Institutional Racism

Portion of the 1936 redlining map of Seattle

The CHOP, or Capitol Hill Organized Protest (zone), has been dismantled, but the demand and need for racial equality and justice remain. In this article, we take a look at six specific examples of institutional racism that have been practiced in Seattle and around the United States. These practices have shaped our neighborhoods and society into what they are today.

Redlining – The denial of services based on location, particularly the outright rejection of mortgage applications for homes in minority neighborhoods. The word redlining comes from the practice of outlining neighborhoods characterized as financially risky in red. Common from the 1930s to the mid-1970s, redlining continues to make headlines to this day.


1936 redlining map

1936 neighborhood map with three D area descriptions


Racial steering – Guiding clients to or away from specific neighborhoods on the basis of race, a practice that increased racial segregation. Civil rights acts of the 1860s and 1870s had little effect and were updated with the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which included the Fair Housing Act.

Blockbusting – A lucrative practice of making white homeowners believe that racial minorities would be moving into the neighborhood. Real estate agents and developers might, for example, hire a black woman to stroll down the street with a baby carriage. Homes would be bought at low cost and then sold to minorities at a higher price.

Racial disinvestment – Withholding investment in an area based on race. In Seattle, a 1974 study showed that most banks had failed to make even a single loan to redlined areas over the previous four years even though redlining had been made illegal.

Racial covenants – A provision restricting home ownership to white people or excluding certain racial or religious minorities from ownership. In response to a 1917 Supreme Court outlawing racial residency statutes, white homeowners and real estate agencies began placing racial covenants on home titles. A 2018 Washington State law allows homeowners to strike such covenants from their home titles.

Reverse redlining – A practice in which minorities are targeted with offers of mortgages and other financial products that incur a higher interest rate or are otherwise inferior to products offered to white people. Common in the 2000s.


For more than 75 years, RJRE has supported equality for all. Together we can make the world a better place.

Other sources and further reading:

Map and selected D area descriptions: Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, Home Owners’ Loan Corporation Security Map and Area Descriptions, January 10, 1936, Security Map and p 6

Brentin Mock, Mapping the Continuing Culture of Disinvestment in Baltimore’s Black Neighborhoods, November 18, 2015

Catherine Silva, Racial Restrictive Covenants History, 2009

Central Seattle Community Council Federation, Redlining and Disinvestment in Central Seattle: How the Banks are Destroying our Neighborhoods, July 1975 [PDF]

FreeCapitolHill, The Demands of the Collective Black Voices at Free Capitol Hill to the Government of Seattle, Washington, June 9, 2020

Khristopher J Brooks, Redlining’s legacy: Maps are gone, but the problem hasn’t disappeared, June 12, 2020

Patrick Rucker, Trump Financial Regulator Quietly Shelved Discrimination Probes Into Bank of America and Other Lenders, July 3, 2020

Seattle Municipal Archives, Redlining in Seattle, [undated]

Tim Hill (compiler), Redlining Notebook, 1975–1977

Tunde Wey, Detroit’s Divided Renaissance, November 20, 2017

Wikipedia articles: Exclusionary Zoning, Civil Rights Act of 1968

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