In one of our last blogs, Words Matter, we discussed how SocialChorus is making an effort to promote inclusive language in the workplace. In that article, we focused on using the term “allowlisting” instead of “blacklisting”. This is just one of the many terms that have a negative connotation and refer back to a painful history and sobering reality for Black citizens within our country.
As we continue to focus on our language and ensure that we are making conscious efforts, we have noticed another commonly used, racist term, “redlining”. Redlining has become the standard business term to describe editing a contract and providing feedback from both parties. Many people, however, do not know the origin of this word and the negative impact that redlining had on people of color, especially Black communities.
“Redlining” was a policy that was created by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) in the 1930s. The US government-focused housing programs under the New Deal were “primarily designed to provide housing to white, middle-class, lower-middle-class families”. In a blatant example of segregationism, the FHA refused to insure mortgages in and around African-American neighborhoods. The FHA would physically use red to outline on maps any areas that African-Americans lived in or nearby. “Redlining” was used to justify diverting municipal funding away from neighborhoods. In some cases deeds for property outside of redlined districts were issued that said they “shall not be rented, leased, or conveyed to, or occupied by, any person other than of the white or Caucasian race”
If you are tempted to dismiss this as happening “a long time ago”, you should be aware that a major contributing factor to the housing crisis of 2008 was the intentional targeting of minority communities for exploitative “subprime” loans – a practice now referred to as reverse-redlining.
The effects of “redlining” and similar practices on African-Americans have caused a lasting impact on society today, especially visible in wealth disparities. As NPR notes, “most middle-class families in this country gain their wealth from the equity they have in their homes.” By being systematically left out of the housing market and opportunities by the FHA well into the 1960s, African-Americans were prevented from gaining equity in the same manner as white people. This has been one of the biggest contributors to the wealth gap between African-American families and white families, driven by the US government.
There is much more to be shared on how the FHA, the New Deal, and more have affected real estate for African-Americans, however the term “redlining” has an ugly past and should not be used in business today. After 5 years in sales, I know I personally have used this term frequently without relating it internally to the hateful policies of the past. I’m working hard to remove it from my vocabulary and the rest of our sales team is adopting this change as well. When working through contract negotiations with clients, we choose to refer to any changes on documents as either “edits” or “revisions” and are intentional about eliminating harmful language.
This is just one of the many vocabulary changes that are needed to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace. As we continue to learn and grow, we will share the work that we are doing! Please feel free to join the conversation with us and share the work that your organizations are doing as well.
Has your organization asked itself, what language could be changed to be more inclusive?
Language isn’t the only way that we can be better – check out our article on more ways to improve diversity and inclusion in your workplace. Start the conversation now and join us in making a brighter, more inclusive future.