Intriguing exploration of the social construct of “home” and its relevance to gender rights and racial equality.
Hill (Social Policy, Law, Women’s Studies/Brandeis Univ.; Speaking Truth To Power, 1997) fuses elements of memoir, legal studies, history and polemic in this compact work. She suggests that the ongoing housing crisis is the latest cruel twist upon the celebrated “American dream” of home ownership, and “a tragic turning point in the search for equality in America”. Hill examines a variety of narratives, including her own family history as the great-granddaughter of a slave. This leads to a chilling account of the lynching era in the Jim Crow South, which ironically strengthened black communities, who “shared a collective interest in avoiding racial violence.” The author emphasizes the transformative roles of African-American women, who felt compelled to “establish their place in the communities where they settled, and thereby advance the race.” While early black leaders like Booker T. Washington stressed the connections between achieving a home and a fuller citizenship for blacks in the early 20th century, suffragists like Nannie Burroughs were criticized for “promoting black women’s independence from black men.” But Hill looks as far back in American history as Abigail Adams to underscore that American women’s understanding of the potency of home as a space for protection and social advancement transcended color and class. Yet this seemingly remained out of reach; Hill notes, for example, how the New Deal’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation actually “gave its financial blessing to segregated neighborhoods,” and how “postwar housing policies... affirmed racial segregation and the cult of domesticity.” The author examines disgraceful attempts by Wells Fargo and other banks to promote high-risk subprime home loans in beleaguered minority communities.
Thoughtful and disturbing examination of slippery ideas, rendered in powerful prose.