We just went through a denegrofication project. We were going to have our house appraised and as we were scurrying around scrubbing and fixing up, my wife made an odd and disturbing comment: she thought we should take down all the pictures and other indications that we are a Black family. She believed it might bring the value of the house down in the appraiser’s eyes.
At first I thought it was overthinking on her part (and I need to explain that I am White and my wife is African-American), but then I remembered the phone calls. They came well before the recession struck and they came often. My wife entertained them b/c we were interested in a possible refinance but had no urgent need. Our credit score and income are very high, our house had a lot of value then (not so much now), and so we saw ourselves as being at the pinnacle of the market.
Yet a funny thing happened with each call. They began talking about something called a subprime mortgage. My wife, no slouch at this sort of thing, asked them all sorts of questions in order to figure out why they were offering us a subprime mortgage refi. They would not back off, and so she turned down offer after offer, miffed and puzzled.
Then the housing bubble burst and all the pus spilled out, including the fact that minorities were targeted. I guessed my wife had walked into our mortgage holder’s office one time and someone had coded her Black (as ABC news revealed the practice among employment agencies in NYC). She said they could just look at the demographic information we provide. My first thought was, “But they say they don’t use that.” But then the extent of the unethical, illegitimate and immoral behavior on the part of mortgage lenders kept hitting us in the face as the news poured out and I lost all doubt that they had targeted us b/c my wife is Black.
So now we had to go through the house and take down family pictures with her or her relatives in them. I came up with the term “denegrofication”. It made me sick but I went along with it. And guess what? The appraiser came out and started talking politics and I thought, “You know, as usual, my wife was right. This guy’s resentment of Obama and what he sees as the unfairness of the society toward guys like him could easily be a vehicle for bias in the appraisal.” I do give him the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve heard too many people like him, ones I call Tea Party Lite, say things like Obama is giving White people’s tax money to the Blacks (Santorum).
So here I sit, with pictures from 48 years (in June) of marriage still off the wall and a nasty taste in my mouth from it all. We’ll do well financially with the refy, making me feel better about retiring next year, but every time I hear someone refer to Obama as a food-stamp president and say that Black kids in poor neighborhoods don’t see anyone who goes to work unless it’s dishonest work, I think “Post-racial? Not yet.”