The American banking industry has long been accused of discriminating against blacks in home mortgage lending, a perception reinforced by new Federal Reserve Board data which the Fed itself warns may be inconclusive. Bankers will protest, perhaps protest too much, but the end result may yet serve a useful social purpose.
Historically, there can be no doubt that African Americans have faced unfair obstacles in their upward quest to become homeowners. Presently there can be no denying that discrimination still exists and, in the words of a Fed official, it is "very worrisome." However raw and simplistic the statistics may be, they show that blacks nationwide are more than twice as likely as whites to be rejected for mortgages. Indeed, upper-income blacks have had less success than lower-income whites.
Since passage of the Community Reinvestment Act in 1977, government regulators have been charged with assessing not only a bank's economic performance but how readily it makes funds available to minorities. Then, two years ago, Congress put more teeth in the law by insisting on racial data that now are part of the public record.