Beryl Satter's Family Properties is really an incredible book. It is, by far, the best book I've ever read on the relationship between Blacks and Jews. That's because it's hones in on the relationship between one specific Black community and one specific Jewish community and thus revels in the particular humanity of all its actors. In going small, it ultimately goes big.

But the most affecting aspect of the book is the demonstration of the ghetto not as a product of a violent music, super-predators, or declining respect for marriage, but of policy and power. In Chicago, the ghetto was intentional. Black people were pariahs whom no one wanted to live around. The FHA turned that prejudice into full-blown racism by refusing to insure loans taken out by people who live near Blacks. 

Contract-sellers reacted to this policy and "sold" homes to Black people desperate for housing at four to five times its value. I say "sold" because the contract-seller kept the deed, while the "buyer" remained responsible for any repairs to the home. If the "buyer" missed one payment they could be evicted, and all of their equity would be kept by the contract-seller. This is not merely a matter of "Of." Contract-sellers turned eviction into a racket and would structure contracts so that sudden expenses guaranteed eviction. Then the seller would fish for another Black family desperate for housing, rinse and repeat. In Chicago during the early 60s, some 85 percent of African-Americans who purchased home did it on contract.

These were not broken families in need of a lecture on work ethic. These were Black people playing by the rules. And for their troubles they were effectively declared outside the law and thus preyed upon. 

Read it at The Atlantic.