Rob Schofield: The Right and the Myth of Colorblind Capitalism | Chroniclers

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By any fair assessment, the United States has come a long way in the past 150 years to overcome its original sins of slavery and institutionalized racism.

A century and a half ago – in just two lifetimes – millions of black Americans were held in slavery by force of law and treated as chattel because of their skin color. At the time, many of the more ardent abolitionists held and espoused openly racist beliefs and publicly embraced white supremacy.

Today, a sizable subset of black Americans enjoy what can be described as middle-class living. Meanwhile, even the most reactionary political leaders regularly feel pressured to assure everyone that they are opposed to racism.

Without the vision and courageous actions of millions of people – abolitionists, civil and human rights activists, politicians, religious, business and military leaders, and average citizens – one can easily imagine tremendous progress in this area that could never have been achieved. occurred.

But we still have a long, long way to go.

Indeed, the claim made in many corners of the modern political right that institutionalized racism – in government, business, education, criminal justice and other areas – has been effectively defeated is obviously incorrect. (This makes as much sense as asserting that the decline in human hunger over the past several centuries has lessened the need for further action.)

Unfortunately, such claims persist with infuriating frequency – often under the guise of touting the so-called “color blindness” of modern capitalism and denouncing efforts to enact and enforce anti-discrimination rules. You’ve heard that familiar spiel: “American businesses don’t care what color their customers are, as long as their money is green.”

Conservative columnist John Hood made precisely such an argument recently in a column in which he casually dismissed a comprehensive national inquiry into the practices of U.S. mortgage lenders.

The survey (“The Secret Bias Hidden in Mortgage-Approval Algorithms”), which was conducted by a team of quantitative journalists from the nonprofit news organization The Markup, and published and widely disseminated by The Associated Press , revealed that racial discrimination in mortgage lending in the United States remains a huge problem.

The authors found that when they kept “17 different factors stable in a complex statistical analysis of the over 2 million conventional mortgage applications for the purchase of homes reported to the government … compared to similar white applicants, the lenders were:

80% more likely to reject black applicants

70% more likely to refuse Native American applicants

50% more likely to turn down applicants from Asia / Pacific

40% more likely to reject Latino applicants ”

Hood argues that the mortgage industry doesn’t really discriminate in lending because default rates for borrowers of color are higher.

This, Hood claims, shows that lower loan approval rates for minority borrowers are simply a matter of cold, hard, and capitalist calculation.

A review of the markup report, however, shows that Hood is the one peddling the wrong information.

The authors anticipated the criticism that they did not take into account the loan profiles of individual borrowers, and preemptively reviewed and addressed it in detail.

Notably, they report that one of the reasons they were unable to access some of the data is aggressive industry lobbying to prevent this information from being made public.

To his credit, the Biden administration recently announced that it was taking action in response to the report’s findings.

As with so many other ways that American businesses relate to consumers of color, none of the findings and conclusions of the Markup Report are surprising to anyone who pays attention or uses common sense.

We have long known that capitalism is not inherently color blind. They are profit-seeking American capitalists who for decades endangered aspiring black homeowners, tenants, and insurance buyers and denied them access to hospitals, hotels, restaurants, taxis and all manner of public housing.

Even today, many of these capitalists are quite open about their desire not to make money selling goods and services to LGBTQ people.

The bottom line: American market capitalism has many strengths, but as the Markup Report reminds us, like other parts of our society, it is, in the end, a human institution that is sure to reflect all the weaknesses, prejudices, hypocrisies and imperfect progress. mostly white human beings who still dominate him.

Rob Schofield is the director of NC Policy Watch.


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