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The Color of Money

Editorials and letters

Letters to the editor

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Copyright 1988, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hats off to writer, paper for series about redlining

Published May 8, 1988,

By Annette Wilcoxson, president, Georgia ACORN

Hats off to Bill Dedman and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the outstanding series "The Color of Money." This series has exposed to the general public a problem that has been brewing for years, redlining and discrimination in lending. This discrimination, perhaps not intentional, has wreaked havoc on the black and low-income communities here in Atlanta and throughout the country.

ACORN and other community groups have been able to use the Community Reinvestment Act as a lever to direct more loans into these neighborhoods; but without a greater public understanding of the problem, this act can only go so far. Your series has gone a long way toward creating this understanding, and also toward providing suggestions on how to solve the problem.

Now it is up to the banks here in Atlanta to take the necessary steps to stop this discrimination, and up to the regulatory agencies to make sure they do stop.

Banks are businesses

Published May 8, 1988,

By K.C. Jerome, Atlanta

The recent articles on mortgage discrimination is the sort of writing that yellow journalism is made of. High-risk lending areas are where borrowers are underemployed, have questionable credit and exhibit frequent foreclosures. These factors all exist in the areas described in the articles. And yes, these areas happen to be occupied predominantly by black citizens of Atlanta. The foreclosure lists published by HUD, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae support the contention that these are high risk areas.

I am further disturbed by the two noteworthy examples that Bill Dedman cites. First, Commissioner Michael Lomax suggests that he was discriminated against by lenders even though (by his own admission), he spent more to improve his home than the resulting value justified. In other words, his home offered as security to a prospective lender was insufficient collateral. Should Mr. Lomax become our next mayor, I certainly hope his judgments make better business sense than this illogical risk that he expects a lender should be willing to take.

The second example was a retired (or unemployed) 55-year-old laborer wanting to borrow money to repair his roof. Based upon the photograph of his home, it is in disrepair and unattractive. It is no wonder that a traditional lender would not lend on that home. Banks are in business to make profits for their shareholders, not to take unreasonable risks.

Whether the borrower is black or white, Mr. Dedman needs to tell the whole story or find something more meaningful to put on your front page.

Cartoon went too far

Published May 12, 1988,

By Mary Gawthrop, Norcross

Doug Marlette is an outstanding cartoonist, no doubt one of the best. His Pulitzer Prize attests to that. It does seem to me, however, that his thoughts exceed his grasp.

His depiction of a bank loan officer dressed in Ku Klux Klan garb while a young black couple is seeking a home mortgage or loan is demeaning to banks and does little more than demonstrate racism at its lowest level.

Banks are here for one reason and one reason only: to make money. They are not interested in the color of the customer but only in the color of his or her money. Black applicants with acceptable credit records who are not diving into debt over their heads will find the welcome mat rolled out for them when they apply for mortgages or other loans against assets of fair market value.

The term "racism" has been carried to unacceptable extremes. This is only one example; there are a multitude of others.

Marlette a delight

Published May 12, 1988,

By Ralph McCaskill, Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Moultrie

I am continually delighted with the fine work of your editorial cartoonist, Doug Marlette. I have always thought that Jeff MacNelly was the quintessential political cartoonist, but now I must consider Marlette his equal.

Thank you for providing the context in which Marlette's work is enjoyed by so many.

Why should banks shut out 12 percent of our citizens?

Published May 16, 1988,

By Ray Beadles, East Point

A recent letter to the editor titled "Banks are businesses" missed many facts and points made note of in your recent series, "The Color of Money."

(1) Many working-class, middle-income blacks are no more of a poor credit risk than their white counterparts living in comparable neighborhoods. Citizens Trust Bank makes home and small business loans to blacks in these "redline" areas with the lowest default rates in the nation.

(2) Michael Lomax' Adams Park neighborhood might well be victimized by devaluation of property that banks seem to exercise in black neighborhoods. Adams Park is a well-kept inner city neighborhood with a higher per-family income than Morningside. (Adams Park also had one of the lowest crime rates of any Atlanta neighborhood during 1987).

(3) Blacks not having fair access to home improvement loans might very well be one of the prime factors of declining property values in these areas.

It seems to me that banks can loan money to South American nations so they can make payments on money they borrowed from U.S. banks years ago, but they can't make good solid loans to 12 percent of the residents of the United States (blacks).

Please, let's not "kill the messenger." Let's thank the Atlanta newspapers for enlightening us and if there is a problem, let's fix it!

Cartoon in poor taste

Published May 18, 1988,

By Ian F. Stalker, Atlanta

Doug Marlette's cartoon on Atlanta banks depicting the teller as a crabby old woman and the loan officer as a Klansman was crude and in poor taste.

My guess is that loans are based on the color of an applicant's money and not his skin and experience, not emotion. American banks lent money to people of every color in Latin America, and what did they get in return? Write-offs.

Racism is not confined to white versus black; it is a two-way street.

Series thought-provoking

Published May 18, 1988,

By E.J. Lorenz, Savannah

No sooner are the Pulitzers out than The Atlanta Journal- Constitution begins chasing another.

Bill Dedman's " Color of Money " series was as well-written and readable as it was provoking - thought-and otherwise. Now we will see if the power structure will heed the writing on the (tenement) walls and come through with the goods.

Doug Marlette's attendant editorial cartoon was a nice touch, too.

Congratulations, and thank you.

Banks are practicing insensitivity

Published May 18, 1988,

By Robert Jensen, Alpharetta

Your recent series on the "Color of Money" was a real eye-opener. I don't, however, believe banks discriminate against people based on the color of their skin. I think they discriminate against all poor people without regard to race, religion, sex or national origin.

When I was in college, I survived on my monthly checks from the Veterans Administration. One month, my longtime bank informed me that there would be a new five-day hold on government checks. I argued that the check was good, I was broke and that five days is a long time to go without food.

My banker told me that she had no doubt the check was good, but I would be denying the bank the "float" on the check. She said that I needed to handle my finances better. Taking her advice, I improved my finances by switching banks.

A return to business as usual?

Published May 18, 1988,

By Travis L. Allen, Atlanta

This is in reference to your series on minorities and bank loans. During the 1950s, black Americans in certain areas of the United States couldn't own their own homes. Black ownership in homes started increasing during the 1960s and '70s.

Between then and the present, discrimination has been taking a different form. It has changed from not being able to own a home to not being able to get a loan to improve the home.

Redlining certain areas has truly been with us for the past 30 years or so. For black homeowners, would-be homeowners, real estate agents and bankers this is nothing new.

Newspapers are reminding the public that this issue has not passed away. After the articles have been read and the discussions have calmed down in a few weeks from now, everything will be, as far as the banks are concerned, business as usual.

There was no discrimination

Published May 18, 1988,

By J.O. Bledsoe, Atlanta

It's hard for some to believe the charge that the big banks are guilty of lending discrimination.

It seems likely now that taxpayers may wind up paying hundreds of billions in Third World loan defaults resulting from casual standards and spectacularly bad judgment within the banking industry.

While much faultfinding may be in order, it does seem clearly evident that discrimination played no part in lending policies which can only be fairly described as sensitive, compasionate, liberal, and fully democratic.

Working together will build a great city

Published May 19, 1988,

By Sherman C. Wade, Atlanta

Having moved here 12 years ago from Wisconsin, I have never been a great fan of The Atlanta Constitution. Until today.

The opportunity for our children "to be someone" stems from the home and a quality family-living experience. Only when all citizens of Atlanta have an equal opportunity to become homeowners, can we truly lay claim to being a great city.

As the co-owner of a convention services company that is personally involved in the "selling" of Atlanta, the response to the recent series "The Color of Money" by Bill Dedman , will do more to make Atlanta "the next great city" than all the Democratic National Conventions and Olympic games put together.

Dedman's series is definitely a Pulitzer job of reporting, and the response by the financial institutions and politicians of Atlanta and the coalition that comes out of it, have the opportunity of doing more for the quality of life in Atlanta than securing the 1996 Olympics. For if we can all work together to solve the basic housing needs of the citizens of Atlanta, we'll all come up winners.

Others than poor profited

Published May 20, 1988,

By E. Lee Morris III, Atlanta

I lived in Denver at the time bankers were pressured to set aside a percentage of funds for loans in "redlined" areas. The house I lived in was at 3440 W. 34th Ave. An old brick house on a narrow lot, it was valued at about $13,000 to $15,000. The day after the banks announced that they had established a fund for loans to prospective homebuyers in these areas, the house increased in value to $30,000 to $35,000.

Someone made a lot of money on that scam, and you can bet your "black power armband" it wasn't anyone poor.

Despite newspaper's theme, blacks are not oppressed people

Published May 20, 1988,

By Bill Johansen, Greenville, SC

I started receiving The Atlanta Journal and Constitution about two weeks ago and have thus far been extremely unsatisfied. This newspaper has displayed unprofessional journalism over and over again.

This is quite obviously shown in the many articles that are written with the theme that blacks are still being discriminated against. Articles, such as "The Color of Money," and a column, "Jesse wants and deserves what he'd have if he were white," are just some of the many that show racial bias, and it is not against the blacks.

Yes, the blacks were at one time a very oppressed people and discriminated against when they were supposedly given rights, but this is 1988 and the blacks have every right that the whites do.

The key issue here is: Do the blacks think the whites owe them anything because of something that happened years ago? As far as I can tell, yes. I have met my fair share of hard-working blacks who earn every penny they own, and I am sorry that they are dragged down by their so-called "brothers" who want things handed to them on a silver platter.

Blacks and whites both want things they do not deserve, but it is the black people I read about in the paper so much. If a white man gets turned down for a loan then it is too bad, but if a black man gets turned down for a loan it is on the front page of the newspaper. There is something wrong with that.

Journalists print what people want to read whether it may be harmful in the long run or not because they don't care about the long run; they care about what will sell tomorrow. The newspaper has a major impact on society, and people believe what is printed. The facts are a lot less harmful than "what will sell."

Contrary to what is printed each day, the blacks are no longer an oppressed people and can have anything they want if they earn it. When there is something that you can think of that a white person can do that a black person cannot do please notify me.

A major impact on Atlanta

Published May 24, 1988,

By Jack Chesney, Stone Mountain

I am pleased and proud of the role that The Atlanta Journal and Constitution played in revealing the discrimination against black borrowers in Atlanta. It shows to the Atlanta community at large the significant role a newspaper can play if it chooses to in making a difference in community concerns.

As a result of these articles, persons who may have been denied a loan for a home-improvement loan or a mortgage will now have a fairly good chance of being approved. Very few articles have had such a major impact on the Atlanta community or have had the very quick and positive response that these have had.

Washington bank proves fair lending practices pay

Published May 29, 1988,

By Angela Arkin Byne, Cherry Log

In response to James D. Groover's letter of May 22, regarding the new mortgage trust fund established by Atlanta banks, I wish to commend the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for exposing the biased practices of local financial institutions. This new trust fund is not a poor monetary risk, but an investment in Atlanta's future.

Mr. Groover might take a lesson from Independence Federal Savings and Loan of Washington, D.C. In 1968, within months of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, nine forward-thinking Washingtonians, five black and four white, established that institution specifically for the purpose of providing mortgage funds to the city's majority black population, who had been redlined out of the mortgage market by the local banking establishment.

Washington's financial community scoffed at this venture. But 20 years and $225 million in assets later, Independence Federal is still going strong. As a stockholder in Independence Federal, I have prospered along with the citizens of Washington.

Banks' redlining response no more than a handout

Published May 30, 1988,

By L. Rigney, Alpharetta

I would like to speak out in response to recent articles in the Atlanta Constitution concerning unfair lending practices by the banks of Atlanta and the articles on May 13 concerning the plans Atlanta banks have for correcting this problem.

First, let me state I am all for "equal and fair access" to credit. As the Rev. Joseph Lowery said in the article on May 13, I agree that everyone should be given the same chance to purchase a home, regardless of race, color, religion.

What I don't agree with is the banks' response to the problem. The banks propose to "make 30-year fixed-rate loans for 97 percent of appraised value, with no private mortgage insurance required, interest rates would be from half a point to 1 1/2 points below market rates, and no discount points would be charged."

Also, "Sweat equity, in which a home buyer improves a property in lieu of part or all of a down payment, will be allowed, as will the use of gift money for down payment."

This is not "equal and fair access to credit." This is a handout! No one I know has ever gotten a loan from any bank with these kinds of arrangements.

Are the banks going to allow everyone in the state to get loans under these arrangements? If not, then this is not equal and fair.

Last, is this the kind of arrangement that the Southside neighborhood leaders of Atlanta want for the people? Do they want "equal and fair" or do they want a handout?

Straight-up equality

Published May 30, 1988,

By William F. Johnen, Atlanta

I would like first to commend staff writer Bill Dedman for explicitly uncovering redlining activity, which some banks in the metro Atlanta area practice. Secondly, I intensely approbate the activity of bankers and clergymen working diligently to terminate redlining practices and amend the tarnished relationship between bankers and targeted areas suffering from these notorious activities.

However, I find it quite disturbing to read that these banks intend to make available home-purchase and home-improvement loans as low as prime rate particularly to African-Americans in the Southside area; these activities are suppose to rectify the long-lasting effects of redlining.

I'm not in the position to be considered the speaker of the people; however, most African-Americans I know feel that these bankers have misinterpreted what it is precisely that we want. What we desire actually is the ability to acquire home-improvement and home-acquisition loans according to the same qualifications and specifications that are necessary for our Caucasian counterparts.

Where are the city's black entrepreneurs?

Published May 30, 1988,

By M.A. Searvance, Atlanta

Your recent articles on black residents vis-a-vis loans were very interesting. Of equal interest, if not more, was a two-part series in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Blacks in Business" in America. If you would like to find the answers to many of the questions you raised in your series, I suggest you read the Journal's series - no, perhaps you should run it.

I have some other questions for our community. Why, in the black Mecca of the United States - Atlanta - do we have only two black-owned lending institutions? What prevents an apparently thriving middle-class ethnic minority here from doing what has historically taken place in this country with the Jews, Poles, Italians, Chinese, Koreans, Cubans and Hispanics?

Why do the movers, shakers and drivers in the black community all apparently want to be employees instead of employers?

Why does this newspaper endorse a role model like Michael Hollis (who failed) and not have ringing endorsements of people like Jesse Hill, Joe Profit, Cornell McBride and Herman Russell?

Why, in a city with the most advanced minority joint-venture program in the United States (according to the Wall Street Journal), do we have a Korean Grocers Association and not a Black Grocers Association?

This is 1988, not 1968. I'm tired of "whitey" not giving blacks enough, so whitey's hands are slapped, thus whitey must give blacks some more, but, oh, by the way, did whitey still give blacks enough?

This is America. It is there for the taking. It is financial independence. It may take 18-hour days and six days a week, but it is there. Ask Herman J. Russell. I heard Andrew Young make a speech about it, in which he termed it "pure profit." (This was before visiting Angola or Nicaragua.)

Where are the black entrepreneurs? I'm not talking about one or two. I'm talking about enough to start one new bank, maybe two . . . even three . . . four?

Cut the pleading

Published May 30, 1988,

By E.R. Burnett, Riverdale

I have heard all the crying, pleading and begging that I can stand for a long time, most recently on the demands and cries over our local banks' lending habits to people of color versus others.

Sure, everyone should be treated fairly. However, I say to my people of color: Why not give your own community a try? Namely, in this case, Citizens Trust Bank, a "black bank" in Atlanta that also has the lowest loan default rate in the country. So why are we demanding, crying, pleading and begging for people to do business with us, especially when it is evident that is not what they want?

There are some black businesses that deliver quality service and reinvest back into the community but are barely making it because you are too busy beating on someone else's door demanding service and fair treatment.

I think we need to stop protesting and start rethinking the way we do business. We are spending $260 billion annually, yet we are some of the poorest in America. Where is your money going and what do you get in return? Think, people, think.

A job well done

Published June 6, 1988,

By state Rep. Grace W. Davis, District 29, Atlanta

On behalf of my constituents in the 29th Legislative District and many of my peers throughout the metropolitan Atlanta area, I want to say "thank you" for your coverage in your recent series of articles entitled "The Color of Money."

As a result of your work, most of the conversations I have had with my constituents have focused on many of the issues that were raised in that series of articles. In fact, it was during one of these interactions that it first dawned on me that we would not be having such meaningful dialogue about such significant issues had it not been for your choosing to do an investigative report on this issue.

Although such discussions are not new, this was the only time that we were referencing empirical, statisically significant data (facts) and not responding to our own subjective perception of what was going on.

Because of your work, we are now able to focus our discussions and involve realistic options for approaching many of the problems that were laid out - and to some extent, we are seeing immediate progress.

I think you have done this community and its citizens a great service. In the future, it is my hope that you will continue to use your will, your skill and your wherewithal to research other issues that hold significant implications for the quality of life of our metropolitan Atlanta citizens and, to a large extent, the citizens of Georgia.

Again, thank you very much for a job well done and for the contribution you h ave made to Atlanta - "the city too busy to hate."

Trading on racism

Published June 7, 1988,

By Kathy Hart, Atlanta

Your newspaper has done a serious disservice to Atlanta's banks by attaching a racist label to what is really an economic issue.

As a financial adviser, I have learned over the years that mortgage loans are a numbers game: If you have sufficient income, a good credit history and sufficient appraised value, you get the loan, regardless of your race.

When your reporters compared black and white groups by income, did they also compare credit histories and appraised loan-to-value ratios?

Unless all other aspects are exactly the same, you cannot point to race as a determinant. Run-down neighborhoods with vacant buildings do not appraise well, regardless of the race of the inhabitants or the appraisers.

The way to make more mortgage money available to these neighborhoods is to either change the standards of national mortgage underwriters such as FHA and the Federal National Mortgage Association, who make the rules, or to offer special mortgage programs, which the Atlanta banks have been trying to do for years.

Your rush to brand bankers as racist smacks of journalistic politics. Your editors could have accomplished much more by a serious review of the economics of urban real estate and the various ways other cities are trying to improve in-town neighborhoods, with an honest challenge to Atlanta's banks to increase their efforts. But that wouldn't sell as many newspapers, would it?

People who trade on racism for personal or corporate gain are worse than the racists themselves. Have you looked in the mirror lately?

Some want a free ride

Published June 7, 1988,

By Ruby G. Beadle, Atlanta

The free enterprise system gives everybody a chance to get to the top. Some people, however, depend too much on the "free" and not enough on "enterprise."

Banks' responses to redlining are acts of fairness

Published June 13, 1988,

By Brad Lichtenstein, Atlanta

I wish to respond to a May 20 letter, "Despite newspaper's theme, blacks are not an oppressed people." The writer begins by expressing dissatisfaction with The Atlanta Constitution due to its biased coverage of issues related to racism. The writer has missed the point here largely due to ignorance of racism, specifically institutional racism.

The writer criticizes stories such as the ones concerning the new steps banks are taking to extend loans and other assistance to blacks and Southside residents. The writer should recognize such acts as acts of fairness intended to correct the effect of years of overt and cognitive racism in our country. Racism has diminished in many capacities. And the writer is correct in citing the civil rights legislation of the '60s. However, as a result of unequal opportunity and various other effects of past racism, blacks still do not enjoy the same rights as whites.

This is particularly true in the institutions of America in which privileges are often awarded or denied on the basis of non-merit-related attributes. Indeed, there are still cases of institutional racism. Actions such as the ones taken by Atlanta's banks represent a foundation on which to build the fight for equality in all sectors of American life.

Lastly, I found the writer's language especially disturbing. We are humans, together, no matter what color. She talks of "the blacks" and "the whites." The separatist language sounds as if we are all competing factions of citizens rather than one nation, indivisible. The writer suffers from a common ignorance that needs to be corrected if racism is to be eradicated from American life and if freedom and equality are to prevail.

The Constitution should be applauded for having the courage to report the facts, as it has become fashionable these days to avoid them.

'Extra' discrimination?

Published December 19, 1988,

By Richard L. Burkard, College Park

Item: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published several excellent articles this year detailing how banks (and, more recently, mortgage institutions) lend money to predominantly white areas of metro Atlanta, while predominantly black areas are ignored.

As an editorial put it well -- "If it's not discrimination, prove it!"

Item: Each day The Atlanta Journal-Constitution publishes a full-sized "Gwinnett Extra" section. Other areas of town, many predominantly black (such as South Fulton and intown regions), only receive a tabloid-sized Extra, and only get it one day a week.

To borrow a phrase: "If it's not discrimination, prove it!''

Atlanta Lending Panel's Letter Wasn't Connected to Marvin Arrington

Published February 12, 1989

By Carolyn French, executive director, Atlanta Area Chapter, Alzheimer's Association

As a member of the Fair Lending Practices Action Committee, and one of the members referred to in Bill Dedman's front-page, Feb. 5 article as having written a letter "threatening to resign," I would very much like to correct an unfortunate misrepresentation.

In his article, Mr. Dedman insinuated that our letter to the committee co-chairmen, expressing dissatisfaction with the committee's progress to date, had something to do with Atlanta City Council President Marvin Arrington. It absolutely did not. Had that been the case, the other four signers and I would have addressed our concerns to Mr. Arrington.

As far back as early November 1988, I received a copy of a letter from Mr. Arrington to the two committee co-chairmen. Mr. Arrington's Nov. 7 letter stated: "We are losing credibility in not presenting a final report on a banking committee. If we are not able to reach some type of decision within the next 10 to 15 days, it may very well be that we just need to make an announcement that we were unable to reach certain conclusions."

I signed the letter to the co-chairmen as a reflection of my frustration with what I felt was a breakdown in communication on the progress of the committee's work and my agreement with the sentiments expressed in Mr. Arrington's letter of Nov. 7.

Moreover, while there is apparent dissension in the committee, it was a serious misrepresentation to use our frustration to imply that the council president had anything at all to do with the delays or with the committee's differences. To my knowledge, he and the council staff have consistently pushed the subcommittees to reach closure.

There simply is no basis for attempting to establish a relationship between our frustration with delays in completing the committee's work and anything that has to do with Mr. Arrington. I do not know why this happened, but it was incorrect, inaccurate and inappropriate.

It seems particularly important and fair to set the record straight. Atlanta deserves a fair and prompt response to such a vital issue, and our sole purpose in writing to the co-chairman was to see the fulfillment of that commitment.


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