How Decades of Housing Discrimination Hurts Fresno in the PandemicWatch the video
ARCHIVAL (ABC30, 11-30-20):
DALE YURONG: Fresno county’s hospitalization rate is approaching levels we haven’t seen since July and August.
AMBER CROWELL (ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, FRESNO STATE UNIVERSITY): When the pandemic first started, what they told us was to shelter at home. So, that emphasizes how central the home is to keeping us safe from infection. So, when evictions start what’s going to happen is that people are going to have nowhere to go.
NARRATION: In cities like Fresno the threat of evictions has tenants on edge.
ARCHIVAL (ABC7, 4-20-20):
NEWS REPORT: And Velazquez says he told his landlord he couldn’t make his rent for the first time in four years.
NARRATION: Evictions happen at a higher rate in Fresno’s poorest neighborhoods, which are mostly populated by people of color. Despite a state-wide moratorium, some landlords are still finding legal causes to evict. And Fresno’s sheriff’s office is tasked with carrying out those orders.
SHERIFF’S DEPUTY (AT THE FRONT DOOR OF A HOME): Sheriff’s department lockout!
SGT. DAVID PUGLIESE (FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE): We only remove them from the residence, we don’t put them anywhere. Where they go is their choice. The challenges are always the kids…you see the looks on their faces, the disappointment on their faces as they’re being removed from the residences.
NARRATION: Sergeant David Pugliese patrols the streets of Fresno, where early data shows Hispanics have been getting COVID at higher rates than their white neighbors.
This is much as it was 100 years ago, when the 1918 flu pandemic came to town.
PAUL GILMORE: History is not repeating itself exactly, but it’s rhyming.
NARRATION: More than 600,000 Americans died nationwide. And in Fresno, during the height of that pandemic, records show an approximately 50 percent higher death rate overall for people of color, immigrants and their children than native-born white residents.
PAUL GILMORE (HISTORY INSTRUCTOR, FRESNO CITY COLLEGE): We can only really speculate as to why they died at one and a half times the rate. Perhaps, lack of access to health care. Perhaps, much more packed in neighborhoods. My guess is it’s a multifactoral thing. It’s the segregation, the nearness to polluting industries, so that maybe the symptoms of the flu would be worsened.
NARRATION: When the 1918 flu hit, Fresno’s communities of color were largely clustered in the city’s industrial southwest corner, beyond the railroad tracks. That same year, city government adopted a land use plan laid out by this map, which officially reserved the city’s south for heavy industry.
PAUL GILMORE: Even though there was no racial zoning, race and class kind of interacted there to create a situation in which the racial segregation was reinforced by industrial zoning, since those were some of the main jobs that people of color and immigrants and their children had.
NARRATION: The plan reinforced a longstanding pattern where people of color working industrial jobs and living in cheaper housing nearby would stay put in that part of town.
TANIA PACHECO-WERNER (CO-ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CENTRAL VALLEY HEALTH POLICY INSTITUTE): They thought out very carefully how they were going to build, where it was okay to build homes, where it was okay to build things like industry and that plan very much included that those undesirable places to live would also be the places where only minorities were allowed to live.
NARRATION: This pattern of exclusion intensified in the 1930s through a practice known as red-lining. Like many cities in the 1930s, banks discriminated against would-be home owners who weren’t white, and gave property owners in wealthier neighborhoods easier access to government-backed loans. This practice reinforced a cycle where new investment concentrated in predominantly white parts of town.
NARRATOR: This is Fresno, California. It is a center of influence for nearly one million people. Here, a model depicts Fresno tomorrow.
AMBER CROWELL: So, that landscape that was cemented by red-lining is what we see today but with a little more added on. As the city has expanded northward people of color have been left in West Fresno and South Fresno, while white families have fled north in a classic case of White Flight.
NARRATION: All of which laid the foundation for impacts being seen today.
SHERIFF’S DEPUTY (AT THE FRONT DOOR OF A HOME): Sheriff office lockout!
NARRATION: In Fresno, whether it’s a pandemic hitting the city or the unemployment and evictions coming in its wake, the severity of the crisis has a lot to do with which side of the color line you live on.
TANIA PACHECO-WERNER: You could overlay a heat map of where the cases are most concentrated in the city of Fresno today with that 1918 general plan map and see the same places being impacted.
PAUL GILMORE: The important historical question to ask, how today do you transform your own community politically so that you can get the resources you need, so that these kinds of disparities don’t happen? If you don’t transform your community then the same history is going to repeat itself again in the next pandemic and the next one and the next one.