In My President Was Black, Ta-Nehisi Coates ably documents the material and representational advances of the past eight years. But any rendering of Barack Obama’s legacy is incomplete without including his failure to arrest the foreclosure crisis, or to hold anyone accountable for the widespread damage it inflicted. In fact, reading Coates’ hymn to the Obama era, I couldn’t stop thinking about a different Chicago resident I met this year.
I was in St. Louis, giving a talk for a book I wrote about the foreclosure crisis. The skies erupted minutes before the event, and few battled the rainstorm to join the audience. But when I opened it up for questions, Andy Williams Jr., dreadlocks scraping his shoulders, stood up and said, “David, you are a hard man to find.” Williams drove five hours that day, from Chicago to St. Louis, to tell me about his 11-year foreclosure ordeal, initiated, he claimed, after his loan servicer misapplied his payments, charged illegal fees, and fraudulently placed him into homeowner’s insurance when he already had it.
A paralegal, Andy started collecting stories of the servicer’s tactics, compiling them into an as-yet-unpublished 200-page book. He not only fought his own case—it’s still in federal court—but he helped grow six law firms in the Chicago area, to protect others at risk of dispossession. It’s an uphill battle. “I just don’t think a borrower will ever have a real chance of justice or leveling the playing field,” Andy told me last week.
– The Atlantic