The Breathtaking, Not-At-All-Veiled Racism Behind Donald Trump’s Claim He’s Saved the Suburbs
At a rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Donald Trump begged women to like him, pleading “So can I ask you to do me a favor? Suburban women, will you please like me? I saved your damn neighborhood, okay?”
Donald Trump’s claim he has saved women in the suburbs is a common campaign refrain. But where did this claim originate?
When the president speaks of “saving” the suburbs, he is referring to the repeal of an Obama-era update to the 1968 Fair Housing Act that would have required local governments receiving federal funds directed at housing and development to create a plan to address and fix biased housing practices.
The Fair Housing Act was passed in large part to fight redlining, a government practice of outlining minority neighborhoods with literal red ink to delineate areas in which the government would not invest based on demographics alone. The government systematically refused minorities in redlined areas housing and financial products like mortgages, credit cards, insurance and even student loans.
The Obama rule actually reinforced a clause that already existed in the Fair Housing Act that required federal agencies to “affirmatively” further fair housing. While that clause existed, it was not widely enforced and often flagrantly ignored.
According to the American Bar Association, “Although this AFFH provision has been part of the Fair Housing Act for 50 years, historically HUD permitted local jurisdictions to largely ignore that duty even as those jurisdictions collected billions of dollars in federal grants annually for housing and community development.”
The rule simply created an actionable process by which local jurisdictions could use HUD-provided tools to develop plans that affirmatively addressed and moved toward fair housing outcomes.
Nowhere in the rule is subsidized housing or any other land use mandated. In its published statement about the rule, HUD declared, “This rule does not impose any land use decisions or zoning laws on any local government.”
Trump saved the suburbs, through his logic, by preventing the federal government from proactively addressing biased housing practices. In the words of Joe Biden, “I was raised in the suburbs. This is not 1950. All these dog whistles and racism don’t work anymore … There’s many people today driving their kids to soccer practice … Black and white and Hispanic.”
Trump’s claim that he has prevented low-income housing developments from “invading” the suburbs is false. The rule he repealed mandated no such thing. And his implication that “low-income” equates with “minority” and also “dangerous” is a racist bull horn, not just a dog whistle.
More recent research has also shown that one of the most successful ways to help low-income families get good educations for their children and integrate into the middle class is by actively interspersing low-income housing throughout middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhoods.
But for Trump, an incumbent president behind in the polls, fierce opposition to integrating low-income housing is about much more than just zoning policy.
The term “redlining” was coined by sociologist John McKnight in the 1960s and derives from how the federal government and lenders would literally draw a red line on a map around the neighborhoods they would not invest in based on demographics alone. Black inner-city neighborhoods were most likely to be redlined. Investigations found that lenders would make loans to lower-income Whites but not to middle- or upper-income African Americans.
In its published rule, HUD said of the regulation: “This rule does not impose any land use decisions or zoning laws on any local government.”
But on July 29, Trump wrote on Twitter: “I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood … Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down. I have rescinded the [Barack] Obama-[Joe] Biden AFFH Rule. Enjoy!”