MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It was a story that may have gone unnoticed by many Memphians. But it has major significance in the never-ending fight for equal opportunity and equal access for everyone.
Last Friday, as most of us were ready for the weekend, the U.S. Justice Department announced a lawsuit and consent agreement involving Trustmark National Bank. The suit accused the bank of discriminating against Black and Hispanic residents by essentially refusing to provide home loans in minority neighborhoods. The practice is commonly known as redlining – and is illegal under the Fair Housing Act.
But from 2014 to 2018, the Jackson, Mississippi-based bank went out of its way to avoid offering loans to people of color – preferring to do business in majority white neighborhoods. Rather than contest the charges, Trustmark has agreed to spend more than $4 million to increase credit opportunities in Black and Hispanic communities. The bank will also pay $5 million in penalties – and make other changes to increase equal opportunity lending.
This case also raises the broader issue that racial discrimination remains alive and well in our society. Despite what some people say, that systemic racism no longer exists, this lawsuit and consent agreement completely undermine that argument. Thankfully, we now have a justice department that is willing to aggressively fight racial bias, and we must continue to expose this and other types of discrimination when they raise their ugly heads.