How Blockbusters Exploited Racism For Profit

Fair housing protest in Seattle, Washington, 1964
Cydney Smith
February 20, 2020

The Great Migration of the early 20th century saw millions of Black families move to the North for greater opportunity. Many laid roots in Chicago, forced into segregated, overcrowded, and neglected neighborhoods by racist policies. 

Where else could they go?

Without much choice, some folks had to seek housing outside of Black residential zones - and greedy, white real estate agents, known as “blockbusters,” took advantage of America’s racism in a vile way.

Using Black people as pawns, they spread fear throughout white neighborhoods that the “Negroes” were coming. Many blockbusters even HIRED financially-strapped Black people to walk through white enclaves, pretending to be homebuyers!

Racial fear led white homeowners to hastily sell their properties cheap, just to get away from Black folks. But real estate agents weren’t done exploiting racism, yet.

After enlisting their help, blockbusters charged Black homebuyers - who had scarce housing options, already - EXCESSIVE prices for the exact same properties they’d cheaply bought!

Racism for these real estate agents kept money flowing into their pockets. Perpetuating and exploiting it was GOOD for business. And it remains good for business today.

Homeownership is the most reliable pathway to wealth in America. But with discrimination like this, Black folks have been - and continue to be - blocked from homeownership, building wealth, and building a stronger Black community.

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