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The Color of Money

Editorials and letters

Who called bank boycott?
Bond, singlehandedly

By Jeff Dickerson, The Atlanta Journal

Published May 13, 1988, Editorial Page, Page A18

Copyright 1988, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Atlanta NAACP's "statement" on redlining had Julian Bond written all over it. Redlining is "nothing less than the purposeful destruction of black Atlanta," the statement declared, "the tightening of the white noose around the center city, and a cheapening of the hopes and dreams of generations of hard-working citizens."

Whew! Banks were in deep trouble already. They didn't need a scurrilous charge of "intentional destruction of black communities" from the local NAACP.

It turns out that they were not so charged. Bond was eloquent as ever but he wasn't speaking for the board of the Atlanta NAACP.

The NAACP president was running off at the mouth 800 miles outside Atlanta when he called for a boycott, and the Atlanta NAACP board knew nothing of his shenanigans. Nobody had called for a boycott of Atlanta banks but Julian Bond; nobody had charged banks with "purposeful destruction" but Julian Bond.

In fact, Atlanta's responsible leaders have been careful not to accuse banks of intentionally discriminating.

Mayor Andrew Young says he got a loan in Atlanta in 1962 when he couldn't get one in New York; he hopes, he says, things haven't grown worse since 1962. Translated, Young is not convinced the banks intentionally discriminate.

Neither is the City Council president. Marvin Arrington gives the banks no slack: They should have known they were writing too few loans in black communities; they better start making more loans; and he thinks their problems may stem from bigots in their shops. But he won't charge the banks with a policy of intentional discrimination.

Into this ocean of tact swims Julian Bond -- unauthorized and off base. His "statement" should be ignored.

Not that the NAACP wouldn't have worded a stinging disapproval of the banks' destructive lending patterns. But charging banks with purposeful destruction isn't in keeping with their usually positive, usually cautious approach to such problems.

And a boycott? Calling for a boycott is asinine, stale, predictable and too sixtyish. The bank practices uncovered by staff writer Bill Dedman are subtle, unique, contemporary. We need a solution that fits the offense.

If the banks aren't intentionally discriminating, as they claim, they'll quickly repair the damage and make more loans in black neighborhoods. If they seek good relations with black communities -- and bankers' turnout at Arrington's luncheon last week suggests that they do -- they'll reinvest they way they ought to.

But we aren't in the '40s. Blacks' dollars are as green as whites and banks need little prodding to profit as much in black communities as in white.

What we need are solutions, not name-calling or cries for boycotts. The banks say they don't intentionally redline; our more responsible city leaders, for now, are willing to give them that benefit of the doubt -- and somebody ought to tell Julian Bond.


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