Stuff Black People Don’t like #43. The Reality of Prince George’s County

Stuff Black People Don’t like

#43. The Reality of Prince George’s County

In the United States, one city is known as the Black Mecca – Atlanta. Though the demographics are changing rapidly, the rampant corruption found throughout Hotlanta won’t go away anytime soon. A massive scandal in the city school system – led by Black principals – is threatening the accreditation of that district.

Once you go Black…

What other county in Georgia recently lost its accreditation? Clayton County, a once thriving suburb that is now the mortgage default capital of the United States:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s analysis of hundreds of thousands of county tax appraisals across metro Atlanta, compared with actual home sales prices, turned up an extraordinary phenomenon in Clayton: Of the 1,302 sales last year, 581 were “bank sales” — transactions in which a lender has taken back a home and resold it.

The county’s chief appraiser, Rodney McDaniel, said the declines in Clayton’s 2010 property valuations surprised even him.

“I didn’t think we could go much lower than we did last year,” McDaniel said. “But the foreclosure sales are really driving the assessments this year.”

For property owners, the plague of foreclosures has injected even more uncertainty into an uncertain market, particularly when it comes to county tax appraisals.

Clayton County is a Black county, run by Black people, who – upon taking power- fired all of the white police and had snipers on the roof of the police precinct as they were being escorted out. This was in 2007, an updated look at what Jim Crow must have been like only in reverse.

Atlanta is home to what many people claim to be the top county for Black people to live in, in all of America – DeKalb County. We have covered the status of that county before and, well, it’s not exactly a shining example of a thriving community.

Other majority Black areas (here is Wikipedia’s list of cities with the largest percentages of Black residents) fair about the same, with the sad news of Camden highlighting the growing problem of Black people relying on the government for jobs and what happens when the money runs out:

His family was a sample of the bloody consequences being felt in the Black and Hispanic families in minority communities throughout New Jersey as a result of the scorched earth policies of the Republican governor, and former New Jersey U.S. attorney.

Christie had suddenly transformed the streets and corridors of cities like Camden, Newark and Trenton into killing fields of minority dreams. Through his brutal programs Christie was rapidly shaping himself into a Republican and tea party presidential contender as well as a feared governor in New Jersey. He was considered by some in Camden to be a “bully,” using the weak to ram through his budget cuts.

The impoverished city of Camden, located in one of the wealthiest states in the nation, has long been a subject of futile revitalization efforts by a long line of Democratic and Republican governors before Christie. But now its head was on the chopping block along with the necks of numerous other urban areas.

Council President Frank Moran argues that the governor should give Camden authorization to implement a wage tax for the thousands of outside workers who come into the city each day to work at the numerous state, county, religious and nonprofit institutions. He said because of these facilities that are tenants in Camden, close to 56 percent of the city’s real estate is tax exempt, leaving the city with no way to expand its revenue income.

To make matters worse, much of the city’s shortfall resulted because Camden’s political establishment miscalculated pension obligations.

Moran points out Newark and other larger municipalities than Camden have wage taxes and that a special exception should be made for Camden because of all the governmental, religious and nonprofit facilities it hosts…

Moran suggested that Delgado and other Camden residents direct their protests to Gov. Christie. The price tag is $69 million in so-called “transitional aid.”

Williamson, leader of the rank and file of the police department, FOP said that the city as well as minorities were being made whipping boys by the Christie administration to make it appear that they are taking aggressive action and resorting to austere measures.

He said the cuts will only make the city’s plight worse by making outsiders afraid to come into the city to do business or set up business.

“The attack on public safety and the educational system will not make anyone more comfortable to move into the city to help jumpstart the city’s economy … It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that most of the cities hit are Black, Hispanic and Asian.”

It is sad that Camden is forced to make these cuts and that, like DeKalb and Clayton County, the citizens of the city have few businesses capable of squeezing taxes out of and few employment opportunities (save the post office, government and barber shops).

Perhaps Detroit provides the best glimpse of the future for these three areas with the city beginning a complete rollback of all government services (with a 25 percent graduation rate, the city schools long ago stopped providing academic services). A town without a major chain grocery store is being allowed to go back to the wild.

We’ve discussed Newark – a town that cherishes the celebrity of its mayor to bring in donations to keep that city solvent – but one area that has escaped an honest look at SBPDL is the penultimate Black place to live in America: Prince George’s County.

Prince George’s County epitomizes the problems that are obvious in the aforementioned cities (and ones found in the archives), but the primary problem afflicting the county is a reliance on high-paying government jobs to fund their version of the American dream. What happens when those jobs go away?

Sadly, the majority of residents in this thriving Black area rely on high interest home loans to fund their dream. These loans mean a lot of these residents are saddled with debt:

Residents of majority-black Prince George’s County are much more likely to be saddled with high-interest home loans than residents of predominantly white areas in the rest of the region, placing them at greater risk of financial distress and foreclosure.

About 43 percent of Prince George’s County residents who refinanced their homes in 2005 received high-cost loans, compared with 24 percent of homeowners regionwide, according to Federal Reserve data compiled for The Washington Post by the Consumer Federation of America. Similarly, 43 percent of people buying homes in the county in 2005 financed their purchases with high-cost loans, compared with 20 percent regionally.

High-cost loans are a large slice of the subprime mortgage market, called such because the loans’ terms are less desirable. Fears about escalating problems in the subprime market have shaken broader financial markets in recent days and raised concerns that if foreclosures rise significantly, it could hamper economic growth. The government defines high-cost loans as those with interest rates 3 percentage points or more above a certain market rate…

Housing and civil rights advocates have long said that blacks are pushed to costly loans by mortgage brokers who mislead them into believing those are the only loans they can qualify for.

“It’s sad, but I’m not surprised,” Hilary Shelton, director of the Washington bureau of the NAACP, said of the Prince George’s data. “It’s the same issue all over the country.”

Lending industry trade groups deny race is the only reason for high rates. Doug Duncan, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association, said people pay more for loans if they have poor credit, large student loans or want to make a lower down payment. Wright Andrews, a lobbyist for subprime lenders, has acknowledged differences between loan rates but has blamed them on underlying “economic disparities.”
Industry officials have acknowledged that predatory lending exists and have urged uniform national lending laws.

People can find themselves with high-cost loans for many reasons. Prince George’s County is the nation’s wealthiest majority-black jurisdiction, and housing costs there are high. If homeowners also have high car payments, student loans or credit card balances, that could raise their debt-to-income ratio, forcing them into costly loans. Overspending or paying bills late can also hurt people’s credit.

Credit and credit standards are both included in SBPDL (along with paying back student loans, both upcoming entries) and maintaining good credit to ensure that home loan rates will be low is a risky, acting white proposition. Paying bills in a timely manner is a move that only the token Black dares make, thus why the mortgage crisis has been a minority fueled meltdown.

In a country governed by the rules of Black Run America (BRA), forcing Black people to take riskier loans because they have, on average, worse credit scores and represent a higher probability of defaulting on loans is merely perpetuating racism:

“Federal officials launched an investigation Wednesday to determine whether 22 mortgage lenders have been discriminating against qualified African-American and Latino borrowers by denying them government-insured loans.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said the inquiry is in response to complaints filed Tuesday by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition accusing 22 banks nationwide of violating fair housing laws.

The coalition said the lenders denied Federal Housing Administration-insured loans to borrowers with credit scores that met the federal standard of 580 to be eligible for the insurance against default, but the lenders set higher credit score thresholds.

The Washington-based NCRC claims those requirements disproportionately harm black and Hispanic communities, since many minority borrowers’ credit scores fall between the federal threshold of 580 and the higher benchmarks set by the banks.”

We have seen the future and it will be. The mortgage crisis brought on by aggressive attempts to increase home ownership to Black people and the subsequent failure of these same Black people to pay the mortgages (many times with no down payments, low interest rates and small monthly payments) is actually the fault of evil white male bankers, who were secretly plotting to bring down AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.

Now these banks are being sued by Black people, whose poor credit regrettably made them ineligible for low-risk loans.

Tea Party enthusiasts must understand that the principles they promote run directly anathema to those of BRA. There is a reason the Tea Party is monochromatic; a lot of Black people rely on the state for their well being. Cutting that off, as we see in Camden, is grounds for nothing but nasty words toward the Republican governor of the state.

Prince George’s County, long the destination of mobile Black people, relies on a steady supply of government jobs to maintain the growth and keep its citizens employed. Even this isn’t enough:

“Back in the 1970s, Woodley Timberlake was part of the mass migration of black Washingtonians to Prince George’s County, an exodus fueled by the quest for the American dream — a home with a back yard, quality schools and a safe neighborhood.

Timberlake, now 65 and a retired federal worker, felt proud as blacks captured political and economic power in the once-majority-white county. But two years ago, when his daughter and her husband planned to return to the area with their baby girl, Timberlake urged them to move to a safe community with good public schools — not Prince George’s. His daughter chose Fairfax County.

A generation ago, civic leaders and scholars cast Prince George’s as a rising mecca for middle-class African Americans, a place where they could pursue an affluent suburban lifestyle that had long been the province of whites…

Prince George’s is also recovering from a recession that has driven foreclosures to the highest levels in Maryland. Although county leaders are hopeful about rising math and reading test scores and last year’s dramatic decrease in crime, Prince George’s public schools remain among the worst-performing in Maryland, and the number of homicides, robberies and car thefts rank near the top in the state.”

Cities rise and fall. They can be burned to the ground, rebuilt and a mighty conflagration can bring ruin yet again. But once a city changes hands from the population that built and sustained it, and turned over to a different population, the results are simply as outlined above.

Mall envy exists for a reason. Public transportation is failing for a reason. And a lack of retailers in predominately Black areas happens for a reason:

Prince George’s County – sometimes derisively abbreviated as “PG” – is the undisputed Mecca of the Black middle class.  It holds the largest concentration of affluent and educated African Americans in the nation, well ahead of Black cultural hot spots like Atlanta, Philadelphia or Chicago.  Income is high due to a settled federal workforce in a Washington, D.C. suburb and countless government contractors with job stability.  In recent years, before recession took hold, Prince George’s County was in the midst of economic revival from the explosion of town centers showing off name brand retailers to the ambitious development of an awe-inspiring National Harbor on the Potomac.  It is where many professional Black folks move.

Most recently, Prince George’s finally got its wish: the opening of a brand new, fully-stocked Wegmans grocery store.  Residents had, understandably, complained for years about the lack of prominent, organic food retailers in the county, citing a pattern of racial redlining that forced the county’s majority Black population to travel miles into predominantly White counties to shop at spots like Whole Foods, Wegmans and others.

When the County seemed to move forward, even as unemployment and foreclosures gripped it, news of an unfolding political scandal took it two steps backward.  Federal prosecutors accuse County Executive Jack Johnson of engineering sophisticated kickback schemes with various developers and businesses in the county.  It got worse when Johnson and his wife were caught on wiretap allegedly flushing a $100,000 check down the toilet when FBI agents knocked on the door of their Mitchellville home.  Leslie Johnson, federal court documents allege, stuffed nearly $80,000 in her bra.

It tells you all you need to know about the state of Black America when the top county for Black people (Prince George’s) can’t even get a major retailer to set up shop within its borders. It tells you something about the state of Black America when the top Black county has a population with such poor overall credit that special loans had to be made in an effort to ensure home ownership in the first place.

It tells you all you need to know about the state of Black America when Prince George’s has schools that consistently put up poor marks and ranks as one of the worst academically in all of Maryland.

Poverty isn’t the cause of crime, though conversely, a cities well-being does reflect its demographics.With segregation at a purported all-time low, one would expect a nation living in harmony. Such is not the case. Stuff White People Like (SWPL) white people live highly segregated lives far away from Black people.

Here is an awesome Web site that breaks down the top cities for SWPL white people and points out how few Black people are to be found.

Black areas – as we have learned today – aren’t a hotbed for thriving economies.

In many cities, Black people rarely live in areas with white people.

So here is the ultimate question we can ask from the information available to us: does a majority Black city or county exist that is thriving? If not, is this why cities or counties that see massive white flight eventually turn into facsimiles of Clayton County?

As the nation becomes increasingly brown, white people surreptitiously look for areas with little diversity. Mobile Black people look for safe places to raise families and frequently select former whitopia’s.

In time, those whitopia’s become just as unappealing as the cities those mobile and economically viable Black people escaped from, only perpetuating the cycle of ruination.

Perhaps this is why that joke from The Boondock Saints resonates so deeply

Stuff Black People Don’t Like includes the reality of Prince George’s County. If the best county for Black people in America isn’t that different from a place like Clayton County, then what does that truly mean?

Watch a video on Prince George’s County here.

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