Kim Bellware -Huff Post Black Voices
CHICAGO — Della King didn’t know what she had missed until her husband revealed his most cherished boyhood memory: his parents cheering for him while he played little league baseball.
“[My parents] never showed up for sporting events because they always had to work; my parents had to pay the mortgage,” King, 47, told The Huffington Post. “I never knew parents showed up for those things.”
King’s parents were members of the Contract Buyer’s League, a group of black homeowners in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. The group formed in 1968 to fight discriminatory real estate practices aimed at segregating America’s post-war communities and driving African-American homeowners into predatory lending schemes.
Ethel Weatherspoon, King’s mother, is among the league’s surviving members, and was recently interviewed by Ta-Nehisi Coates for his powerful Atlantic cover story, “The Case For Reparations.” The 16,000-word American history lesson argues that the United States has systematically robbed black Americans, and should now pay them back. While a common assumption is that reparations would address years of slavery, Coates also traces the lineage of slavery to Jim Crow and later, subtler forms of institutional racism, which ultimately shut off the prime route to middle-class wealth for many African Americans.
King said that she had never given much thought to the idea of reparations before accompanying her mother to Coates’ interview. In hindsight, she now sees how her parents’ struggle depleted not only their energy and their bank account but their ability to witness even the most average of childhood experiences — like playing in baseball games.
“It’s getting overwhelming now, thinking of all the things I missed,” she said.
Weatherspoon, 74, told HuffPost she and her husband maintained a back-breaking work schedule to keep up with payments on their home. Like so many of their neighbors, the Weatherspoons were victims of “redlining,” a federal housing practice that all but guaranteed middle-class, metro-dwelling black families would be unable to secure a normal loan. Instead, they were left with the wildly unstable option of buying a home from a contract seller, a practice that involved exorbitant fines and the threat that they’d lose the property entirely if they missed even a single payment.
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