THE “new” N.N.I.M.B.Y.

Lafe Tolliver

By Lafe Tolliver, Esq
Guest Column

One of the lasting legacies of systemic racial bias is in the debate about who lives where and what “color” they should be, or not be.

Residential patterns of deliberate and intentional racial segregation are hundreds of years old in both the conception and the judicial enforcement of Race-based housing developments.

The federal government and its lending agencies were prime culprits in making and enforcing policies that if lenders were to lend mortgage monies to minorities to live in integrated neighborhoods, the financial backing of those mortgages would not be insured.

This federal mandate of N.N.I.M.B.Y. (now stands for: No Negroes In My Back Yard) skyrocketed when WWII was over, and the returning GIs were seeking housing that required a little or no down payment.

The famed Levittown Housing in New York was a symbol of the then practically all white federal government and its agencies making sure that white families were spared the “anguish” of having to share the same neighborhood space with people of color.

Black families during the 1930s and onward were systematically denied federally insured loans for housing and were forced by necessity to inhabit fewer desirable areas for housing.

Areas that were built on landfills, near power plants, dump sites or by smoke belching factories spewing polluted air into their homes while white families could pick and choose their Camelot.

The book, The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, gives a nuanced look into the federal and state programs that were devised by white bureaucrats to make sure that no one with a first name like DeMarcus or Lakeisha would be allowed to rest their nappy heads in a house considered by mortgage lenders and banks to be in “their spaces.”

The continuing effects of these rigid lines of demarcation between the ethnic groups as to where they would set up their Christmas tree in the living room are still with us.

When you examine such cities as Detroit, Chicago, Boston or Los Angeles, the early housing maps show graphic images of “redlining” and which policies created many of our present day “ghettoes” or “inner cities.”

Time will not allow to discuss the concept of “sundown towns” in which and by which, if you were Black and were caught in certain cities, both North and South, after the sun went down, your life was hanging in the balance.

To say the least, White America was not then and is not now very fond of sharing prime living space with people of color; and when Black people buy houses in an aggregate number, you will see the beginnings of panic selling and white flight to the suburbs and exurbs.

In a nutshell, White Americans then and now have decided that they choose not to live with “others” and especially when those “others” have been wrongly depicted as being bearers of crime and the primal cause of property values to plummet when it comes time to sale.

In Toledo, there is a scrum about whether market rental property (not Section 8 units…substantial difference!) will be built in the Southland Shopping Center.

The specter of hordes of Black people congregating in those units sends the “heebie-jeebies” into white folks living in and around that area; and who have corrupt visions of cars without mufflers, hip hop music blaring out of apartment windows and slow-moving dark window tinted cars cruising around looking for buyers of dope.

Toledo, like many urban areas, has an educational problem in which no one wants to confront the raging bull in the tea parlor, and which is: What are the real concerns of those who object to DeMarcus and My’namisha living next door to them if they can afford the rental or pay the mortgage?

Toledo residents may want to consign such beneficial housing programs to certain districts in the city and which is translated: keep that type of housing away from me and mine and built it where such units already exist.

The Department of Neighborhoods have an extraordinary job on their hands if they and The Fair Housing Center want to undertake the task of educating people that such housing is not the boogeyman that they have been taught that it is.

If choice of housing is not dependent on one’s income, then all areas of Toledo and the surrounding areas are open for settlement. However, if it is a question of income, then that problem can be quickly resolved by White America not engaging in job discrimination and wage disparities so that

anyone qualified for the house of their choice can afford it.

A point should be made that the needed moral leadership on this sensitive topic should also include clergy and the churches who are not terrified of offending their race conscious congregants, by preaching a gospel of inclusion…housing included.


Contact Lafe Tolliver at