Undesign the Redline, Session #5: Undesigning the Extractive Economy

Undesigning the extractive economy & investing in a restorative infrastructure for community ownership. Reading group led by Gregory Jost

Summary: Redlining codified and structuralized explicitly racist sentiments and practices, embedding them onto maps that incentivized hyper-segregation and expanded the racialized extractive economy from a Southern Jim Crow focus onto the growing urban and suburban housing landscape in metropolitan areas across the country. Like Jim Crow, racial hyper-segregation served as a “lubricant of oppression,” as Craig Wilder writes in A Covenant With Color, setting a “foundation for a broader social agenda that put the black population at the mercy of their white co-citizens.” The economic prosperity of white communities in the post-WWII era was predicated on their racially restrictive nature, and thus on the disinvestment and devaluation of neighborhoods where Black folks and other people of color lived, undermining their cultural and economic vitality. Over time and through a series of devastating policies (e.g., Urban Renewal) and political philosophies (e.g., Benign Neglect), redlined areas were designed to become the so-called “deserts” for quality jobs, schools, food, financial services, social fabric, and other amenities and opportunities that we still experience today. The housing, education, food, criminal justice, health and financial systems all extract wealth and power from our communities, perpetuating the massive racial wealth gap, leaving us more susceptible to the consequences of a global pandemic and other coming crises.

Despite this sabotage, people have always been fighting back against the racist extractive economy, winning legislative battles such as the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the 1975 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, and the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act. Communities of color have also turned to “fight forward” strategies such as self-help, mutual aid, anti-racist cooperatives, and community ownership. As we enter the third decade of the 21st Century, a growing movement of fight forward strategies and coalitions grounded in racial, gender and climate justice are making headway in grassroots, municipal and statewide initiatives. Coupled with a growing understanding of how structural racism permeates our nation’s history and the stories of resistance movements going back centuries, the opportunity for a comprehensive reframing provides us with hope for “undesigning” the racist extractive economy. In communities of color across New York City and State, groups are fighting concertedly for community ownership of land, investment in cooperative economics, for self determination and economic democracy. A very recent campaign focuses on the creation of public banks that can hold municipal deposits to invest in this infrastructure. Similar movements are happening in other states, and the events of 2020 have added even more urgency to our work. Our conversation will build off of the last session led by April de Simone and lead us forward into the makings of an alternative future.

This session is presented by Gregory Jost

Presenter Bio: Gregory Jost is a Bronx-based scholar and organizer embedded in grassroots communities working for economic self-determination. He holds extensive experience and expertise in the convergence of community organizing, grassroots research and data visualization, affordable housing, the history of race and place in American cities, and strategies for community control of reinvestment. Jost is an Adjunct Professor of Sociology and a member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council at Fordham University. As a Policy and Campaigns Advisor for Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association in the South Bronx, he is deeply involved in coalition work fighting back against predatory equity and displacement, and fighting forward for community ownership and economic democracy. Gregory also serves as the Board Chair of New Economy Project and is currently writing a book on the Bronx’s history fighting against redlining. Previously he helped launch the Undesign the Redline work of Designing the WE.

Sponsored by Barnard Library and Academic Information Services, and the Barnard Digital Humanities Center. This program is funded in part by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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