"The color of the law" - the creation of a segregated society

Published: 12/06/2021 4:00:40 PM Modified: 12/06/2021 16:00:12 For many years, I worked in Boston social housing with teams of resi...



Published: 12/06/2021 4:00:40 PM

Modified: 12/06/2021 16:00:12

For many years, I worked in Boston social housing with teams of residents, community organizations, social housing staff, and other faculty to reduce and eliminate the many triggers that caused the rates of City’s highest asthma and asthma attacks.

Living and working in the heart of the city’s neighborhoods, I was keenly aware of the apartheid nature of public and residential housing (Black Roxbury, White South Boston, white gentrification beyond the once interracial South End and white suburbs).

I knew the mid-twentieth century ‘white flight’ model from urban neighborhoods to the suburbs, encouraged by money-hungry realtors, and the ‘red line’ – realtors and banks refusing to show or to show up. offer mortgages to qualified African American buyers. in white neighborhoods.

Both have fostered toxic racial segregation in our cities and metropolitan areas. But I only recently learned that it was one of the many driving forces behind our national black-white segregation. Systematic and forceful racist government policies, from the turn of the 20th century, formed the basis of black ghettos and white suburbs.

The Federal Housing Administration created during the New Deal forced the newly built suburbs to be racially exclusive by guaranteeing white-only mortgages. State courts have agreed to restrictive covenants excluding blacks from certain neighborhoods and ordering the eviction of African-American residents from designated white neighborhoods.

Churches, universities and hospitals have supported restrictive covenants in their surroundings to keep their neighborhoods white, but they never lost their tax-exempt status. Federal and state highway planners used the construction of interstate highways to demolish black neighborhoods and business districts, pushing African Americans deeper into urban ghettos.

Due to institutional racism, black veterans of WWII received only 40% of white veterans’ benefits. Police have refrained from arresting white mobs threatening new black homeowners in the white suburbs.

These are just a handful of dozens of mechanisms used by governments to force and strengthen black ghettos and white suburbs, outlined in Richard Rothstein’s “The Color of the Law”. These government policies, therefore, underlie the extreme wealth gap between African Americans and white Americans. Most white middle-class families have derived their wealth from the appreciation in the value of their homes over time and the mortgage interest deductions for homeowners denied to ghettoized African Americans.

Today, the median wealth of the black family is about a tenth of that of a white family, with no progress in 70 years. Almost half of poor black children live in very poor neighborhoods, four times as many as poor white children. The impacts are smart and multigenerational. Upward mobility is frozen for generations of blacks.

These same neighborhoods are food deserts with limited access to nutritious and affordable food, have fewer primary care physicians, fewer bookstores and literacy experiences, more air pollutants due to traffic jams and disproportionate industrial facilities. , more crowded living conditions, neglected playgrounds, underfunded schools, greater danger in situations with police and criminal justice, and higher rates of COVID and death. All of these disadvantaged living conditions are in large part due to the intentional housing segregation policy of federal, state and local governments.

Cures are needed, and our government owes them. The idea is not new either. The 1988 Civil Liberties Act granted reparations to Japanese Americans and a formal apology from President Reagan for their incarceration during World War II. Although late and scarce, it is a precedent.

“The color of the law” is strongest in defending the central role of government in creating a segregated country, which has deprived African Americans of upward mobility comparable to whites. The remedies suggested by Rothstein are affirmative action in housing policy and practice, such as low-income black families moving to less poor neighborhoods with Section 8 housing vouchers. Another is that the states require developers to reserve units in middle-income housing projects for low-income families.

What “The Color of the Law” does not do – but is essential for housing policy remedies to be successful – is to explain how whites and blacks move from strangers to neighbors, who live well together. next to. This will require that whites commit to examining our conscious and unconscious racial attitudes.

I highly recommend: “Let’s Talk Racing: A Guide for Whites”, by Fern Johnson and Marlene Fine. The two former UMass teachers are white mothers who have raised black sons together. As the reviewers of this book wrote: “A solid, practical guide to having the necessary conversations that those of us who are white are so reluctant to have.” It captures my own perspective of this fine, insightful and educational book.

H. Patricia Hynes, retired professor of urban environmental health, is a board member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice in western Massachusetts. Haley Publishing, of Athol, publishes her new book, “Hope but Demand Justice”.



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Newsrust - US Top News: "The color of the law" - the creation of a segregated society
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