Black Lives Are Shorter in Chicago. My Family’s History Shows Why.

The New York Times

April 27, 2021

According to the 2019 report “The Plunder of Black Wealth in Chicago,” released by the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, this practice extracted between $3.2 billion and $4 billion from Chicago’s Black community. “The curse of contract sales still reverberates through Chicago’s Black neighborhoods (and their urban counterparts nationwide),” the report’s authors wrote, “and helps explain the vast wealth divide between Blacks and whites.” My mother recalls that her father was always terrified about missing a payment because he knew he could lose his building — and their home — at any time.

In 1953, my mother was attending the graduate school of social work at Loyola University, and doing her fieldwork in the psychiatric unit at Edward Hines Jr. V.A. Hospital. My dad, Andres Villarosa, was working as a bacteriologist at the same hospital and gave my mother a ride to work one day. They were married in 1954 and moved into a two-bedroom apartment on 64th and South Vernon, in a building owned by a friend of my grandmother’s not far from where my mother’s aunts and uncles lived. She couldn’t find the house when we visited. I pointed to a building with boarded-up windows, peeling paint on the trim and splintered steps leading to the doorway. “Mom, is that it?” She nodded.

My grandparents managed to hold onto their building, and in 1958 my grandmother persuaded my grandfather to buy another one; but this time they were able to get a real mortgage. In the early 1960s, after my sister and I were born, our family moved into the building on 75th and South Wentworth with our grandparents.