Commentary: Devaluation of properties is driven by racism

Commentary: Devaluation of properties is driven by racism
February 15
02:00 2018

The Social Justice Committee of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston Salem & Vicinity still shares, and supports the continued outrage of mostly African-American residents whose properties we believe have been unfairly, and unjustly devalued by the Forsyth County Tax Administration office. Our contention is that the devaluation of those properties has little to do with the market, and is driven by systemic institutional racism instead.

The Winston-Salem City Council appealed to the Forsyth County Board of Equalization (BOA) regarding its questionable practices, and was essentially told their hands were tied by a state statute called the Schedule of Value (SOV) or law.

Historically African-Americans have been systemically, institutionally and intentionally disadvantaged by state laws and statutes since our arrival on slave ships. In North Carolina slavery was the law of the land until the Thirteenth Amendment of 1865, but states like North Carolina soon enacted draconian Black Codes that forced freedmen into involuntary servitude, and peonage, which remained the law of the land for nearly 100 years.

In 1830, N.C. state law prohibited anyone from teaching a slave to read or write, which was the law of the land. From the 1880s into the 1960s, legal segregation and discrimination was the law of the land. No right to vote or impediments to voting (literacy test/pole taxes/etc.) was once the law of the land. And every court that has heard the case regarding North Carolina’s current redistricting maps, which is the law of the land, has ruled that they are unconstitutional, and that the state legislature used “surgical like precision” to disenfranchise, and disparately impact minority communities.

The Board of Equalization’s (BOE) unwillingness to even consider a process that would not unfairly or adversely affect minority communities so negatively is tantamount to former [Alabama] Gov. George Wallace’s words at his 1963 inauguration speech: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

The Forsyth County Tax Administration office is using the Schedule of Value statute; the law of the land, as yet another tool to discriminate against mostly hard-working African-American citizens. It is a form of economic gerrymandering, robbing African-American communities of wealth.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., quoting a father of the Christian faith, St. Augustine, said in his letter from the Birmingham jail: “An unjust law is no law at all.”

We want thank the Winston-Salem City Council members for attempting to address this unjustifiable process. We also want to thank the Winston-Salem Human Relations Commission for reviewing this complaint.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has agreed to take over the investigation at this time, but we have reached a critical impasse. HUD has informed the Social Justice Committee that they need persons to come forward who have been actually harmed by this practice, and policy. We are in need of those who can actually articulate the kind of harm they have suffered.

We are hoping for a satisfactory resolution that remedies this morally egregious assault on the financial stability of the African-American communities of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

This piece was endorsed by the following: Bishop Todd L. Fulton, Ministers’ Conference of Winston Salem & Vicinity Social Justice Committee chairman; Rev. Alvin Carlisle,  Winston-Salem Branch NAACP president; and Dr. Dennis Leach Sr., Ministers’ Conference of Winston Salem & Vicinity Social Justice Committee member.

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