HomeLettersRedlining Is Not What Caused Harm to Blacks in La Cañada

Redlining Is Not What Caused Harm to Blacks in La Cañada

First, I want to thank City Councilmember Kim Bowman for raising important issues about our town during last week’s City Council meeting (i.e., re: our current policing policies and practices, and our history as a sundown town). However, second, I would like to clarify a statement made by Kim and a common misconception:
Redlining is not what has harmed Blacks in La Cañada. While redlining benefited La Cañada, it is not what kept Blacks out and harmed those who came to La Cañada. RACE RESTRICTIONS (racial housing covenants) kept Blacks out of La Cañada and harmed those who came here. SUNDOWN POLICIES (realtors, city council/chamber of commerce, school district, policing) kept Blacks out of La Cañada and harmed those who came here.
None of this is particularly easy to understand. We are all doing our best to unmask the history of our town and the residual effects thereof (excluding, it seems, the majority of our elected leaders). But using the term “redlining,” as a catchall, implies that the impediment to Blacks moving to or residing in La Cañada was that of income. (Query — Do we think the noted Black architect Paul Revere Williams didn’t move to La Cañada because he couldn’t afford to?)
The principal harm of redlining is that it destroyed Black communities and Black equity. Because these areas were literally marked “red” on government maps, residents could not get loans (to, for instance, upgrade their homes or open businesses), and developers would not build or open businesses. The “red” signified that the communities were “high risk” and undesirable. It destroyed development in Black communities, and often led to government condemnation of businesses and homes via imminent domain (the taking of real property) and other “lawful” means. These communities were divided by the highways that crisscross our state and country, or supplanted by public parks and other public spaces. Redlining displaced Black families, destroyed Black communities, and stole Black equity and generational wealth. Meanwhile, the “green” lined, whites only, city of La Cañada flourished.

Kim Hershman
La Cañada Flintridge

First published in the September 28 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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