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New and Old #47
Friday roundup and commentary
But new research shows that the maps very probably did not guide private lenders or the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which clearly engaged in racist lending practices all on their own. The HOLC [the agency that drew the maps and is commonly blamed for the wider phenomenon of redlining], however, actually loaned widely in Black neighborhoods and other red-shaded areas.
Redlining very much existed and was very much a method of denying home loans to African Americans. But this piece goes into the details of how racism in mortgage lending played out in specific policy terms:
Fishback and his co-authors are not arguing that racist mortgage practices did not occur. But they are trying to disentangle the policy of the two New Deal-era mortgage institutions, one of which engaged in heavily anti-Black practices (the FHA) and the other of which did not (HOLC). This also means that the famous redlining maps issued by the latter agency do not reflect how discriminatory lending was put into practice.
I can see some folks saying, “Oh, so redlining didn’t really happen.” No, this doesn’t mean that at all. Rather, I’d say it draws out a similar point to the one I’ve made a lot lately: that a lot of small but important details in recent events can be lost to time a lot more easily than we think.
Mull touches on something I’ve noticed a lot, in the age of Amazon/Wayfair/Walmart and Target third-party sellers, etc.—that you tend to see a small number of basic designs sold in huge quantities under tons of very minor variations. Sometimes I wonder where the heck all this stuff comes from.
These deep dives into extremely ordinary everyday objects illustrate so much about how our bigger systems work. This one is fun, read the whole thing.
This article, now more than 20 years old (!), is about the extremely diverse D.C.-area suburbs. I’m not sure how much this was a new-ish trend in the late ’90s, and how much the media just didn’t pick up on it—to this day, you’ll sometimes see breathless articles about how America’s suburbs are diverse/evolving/culturally interesting places, even though many of them have been for a long time. And few have been more so than those surrounding the nation’s capital.
Here’s a sentence that wouldn’t likely be written today: “Walk into the Eden Center and one can easily remember the vibrance and commotion of Saigon that so many Americans remember from the Vietnam War.” Yep, the Vietnam war had ended little more than 25 years before this article was written!
Though Koreans operate many corner grocery stores in the District and other ethnic businesses have long been located in the city, it is in the inner suburbs — Arlington, Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties — where most immigrant shopkeepers have settled. Immigration experts say this phenomenon is common to other areas of the country but more pronounced in this region.
It is also a trend that’s likely to continue.
It’s neat to read something from back then and see how correct it was.
I came across this blog post and found it quite interesting, even though it’s outside of my usual cluster of topics. He argues that Reddit, not Google, is basically the most useful search engine on the internet. That’s because it’s a sort of bottom-up, crowdsourced compendium of basically everything people do, talk about, or think about. (Incidentally, that’s probably why Reddit is kind of creepy and unsettling, something I wrote about awhile ago. I’m curious if anyone else has had this feeling.)
But a commenter distilled the gist of the piece well, which fits with my own experience:
If I’m looking to see reviews of the Honda Civic 2022 or whatever, I actually do find myself typing “Honda Civic review reddit” instead of “Honda Civic review”. This is because I want to see what real people and enthusiasts (on r/cars or whatever) are talking about the car, rather than the top results at Google which are basically just paid reviews advertising the car anyway.
Have you found internet search quality to be degenerating lately? One interesting phenomenon is the growing mismatch between online business information (open hours, etc.) and the reality, due to the pandemic. But that’s a different story, I suppose.
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