April 11- Day 42 of Lent

OPENING PRAYER: A PRAYER FOR HOLY TUESDAY (Revised Common Lectionary, 2002)

Faithful Midwife,
as you delivered the Hebrews safely
out of the long labor of slavery,
so, morning by morning,
you draw us forth into the new day.
Surround us with a cloud of witnesses,
and sustain us by your powerful word,
that, in the night of loneliness and fear,
we, being weary, may not lost heart
but push toward the joy that is to come,
laboring with Christ
to give birth to your promised kingdom.

Amen.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: APRIL 11, 1968

Lyndon B. Johnson signs Civil Rights Act

On April 11th, President Lyndon B.Johnson signed the 1968 Civil Rights Act. This Act prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing. Congress passed the act in an effort to impose a comprehensive solution to the problem of unlawful discrimination in housing based on race, color, sex, national origin, or religion.This act is also known as the The Fair Housing Act.

The Fair Housing Act enabled people of color, and other persons in the protected classes to finally be able to rent or own residential property in areas that were previously designated as all white.

The Fair Housing Act was finally able to pass, after two previous failures to pass earlier federal initiatives. A 1962 Executive Order directed all departments of the Executive Branch to take appropriate action to prevent discrimination in all federally administered housing programs failed. As did The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which contained language in Title VI that prohibited housing discrimination in any program receiving federal financial assistance.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 explicitly defines a list of prohibited practices involving housing, including sales, rentals, advertising, and financing. It made it illegal to refuse to sell, rent to, or negotiate with any person because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex, familial status, handicap, or national origin. The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 added extensive provisions that apply to discrimination against disabled persons and families with children 18 years of age and under.

The Fair Housing Act also sought to end a predatory practice of “blockbusting”: the strategy used by realtors to exploit  frightened homeowners by telling them that diverse people groups, particularly people of color, members of a particular religion, or other protected class were moving into their neighborhood and that they should expect a decline in the value of their property. The purpose of this scheme was to get homeowners to sell out at a deflated price. This tactic was very successful during the height of white flight.

The Fair Housing Act, in an attempt to address all of the institutions who have been culpable in the subjugation of the housing market, governs the housing financing industry too. Due to this Act, banks and financial institutions may not discriminate when financing the purchase, construction, improvement, repair, or maintenance of a house. This section of the Act also applies to the selling, brokering, or appraising of residential real estate.

This law was desperately needed, but unfortunately housing discrimination still persist. As a 2016 Atlantic article on Portland Oregon notes. Oregon has a long and entrenched history of racial discrimination, but particularly regarding its housing market. The article stated that “when the state entered the union in 1859, for example, Oregon explicitly forbade black people from living in its borders, the only state to do so. In more recent times, the city repeatedly undertook ‘urban project’ projects (such as the construction of Legacy Emanuel Hospital) that decimated the small black community that existed here. And racism persists today. A 2011 audit found that landlords and leasing agents here discriminated against black and Latino renters 64 percent of the time, citing them higher rents or deposits and adding on additional fees.”

Ta Nehisi Coates also wrote a seminal article, in 2014, entitled “The Case for Reparations” that explored the discriminatory housing practices of our nation, particularly in Chicago, amongst other racial realities. Coates wrote that “from the 1930s through the 1960s, black people across the country were largely cut out of the legitimate home-mortgage market through means both legal and extralegal. Chicago whites employed every measure, from ‘restrictive covenants’ to bombings, to keep their neighborhoods segregated. Their efforts were buttressed by the federal government. In 1934, Congress created the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA insured private mortgages, causing a drop in interest rates and a decline in the size of the down payment required to buy a house.”

SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: EXODUS 3:7-10

“7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day42

You may close with the following:

Lord have mercy,

Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

CLOSING PRAYER: It is our Duty (Assata Shakur, 1973)

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love and support one another.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.

-From the speech: “To My People”

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