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How neighborhoods became segregated: 'Undesign the Redline' exhibit reopens

Redlining, some call it a blueprint for systemic racism
Posted at 6:41 PM, Sep 14, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — From quotes to photos and old maps, the history of redlining can be seen in an art exhibit at the Union of Contemporary Art.

"We had two enemies: the anti-war left and Black people. We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we knew we could disrupt those communities," said the late John Ehrlichman, a top advisor to President Richard Nixon.

'Undesign the Redline' takes you back to the beginning. How some of the neighborhoods of Omaha's near north and south sides were systematically segregated from the rest of the city by means of prohibitive and discriminatory home lending practices, disguised with coded racial language.

"There is a history of allowing banks to lend to certain individuals. When you translate that, it means basically picking winners and losers in a community and a city, based on things like race, that also tend to overlap with undesirable parts of the city, which is the epitome of institutionalized racism," said Rachel Gibson, Director of Education Policy, League of Women Voters.

Some would call it the blueprint. Here in black and white, or red and white, you can see how Redlines were literally drawn on city maps by the federally funded Home Owners's Loan Corporation. It identified predominantly African-American and immigrant communities and hazardous and unfit for investment.

The history of redlining is not taught in most schools, even during Black History Month. When you know the history of a people, you can better understand them and work with them to bring about change.

'Undesign the Redline' opens up discussions about race, wealth, opportunity and power in an honest context that is not about guilt or blame.

"I am a military brat. I learned that America is great, patriotism, freedom, and fairness and then I learned about all this. But I get hope from at every point people are fighting back and working for justice and working for fairness. That is more of the American spirit, this isn't fair but how can we include everyone," said Alexzia Plummer, a tour guide at the Union of Contemporary Art.

"We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did," said Ehrlichman.

The display is about educating and uniting.

The Union for Contemporary Art is open Wednesday through Sunday.
They are located at 2423 N. 24th St.
(402) 933-3161

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