Though most political conversation on social media is saturated with wholly unproductive anti-Trump rhetoric, Uncle Ben is out here on a sunken place parade and we need to pay closer attention.
Some people may not realize the full significance of Ben Carson’s appointment to the position of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary. Including Carson, there have been 17 HUD secretaries since its creation. Alphonso Jackson (no relation) was one of the few Black HUD secretaries. Funny enough, Jackson was appointed by George W. Bush and confirmed back in 2004. His tenure got it lightweight popping for Black folks. The number of Department of Housing and Urban Development’s contracts awarded to Black owned firms almost doubled. Jackson had the regular amount of scandals for a U.S. politician. Unlike our president, he didn’t rape a child, so overall Jackson did a decent job.
Fast forward to Ben “We Sick Boss” Carson.
Carson is not only a novice in politics, he is also acutely unaware of what his job even entails. Aside from In the last year alone, he revealed his unprecedented historical ignorance by comparing slavery to Obamacare, abortion, and a voluntary cruise. And this man is in charge of millions of lives.
A number of landlords in so-called developing neighborhoods are getting away with housing discrimination by refusing section 8 tenants. With the appointment of Ben Carson to HUD under Trump, the future of Obama’s recommendations is largely uncertain. By no means was Obama a revolutionary when it came to affordable housing, but he at least understood the impact of segregation on marginalized communities. Although the previous administration proposed a $1.2 billion increase for the section 8 voucher program, Carson has harshly criticized the idea of public housing in a way that threatens existing programs. This impacts 5 million families. Even if Carson implements Obama’s suggestions, though, individual homeowners who rent out units are under no obligation to accept section 8 vouchers. There is not sufficient oversight during the process to ensure that low income families are given equal access to homes in more affluent communities.
Although the fair housing act prohibits this behavior, there are seemingly innocent ways for landlords to get around the law. Neither the 1968 Fair Housing Act (FHA) or Title VIII Civil Rights Act have been successful in desegregating the country to this point. Section 8 (also known as the Housing Choice Voucher System) was created in the 70s to address racial disparity. It has been effective in helping generations escape poverty despite its failure to substantially affect white supremacy on a national scale.
Why is it important for us to pay attention to Section 8 and other HUD policies? Housing and access to wealth are inextricably linked. Since property taxes determine a school’s resources, housing discrimination exacerbates the already widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. The poorest communities have the worst pollution. Rubbertown in Louisville, Kentucky and the Southeast (Anacostia) area of DC are excellent examples of the environmental racism that keeps families locked into the cycle of poverty that Section could help them escape. As Dr. Robert Bullard noted, Black folks are the “wrong complexion for protection.” It seems that Carson plans to make sure that stays true.
Aside from the connection to environmental racism and the growing class divide, one very real danger of Carson’s HUD tenure is the impact it will have on education.
Property taxes determine a public school’s quality; this means that wealthier neighborhoods have schools with more reliable resources. Section 8 was meant to help level the playing field, but corrupt landlords who discriminate against families with government vouchers help perpetuate the income divide. The school-to-prison pipeline already serves to lock marginalized groups out of the substantial wealth accumulation trends enjoyed by more affluent groups. Dr. Ben Carson–a religious man and product of both public schools and public housing–was officially sworn in this month as HUD secretary. Under a conservative Carson administration, (and without public pressure), the income gap will likely become even more insurmountable. The timeliness is clear: fair housing is at risk in the same way that the Affordable Care Act was at risk. To date, Carson has been unwilling to endorse HUD’s “meaningful and deliberate actions to overcome historic segregation patterns”.
We must critically analyze and explore the impact that housing discrimination will likely have on Blacks folks over the next few years. I doubt anyone reading this or listening to iMWiL! really believes that America will sincerely consider reparations with any seriousness, but Section 8 is one practical method for survival pending revolution. Keeping this program alive will make a huge difference for millions of people and it is imperative that we work diligently to keep this opportunity accessible to those who need it most.