Wed, Sep 2, 2009 3:45 PM EDT

The Applied Research Center's Seth Wessler has an editorial up on, detailing how our history of past and present institutional racism laid the rails for an economic disaster that hit communities of color the hardest:

That Blacks, Latinos, Asians and American Indians face higher rates of foreclosure is no coincidence. Until the 1970s, people of color were broadly excluded from owning homes as a result of practices of racial redlining and racially restrictive neighborhood agreements. Then Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to end discrimination in lending. Suddenly redlining and racial exclusion were made illegal and people of color slowly began to access prime loans. But in the late 1990s Congress deregulated the mortgage industry along with Wall Street, opening the space for industry to circumvent the CRA. These were the same anti-regulatory maneuvers that made the subprime securitization possible. As the CRA was weakened and incentives to sell subprime loans grew, neighborhoods of color provided fertile ground for the sale of these faulty products. Since neighborhoods like Leila’s were largely devoid of prime lenders as a result of the history of redlining, there was little competition and the credit vacuum created conditions for the predatory sale of high-cost loans to communities of color. The streets of central Brooklyn and Detroit filled with predatory lenders, millions of these mortgages were sold, and they ultimately burst, flooding the economy with toxic assets and submerging all of us in an economic storm. The economic crisis is built on the country’s long history of racial discrimination.

Looking at the comments (as I always do — I love a good trainwreck), there's that common thread of "I'm not a racist, but..." and "If people would have more personal responsibility..." and my favorite, "That's not racist, it's just an outcome that disproportionately and demonstrably hurts people of color"? How hard do you think it would be to get 'systemic racism' added to the Word-a-Day calendar? Check out the full article at, and check out ARC's Race & Recession report here.