On Monday, March 29th, 2021, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported nuanced racial disparities in San Diego’s policing by its two central law enforcement agencies: the Police and Sheriff’s Departments. Blacks, who make up only about 6% of the city’s population, are stopped at least once every five times Police stops. They are also more likely to be searched – although the rate of being found with contraband is much lower among Blacks than Whites. Again, they face higher chances of arrest, along with other minorities: Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Latinos.
Although the Police and Sheriff’s department have taken some steps to win the trust of Minorities in recent times – and particularly after George Floyd – community leaders believe that these agencies are yet to make any radical changes to close the disparity and end their deplorable bias.
However, Jeffrey Jordan, the San Diego Police Captain, on his part claimed that external factors were more to be blamed for the racial disparities in policing rather than bias. In addition to criminal activity and mental illness, according to him, such external factors included homelessness.
There might be some truth to his statement, as blacks have perpetually faced much higher incidences of homelessness, which is undoubtedly traceable to racial discrimination in the housing sector.
Black Homelessness and Fair Housing in San Diego
For generations – tracing back to the days of well institutionalized black discrimination in the US – inequity in access to housing has aided and abetted Black homelessness in San Diego County and around the country.
As revealed by the 2019 homeless census, a sweeping 22% of homeless people in the County are Blacks, although they make up only 6% of its total population as has been mentioned. Thus, there are five times more blacks without homes than is to be expected given the population quota. That still reflects the national statistics, where Blacks make up 4 out of 10 homeless persons, though the overall Black population is only 13%.
And when it comes to the rates of homeownership, blacks continue to lag behind their white counterparts. According to Redfin, less than 33% of Black families were homeowners when compared to 61% of White families.
Besides, Black families record lower incomes and face more struggles with poverty. While 13% of the County’s population is counted as poor, almost one-quarter of the Black population is steeped in poverty. That is a serious contributing factor to the unequal access to housing opportunities.
Direct racial discrimination in housing is also a factor. According to San Diego’s Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice published by the County in May 2020, certain indices reveal that issues related to fair housing affect some racial/ethnic groups disproportionately. For instance, although Black residents were not up to 4.1% in the population of urban centers the CSA serves, they totaled 10% of their fair housing clients.
Also, Blacks continued to experience massive discrepancies in the rate at which loans are approved compared to other ethnic groups, and they obtain higher-priced loans more frequently.
Again, the Fair Housing Audit Testing provided in the report showed significant numbers of differential treatment cases based on race, up to 8% in cities like San Marcos.
Although the Police Captain shifted some proportion of the blame in the racial discrepancies in policing to homelessness, racial disparity in law enforcement also lends weight to the crisis in Black communities. More frequent police encounters and higher rates of imprisonment than Whites or Latinos affect their criminal history, which, in turn, affects fair housing opportunities.
This month of April is the nation’s Fair Housing Month, a season for all stakeholders to renew their commitment to equitable access to housing, as we commemorate the Fair Housing Act passed in 1968. Equal housing opportunities are a fundamental right of every San Diegan. All parties – including law enforcement agencies – must reexamine the roles they play in reinforcing underlying factors responsible for housing discrimination primarily against Blacks in the County.
Now is not the time for shifting blames; this is the moment for honest self-reflection.