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(en) US, Phoenix, Anarchist journal, Fires Never Extinguished - SOUTH OF WHITE PHOENIX By Jean Reynolds

Date Tue, 01 Jun 2010 09:14:26 +0300

How the North Was Won Why is it that such a large percentage of people of color live in south Phoenix? Is it because people just like to live with “members of their own race,” or are there deeper reasons? A look back at Phoenix history reveals that this segregation came about through government-supported policies. These policies upheld white privilege at the expense of Blacks, Chicanos, and other people of color. ---- Many of us have heard about segregation in the South. That kind of discrimination was practiced here, too. Prior to the 1950s, whites enforced total segregation of Blacks from Phoenix churches, schools, theaters, and restaurants. Similarly, residents of Mexican descent were forced
into the basements of churches, inferior schools, the balconies of theaters, and only allowed to swim in public pools or dance in popular dance halls one day a week. It was a taboo to cross Van Buren and enter the “north” part of Phoenix (except to work) until well
in the 1940s. Blacks and Chicanos were denied access to well-paying jobs. Instead, they often took menial jobs such as such as farmworkers, industrial and manual laborers, laundry workers, or as maids for middle-class or rich whites.

Drawing the color lines

But this kind of
segregation wasn't the only
kind of discrimination that
existed. Government
policies and local real
estate developers enforced
another kind of segregation
which kept southern Phoenix
black and brown, and north
Phoenix white. During the
1930s the federal
government created the Home
Owners' Loan Corporation
(HOLC), which mainly
provided financing for
homes and business loans.
Another program, the
Federal Housing
Administration (FHA),
F WHITE Pencouraged banks to lend
money to prospective home-
owners by offering
insurance on “approved”
What these programs meant
in reality was that many
white people in Phoenix
bought new homes while most
people of color continued
to live in substandard
housing. Why? because
both the HOLC and the FHA
relied on certain standards
to determine property
values. These standards
were based on the race and
class of the residents
living on the property.
This is how it worked:
HOLC appraisers surveyed
Phoenix to determine the
“security” of properties.
They crated a map, labeling
the best properties with an
“A” and the “hazardous”
properties with a “D”. The
appraisers relied on local
real estate standards to
grade the properties.
Local developers created
these standards by ranking
people eon a scale of
racial desirability. For
example, whites of northern
European descent were given
the highest rating, while
Blacks and Chicanos ranked
the lowest on the scale.
According to Phoenix real
estate guidelines, if a
non-white family moved into
a neighborhood north of Van
Buren, property values
would begin to decline.
Whites, on the other hand,
took full advantage of HOLC
and FHA programs to move
into better homes.

Inventing south Phoenix

South of Van Buren, most
neighborhoods were already
poor. Federal loan
programs and local banks
ensured they stayed that
way. Before someone could
get a loan to buy a house,
start a small business, or
improve her or his
property, their land had to
be appraised. The
appraisal was based on the
HOLC map. Residents of
these neighborhoods
couldn't get financial help
because they lived in areas
rated as “hazardous.”
Therefore, people of color
were not just excluded from
homes in north Phoenix
neighborhoods, they were
denied money for economic
growth and development in
their own communities. The
makings of a poor “south
Phoenix” had begun.
In the 1930s, “south
Phoenix” was defined as the
area between Van Buren and
north of the Salt River,
which is now considered
downtown. After World War
II, many Blacks and
Chicanos (and other poor
folks) began to move to
cheaper housing south of
the Salt River, which was
an agricultural area
outside the city limits
until 1960. This is the
area we now call “south
As we can see, “south
Phoenix” is not a fixed
geographical area but a
concept, defined as
wherever people of color
are concentrated. This
concept stillexists in
people's minds today and is
a direct result of federal
policies and local
practices that maintain
white privilege.

The next south Phoenix

Now the city is planning to
develop the Salt River area
– from 24th street to 19th
Avenues, from Baseline to
Buckeye. A plan called
“Beyond the Banks”
envisions a recreational
are, hotels, and other
dreams of grandeur. What
happens to all the poor,
mainly Chicano and Black
folks in these areas?
They'll have to be removed
if the city wants to
attract all those visitors
and businesses. So, again
the past, people of color
will be forced to live on
some other piece of land
unwanted by whites, perhaps
out of the city's
boundaries. When that
happens, yet another south
Phoenix will emerge.
Unless we do something to
stop it.
'North of White Phoenix'
originally appeared in the
Bring the Ruckus broadsheet
distributed in Phoenix in
April 1999.
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