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GREENWOOD Dist.–The Justice Department announced on Monday it has reached a $1 million settlement with American Bank of Oklahoma over allegations that it engaged in a pattern or practice of lending discrimination by redlining Black and Hispanic communities in Tulsa.

Redlining refers to decades-old racist practice in which banks refuse to provide credit services to neighborhoods based on race, ethnicity, skin color or national origin. According to a DOJ press release, the affected areas that American Bank of Oklahoma redlined include Historic Greenwood District, home to the original Black Wall Street.

“Providing equal access to credit is essential in every community, but the painful history of Tulsa makes this agreement particularly poignant because the redlined areas include historically Black neighborhoods that have endured the legacy of racial violence and the continuing effects of segregation and discrimination,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

A century after the worst racial domestic terror attack against a thriving Black community, powerful entities continue to be accused of systemic racism against majority-Black and Hispanic communities, including the descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

According to the complaint, which was filed in federal court on Monday, August 28, American Bank of Oklahoma failed to provide mortgage lending services to majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Tulsa metropolitan area from 2017 to at least 2021.

American Bank of Oklahoma settles for over $1 million after being accused of redlining Tulsa

As part of the agreement, which must still be approved by a court, American Bank of Oklahoma has agreed to invest over $1.15 million to increase credit opportunities in neighborhoods of color in the Tulsa metropolitan area. 

The impact of redlining goes beyond finances.

Black adults who live in zip codes that were formerly redlined by U.S. banks are 8% more likely to develop heart failure than Black Americans in non-redlined areas, according to a study published this year in the American Heart Association’s scientific journal Circulation. While American Bank of Oklahoma has agreed to invest in the communities it redlined, it’s unclear just how severe the bank’s systemically racist actions will impact the residents living there today.

In a state whose leaders demonize diversity, equity and inclusion in education, American Bank of Oklahoma’s actions appear in lockstep with the racist status quo.

The bank will invest at least $950,000 in a loan subsidy fund for residents of majority-Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the Tulsa area; $100,000 for advertising, outreach, and consumer education; and $100,000 for development of community partnerships to provide services that increase access to residential mortgage credit, according to the DOJ.

Bank damages reputation after redlining

In addition, American Bank of Oklahoma will open a new community-oriented loan production office in historically Black North Tulsa. The agreement also includes a plan for American Bank of Oklahoma to host at least six consumer financial education seminars per year, with translation and interpretation services in Spanish. A new, full-time director of community lending will oversee the projects in North and east Tulsa.

The settlement comes years after the DOJ received a referral from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. American Bank of Oklahoma has cooperated with the investigation, the DOJ stated.

It marks a significant investigation as part of the DOJ’s Combating Redlining Initiative to address lending discrimination across the nation.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Bank of Oklahoma (BOK). That is an entirely separate bank. This journalist apologizes for the error.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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