History of Racial Covenants and Redlining

Examples of the three stories of black men lives distinctly portray the situation in Los Angeles in the two decades between 1900’s and 1920’s. Although none of the families described in the book were the same, their fates as fates of blacks among whites were similar. The principal difference that they were looking for in the West America was to be treated as equals among the Caucasian society. The miraculous change however did not happen and African Americans were facing bitter truth of being unwanted. The hostile behavior of the whites was not only an unpleasant element in the lives of newcomers to California, there were real and serious obstacles created by the white community for the migrants. The foremost issue in the adaptation on the new land for blacks was inability to find a decent, well paying job. Definitely conditions were much better than in the South, but it was all about unequal treatment of the equal opportunity workers. They dug ditches, cleaned toilets, laid brick, washed dishes, those were the kids of jobs a black man could obtain in the 1910’s.

Laws and federal statutes were not designed with regard on opportunities of the black population, thus eliminating them from the employment market that could give a decent job. This situation meant that employers were free to choose only whites for better jobs without having to explain why they were doing this, as there was no legal power to stop them. Neglecting all obstacles black women and men were striving for equality in the society or at least the possibility to do what they wanted. As many as twenty women by 1920’s were in nursing, teaching and musical professions. It was a huge achievement taking into consideration that in the beginning of the century there was none. Men also were beginning to obtain professions of the white men, and by 1920 there were 200 of them who were teachers and lawyers and dentists. It was a good tendency although most of them were squeezed out of the profession by the white labor unions. This dreadful discrimination was trying to break the natural cycle of things, although continuous growth of the city and ambitions of the African Americans served as a reverse force. Trials and tribulations of the blacks in the West were of severe character but as was already mentioned it was impossible for the whites to stop integration of the new culture into the old one.

Another essential part of live of any human is a place to live. This question was largely disturbing the white population of the city in terms of their immense desire to keep them out of their neighborhoods.

Officially until 1910 black families were free to settle and buy property where they wanted. From the turn of the century though, accidents of violent intrusions and threats from white neighbors started escalating in numbers and it became merely impossible to become a part of that society in such a way. The fact has to be noted that blacks were residing in completely different parts of the city, not in proximity with each other as if they did not want to belong to their own culture. They had no desire to be associated with other black neighbors as they were looking to be surrounded by whites and thus to be accepted by them.

The emergence of Restrictive Covenants was a legal start for the oppression of the blacks moving into white areas. It allowed whites to sell property only to whites or other ethnicities excluding black minorities. “For legal reasons covenants expired after a certain period of time, but for twenty, thirty of forty years they kept their white-owned property locked up”. The frightening thing in this whole matter was that keeping out blacks who were free to live where they wished was made legal. Clearly it not only was creating a dysfunctional community but it was giving birth to an ultimate misconception of the nature of black people that was also supported by the government.

The situation on the real estate market with the segregation of the blacks from the white communities caused a unique condition. It was a so called “racial payback time” when white people wanted to sell out, they hired black realtors as they would find a black buyer who would want to pay a better price for a good neighborhood. More and more of such deals were taking place which resulted in money generation for black speculators and realtors and, which in turn made them richer and more able as a part of the society. With such practices a new business class was emerging in the Los Angeles, and this process was impossible to stop. Women and men were taking advantage of the opportunity and were selling their services mostly to the black community, at the same time creating a financial foundation for their future. It was one of the legal ways to get a bit ahead in a socio-cultural sense and make decent money, for there were no decent jobs offered to blacks.

Social aspect of the problem rising from the establishment of the covenants and other restrictive measures was of an even bigger concern to the black population. Southern idea was prevailing in the society of that time and by using psychological pressure they achieved great results in letting black population down. Letting blacks inside most of institutions such as movie theaters, saloons and restaurants was unheard of. According to Titus Alexander a Race man there were only three saloons that would serve a black customer. Movies theaters were charging colored men more that whites, which was absolutely illegal but was supported by the government nevertheless. In most cases they were welcomed to file a suit against such establishment and as practice shows they usually won. The problem was though that they didn’t do it often taking into account the expenses and efforts that were not reimbursed in full in the end.

The Clansman, a motion picture by a white hater of black people was another reflection of the processes that were happening in the American society. Through the lenses of the camera the film makers wanted to show an evil nature of a black man, the theory that was never based on real facts but rather on commonly accepted lies from the South. This huge project was shown in the theaters throughout the country for a long time and caused a desirable effect. Unjust and misrepresented facts about black people developed a strong sense of disgust in the nation. Moreover it was supported by the California Supreme Court judge who claimed that there was no legal basis to stop showing this movie, although he personally would ban it. Regardless of what the judges said back in those times, they were flowing on the same wave of mistrust and hatred toward black communities and were doing what was expected of them to ruin their lives as much as they could.