus than it is to make genuine integration a reality and quality education a reality in our schools. It's much easier to integrate even a public park than it is to get rid of slums. And I think we are in a new era, a new phase of the struggle where we have moved from a struggle for decency, which characterized our struggle for 10 or 12 to a struggle for genuine equality. And this is where we are getting the resistance because that was never any intention to go this far. [END CLIP].
BROOKE GLADSTONE After the passage of the Fair Housing Act, African-Americans now could, on paper, buy homes whenever they chose. But having missed the chance to stake a claim in the bargain rich housing market of the postwar years, they faced dizzying prices. And then in the early 2000s, came contract buying 2.0. Behemoths like Wells Fargo and Countrywide Financial, Later bought by Bank of America, specifically targeted communities of color with shady subprime mortgages and deceptive predatory loans. The financial meltdown ignited by the scams, predicted to widen the wealth gap between black and white for at least another generation. Meanwhile, the investigative podcast Reveal reported last year that redlining still flourishes, still pushes people of color toward higher interest mortgage loans than those offered to whites–even when they earn the same. Meanwhile, contract selling has made a comeback in Detroit, Akron, Battle Creek and Chicago. But this time the company is doing the selling are Wall Street veterans handling thousands of properties. Two years ago, the Chicago Reader fingered three out-of-state companies doing business there charging soaring interest rates and prices that far exceed, in some cases, the home's estimated value. And meanwhile, the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau seeks rule changes that would allow lending institutions to withhold the kind of data that Reveal used in its investigations, and says that the Bureau's priorities now would shift to modernizing debt collection and educating consumers rather than pursuing wrongdoers. Right. Who needs consumer protection anymore?
JAMES BALDWIN The truth is that no one pays his dues willingly. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE James Baldwin.
JAMES BALDWIN The bill has come in, it's not that coming in. It is in. And the very question now is precisely what we've got in the bag. This of course is everything we think we have. Everything. What is really crucial is whether or not the country, the people in the country, the citizenry, are able to recognize that there is no moral distance, no moral distance, which is to say no distance between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham. [END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE As fewer and fewer people control more of America's wealth, increasingly we are a nation of renters more than at any point in the last 50 years. And though eviction is not solely a black plague neither is it a byproduct of natural market forces. Because market forces were never natural. Successive local state and federal governments built the current crisis decade by decade, brick by brick, by enclosing the disfavored, the black and brown, by extracting their wealth, by intimidation, by unequal justice. Eviction is an object lesson in how inequality will always spread beyond the walls to containment. Ultimately it engulfs everyone.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE Next week we probe the relationship between tenants and landlords and the actual mechanics of eviction.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE The Scarlet E is produced by Eve Claxton, Jon Hanrahan and Katherine Simon and edited by OTM executive producer Katya Rogers. Our technical director is Jennifer Munson and our engineer is Sam Bair. Our original score was composed by Mark Henry Phillips. We had more help from Emily Mann, Greta Rainbow and the Eviction Lab team. And thanks to WNYC Archivist Andy Lanset.
BOB GARFIELD On The Media is produced by Alana Casanova-Burgess Micah Loewinger, Leah Feder, Asthaa Chaturvedi and Xandra Ellin. We had more help from Chloe Nosan. One more thing, we have developed a handy tool with the Eviction Lab team to help you explore what eviction looks like in your state. Go to onthemedia.org/eviction to get started. I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE And I'm Brooke Gladstone.
UNDERWRITING Support for The Scarlet E is provided by the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Melville Charitable Trust. Additional support is provided by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and Chasing The Dream with WNET initiative reporting on poverty and opportunity in America. Support from On The Media is provided by the Ford Foundation and the listeners of WNYC Radio.