Interview with Bernard Lafayette

How did you decide to go in the housing issue? What was the reason for that?


One of the reason we went into the housing issue for example in Chicago is because virtually everyone is affected by housing. We began to see that There were patterns of segregation and discrimination, clear patterns. For an example, there were no signs that said "Blacks Cannot Live Here," but it was White only and it was obvious it was White only. And there reasons why it was White, not because Blacks choose, chose not to, ah, live in those communities. It's because they were systematically denied, primarily by the real estate agent**. Ninety percent of the housing that's sold is by the real estate agents. So, therefore, the real estate agents have control. And they were doing very tight kind of, ah, of, you know, what we call block busting, where they would allow a few Blacks to move into a neighborhood that was all White in order to, ah, cause the Whites to become fearful. And many of the real estate agents claimed that, "Oh, well this is just, just business." Because you had Black and White real estate agents working together. This was a thing different about the South also. They worked hand in hand here in Chicago because they all made money. Because the Blacks were willing to pay more money for overpriced housing because their market was limited for them. The Whites on the other hand because they were afraid of Blacks, because the fear had been helped, they helped to put the fear in them by real estate agents calling some older White woman for an example, and, ah, you know, breathing very heavily on the phone and, ah, going to the limit in terms of what they can do to intimidate people. And the real estate agents said, "Well, I can help you know and we might get a good price for your house. But, you know, a few months from now, you know, the prices are going down. The value of property is going down because the Blacks are moving in." In the same breath, the price for housing, the same housing for Blacks going up. And they claim that they were serving their clients, well, you know, it's, ah, very curious. And, ah, they were even intimidating them about the insurance was going up for their homes because they claimed that more crime was going to be in the community. So this would cause Whites who had already paid for their homes or near it, you know, finishing their mortgage, to jump up and then get into another mortgage at a higher rate, and most of the time, they would be, could only afford less housing than they already had. And this caused that kind of turnover. Well, whenever there is real estate turn over, everybody made money: the banks, and the real estate companies, and the taxes and everything else went into play. So, therefore, ah, Blacks were victims and Whites. So the slums actually was a way of exploiting both Blacks and Whites.