Monday, March 17, 2008

Subprimes and Color Lines

You've probably been hearing about the devastating impact of the subprime mortgage crisis on the American economy and on the lives of individuals and families. You may be facing foreclosure yourself or know others who have already experienced it. What you may not have heard (and are likely not to hear) is that, as so often is the case, the burden of suffering is not being shared equally among all Americans. Here's a bit from the Washington Post during February:

"As we spend this month celebrating the achievements of African Americans, I'm saddened by a report that concludes that the subprime mortgage crisis has caused the largest loss of wealth for black and Latino homeowners in modern U.S. history.

The erosion of wealth is staggering.

Subprime borrowers of color will lose between $164 billion and $213 billion for loans taken in the past eight years, according to United for a Fair Economy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. For the past five years, the group has examined the racial wealth divide in this country.

UFE is the latest organization to try to put a dollar figure on the losses resulting from the proliferation of subprime loans. And while some might want to dismiss the findings in the group's report as alarmist, one fact is clearly troubling: Minorities have been hit hardest.

Black borrowers will lose between $72 billion and $93 billion, and Latino borrowers will lose between $76 billion and $98 billion, UFE reports." Read the whole piece here.

Ironic that the gains made on the path of racial and ethnic equality can evaporate in what seems like the blink of an eye. The impact of the loss of wealth due to this crisis will stretch far beyond this election year or even this generation and may very well further widen the gap in quality of life between white Americans and members of minority communities. I am reminded of the dialectic described by Shoghi Effendi:

Such simultaneous processes of rise and of fall, of integration and of disintegration, of order and chaos, with their continuous and reciprocal reactions on each other, are but aspects of a greater Plan, one and indivisible, whose Source is God...the theater of whose operations is the entire planet, and whose ultimate objectives are the unity of the human race and the peace of all mankind.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 72)

In the midst of tragedy and folly, it is helpful to believe that there is an ultimate objective to what we are witnessing at the dawn of the 21st century in a post-civil rights, post-colonial world. We are very much living "in the mean time" between today and a better tomorrow. How long it takes to get there is a decision humanity has to make.