Protesters in Chicago shut down several Chase Banks across the city this week. These demonstrations are an attempt to draw attention to Chase’s discriminatory lending practices. Activists are now demanding that the bank rectify years of exclusionary lending by investing in Chicago’s black communities.
Modern Day Redlining
WBEZ Chicago and City Bureau have reported shocking disparities in lending by JPMorgan Chase. The following are the major findings from these reports about Chase’s history in Chicago:
JPMorgan Chase lent 41 times more money to white neighborhoods than black neighborhoods. According to WBEZ, Chase has given out $7.5 billion in home purchase loans in Chicago since 2012. But just 1.9% of that money went to majority-black neighborhoods.
The bank loaned nearly nine times more in a single majority-white community (Lake View on the North Side) than it did in all of the city’s majority-black neighborhoods combined.
68.1% of the dollars lent for purchasing houses went into predominantly white areas. 8.7% went into majority-Latino areas and only 8.1% went to majority-black areas. But black Americans make up 30% of Chicago’s population.
All of this is part of a practice known as redlining. Starting in the early twentieth century, banks would determine which neighborhoods in a city were the “least risky” and which were “high risk.”
All-white neighborhoods were deemed the least risky. This meant that residents had no trouble attaining loans to develop or buy a property. Predominantly black neighborhoods, however, were deemed high-risk and were highlighted in red on lending maps. (Hence the term redlining).
As a result, while white families were able to develop inter-generational wealth through property ownership. While black communities were left to live in poverty. Purchasing or developing profitable homes or businesses in these redlined districts was virtually impossible.
While the government banned overt redlining during the Civil Rights Movement, the above figures prove that such exclusionary lending practices persist. Furthermore, the residual consequences of twentieth-century redlining manifest in the racial and financial segregation that still exists in the city today.
Addressing the Inequity
Ja’Mal Green, a 24-year-old civil rights activist and former mayoral candidate, declared on Monday that Chase branches in Chicago would face massive protests if the bank did not take immediate action to mitigate racial disparities.
In the following days, demonstrations outside Chase branches have led to at least seven branches shutting down. “We will shut down every branch in the South Side and West Side of Chicago until Chase wants to do business with us,” Green said.
Activists are demanding $1 billion in grants for black homebuyers and small business owners. They have also called for $10 billion to cover a home mortgage, small business, and investment loans in black communities.
And while Chase announced that several branches would close early on Friday in recognition of Juneteenth, Green and his fellow demonstrators view the move as little more than a PR stunt. Real progress will result from authentic structural change.