Borrowing While Black is a multi-disciplinary web-based learning environment established in response to the financial crisis and Great Recession of 2008. Despite the fact that the repercussions are global, there is a prevailing sense that the this crisis is fundamentally a housing and finance services affair; that it originated in the U.S subprime mortgage sector; and that subprime mortgages were systematically disproportionately concentrated in African American neighborhoods.

Borrowing While Black begins with a comprehensive understanding of events leading-up to the financial mortgage crisis. If we can comprehend what brought about the housing collapse and financial crisis, public policy responds can address possible solutions for moving forward.

Borrowing While Black builds upon the simple observation that race has historically and continues to be a significant factor in housing outcomes. For most borrowers the mortgage credit marketplace was highly competitive. The story was different for African American homeowners and traditional African American communities. Many of these borrowers, excluded from the credit mainstream turned to, or often steered into, marginal sources of credit in the “nonprime” or “subprime” lending market. In this respect, the same groups historically denied access to credit were now inundated with higher cost loan products that stripped equity, diminished wealth, and inevitably lead to soaring rates of home foreclosures and neighborhood-wide housing abandonment, a process often characterized as “redlining in reverse.”

Borrowing While Black provides a useful template for understanding the enduring significant of race by placing a spotlight on how large quantities of “toxic” mortgage products infiltrated African American neighborhoods and urban housing markets without financial regulatory supervision or governmental oversight. To the extent that home ownership is a vital aspect of wealth and financial stability, the steering of African American borrowers into higher cost mortgage products and the deeply troubling consequences it poses to African American borrowers and communities can be appropriately framed as a contemporary civil rights issue.