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February Is Black History Month

Black History Month is an annual observance in the United States during the month of February to honor the contributions and accomplishments of African Americans throughout history. One aspect of African American history that is often overlooked is the housing discrimination that they have faced in Washington state and across the country.

Housing discrimination against African Americans has been a persistent problem in the United States, and Washington state is no exception. Throughout the 20th century, African Americans were often denied access to housing in white neighborhoods through a variety of discriminatory practices such as redlining and racial covenants. This prevented them from accessing the same opportunities and benefits as white residents, and contributed to the development of racially segregated neighborhoods. Additionally, housing is a key contributor to the persistence of the racial wealth gap and drives differences in economic security across groups.

In 1968, the Fair Housing Act was passed, which prohibited discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and familial status. However, housing discrimination against African Americans continues to this day, in the form of practices such as steering, where real estate agents steer African American homebuyers towards certain neighborhoods, and discriminatory lending practices that make it more difficult for African American borrowers to obtain mortgages. According to the Department of the Treasury in November of 2022:

"The benefits from homeownership have not been shared equally.  In the second quarter of 2022, the homeownership rate for white households was 75 percent compared to 45 percent for Black households, 48 percent for Hispanic households, and 57 percent for non-Hispanic households of any other race.  Like the overall racial wealth gaps, these gaps in homeownership rates have changed little over the last three decades.  In fact, the Black-white gap in homeownership rates was the same in 2020 as it was in 1970, just two years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which sought to end racial discrimination in the housing market."

Despite these challenges, African American residents of Washington state have made significant contributions to the state's history and culture. Many prominent African American leaders, such as civil rights activist James Washington, have called Washington state home. Additionally, many African American communities in Washington state, such as Seattle's Central District, have played a vital role in shaping the state's culture and economy.

In conclusion, Black History Month is an important time to reflect on the contributions of African Americans throughout history, including their struggles with housing discrimination. It is important to remember the ongoing impact of this discrimination and to work towards ensuring that all residents of Washington state have equal access to housing opportunities.