MKE FreshAir Collective

Structural Racism in Milwaukee

Redlining is a discriminatory practice that was widely used in the United States in the 20th century, particularly in the 1930s, in which banks and other lending institutions refused to provide loans and mortgage financing to residents of certain neighborhoods, usually minority and low-income communities. This was often based on the "residential security maps" created by the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) that rated neighborhoods based on perceived risk factors, such as the racial makeup of the neighborhood and its residents' income levels. The areas rated as the riskiest were often drawn in red, which is where the term "redlining" comes from.

In Milwaukee, redlining had a significant impact on the city's health outcomes. Neighborhoods that were redlined were often denied access to financial resources, which made it difficult for residents to invest in their homes, maintain safe and healthy living conditions, and improve their overall health. The lack of investment in these communities led to a decline in the quality of housing, with many homes becoming overcrowded, poorly maintained, and infested with pests.

Additionally, redlining also led to the lack of investment in essential infrastructure and services, such as parks, public transportation, and grocery stores, making it difficult for residents to access healthy food, participate in physical activity, and access health care services. This, in turn, contributed to higher rates of chronic diseases, such as asthma, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and other health problems in redlined communities.

Overall, redlining had a lasting impact on the health and well-being of residents in Milwaukee and other cities across the United States. The legacy of redlining continues to be felt today, with many of Milwaukee's Black and Latine populations and low-income communities still facing challenges in accessing quality housing, health care, and other essential services.

You can learn more about Milwaukee's history of redlining & segregation here. 

Home Owners' Loan Corporation graded neighborhoods in Milwaukee (1938).Source: National Archives

Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is the principle that all individuals and communities have the right to a safe and healthy environment, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, many communities of color and low-income communities have been disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards, including poor air quality.

Studies have shown that communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to live near sources of pollution, such as highways and factories, leading to higher levels of exposure to harmful pollutants. This exposure can have significant negative health impacts, including respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

To address these issues, it is essential that we work towards environmental justice and equity in our communities. This includes promoting policies and regulations that prioritize the health and well-being of all individuals and communities, regardless of their background.

We can also work towards reducing our personal emissions and promoting sustainable practices, such as using public transportation, biking or walking, and supporting renewable energy sources. Engaging in community outreach and activism is also important, as it allows us to raise awareness and advocate for change.

By working together towards environmental justice and equity, we can create a healthier and more sustainable future for all communities. Let us continue to prioritize the health and well-being of all individuals and work towards a more just and equitable society.