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The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

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In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that Americas cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregationthat is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law incontrovertibly makes clear that it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments—that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day. Through extraordinary revelations and extensive research that Ta-Nehisi Coates has lauded as "brilliant" (The Atlantic), Rothstein comes to chronicle nothing less than an untold story that begins in the 1920s, showing how this process of de jure segregation began with explicit racial zoning, as millions of African Americans moved in a great historical migration from the south to the north. As Jane Jacobs established in her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, it was the deeply flawed urban planning of the 1950s that created many of the impoverished neighborhoods we know. Now, Rothstein expands our understanding of this history, showing how government policies led to the creation of officially segregated public housing and the demolition of previously integrated neighborhoods. While urban areas rapidly deteriorated, the great American suburbanization of the post–World War II years was spurred on by federal subsidies for builders on the condition that no homes be sold to African Americans. Finally, Rothstein shows how police and prosecutors brutally upheld these standards by supporting violent resistance to black families in white neighborhoods. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited future discrimination but did nothing to reverse residential patterns that had become deeply embedded. Yet recent outbursts of violence in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, and Minneapolis show us precisely how the legacy of these earlier eras contributes to persistent racial unrest. “The American landscape will never look the same to readers of this important book” (Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund), as Rothstein’s invaluable examination shows that only by relearning this history can we finally pave the way for the nation to remedy its unconstitutional past.


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In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that Americas cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregationthat is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law incontrovertibly makes clear that it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments—that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day. Through extraordinary revelations and extensive research that Ta-Nehisi Coates has lauded as "brilliant" (The Atlantic), Rothstein comes to chronicle nothing less than an untold story that begins in the 1920s, showing how this process of de jure segregation began with explicit racial zoning, as millions of African Americans moved in a great historical migration from the south to the north. As Jane Jacobs established in her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, it was the deeply flawed urban planning of the 1950s that created many of the impoverished neighborhoods we know. Now, Rothstein expands our understanding of this history, showing how government policies led to the creation of officially segregated public housing and the demolition of previously integrated neighborhoods. While urban areas rapidly deteriorated, the great American suburbanization of the post–World War II years was spurred on by federal subsidies for builders on the condition that no homes be sold to African Americans. Finally, Rothstein shows how police and prosecutors brutally upheld these standards by supporting violent resistance to black families in white neighborhoods. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited future discrimination but did nothing to reverse residential patterns that had become deeply embedded. Yet recent outbursts of violence in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, and Minneapolis show us precisely how the legacy of these earlier eras contributes to persistent racial unrest. “The American landscape will never look the same to readers of this important book” (Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund), as Rothstein’s invaluable examination shows that only by relearning this history can we finally pave the way for the nation to remedy its unconstitutional past.

30 review for The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Martha Toll

    Could everybody please read this ? It's an essential history of America's state sponsored history of race discrimination in housing. Here's my take on NPR's 2017 Book Concierge. https://apps.npr.org/best-books-2017/...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    A succinct history of de jure segregation in America, The Color of Law argues that anti-Black governmental policies, not de facto segregation, led to the nations racially divided cities and suburbs. In terse prose, Richard Rothstein details the underhanded ways in which Republican and Democratic politicians alike imposed and enforced racial segregation across the U.S. throughout the twentieth century, from explicit racial zoning to state-sponsored violence and blockbusting. Rothstein lucidly A succinct history of de jure segregation in America, The Color of Law argues that anti-Black governmental policies, not de facto segregation, led to the nation’s racially divided cities and suburbs. In terse prose, Richard Rothstein details the underhanded ways in which Republican and Democratic politicians alike imposed and enforced racial segregation across the U.S. throughout the twentieth century, from explicit racial zoning to state-sponsored violence and blockbusting. Rothstein lucidly conveys how federal, state, and local laws worked in conjunction to restrict Black people’s options for housing nationwide; all his points are well supported by extensive research, and his focus on all of the country’s regions is impressive. Accompanying descriptions of legislation are anecdotes that illustrate the devastating effects de jure segregation has had on Black families and communities, saving the book from reading as dry. Well worth reading.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Charles J

    Some years ago, I lived for a time in Oak Park, Illinois. Oak Park has for decades been filled with rich white liberals, who live just across the street from a City of Chicago neighborhood, Austin, that is filled with poor black people. Yet, for some reason the citizens of Oak Park simply cant fathom, people from Austin almost never move to Oak Park. Who can say why? Well, Richard Rothstein can. His book, The Color of Law, shows all the ways in which the racist government of Oak Park, and Some years ago, I lived for a time in Oak Park, Illinois. Oak Park has for decades been filled with rich white liberals, who live just across the street from a City of Chicago neighborhood, Austin, that is filled with poor black people. Yet, for some reason the citizens of Oak Park simply can’t fathom, people from Austin almost never move to Oak Park. Who can say why? Well, Richard Rothstein can. His book, “The Color of Law,” shows all the ways in which the racist government of Oak Park, and innumerable other government functionaries across the nation, have aggressively worked for decades to keep black people in inferior, segregated housing. Rothstein’s service is to precisely set out why this happened, how it was done, and what exactly the effects today are. Rothstein doesn’t actually mention Oak Park, but it is the perfect example of many of the racist behaviors he documents. To this day, the “Village” (ah, how quaint) funds (behind a screen of third parties, whose pictures are not shown on their website) the boringly named “Oak Park Regional Housing Center.” The OPRHC advertises all over Chicago that it will help those moving to Oak Park find rental apartments. Since Oak Park has very few rentals (due to deliberate zoning to prevent them), this is a seemingly valuable service. Thus, when I needed to move to Oak Park, I took advantage of it, setting up an appointment, as required, with an “advisor.” When I arrived, my “advisor” gave me a sheet that said, in deliberately obscurantist legalese, “We will give you listings on the basis of your race.” This blatantly illegal practice (not made legal by disclosure, either) took me aback. Why, I thought, would they do that? It did not take long for me to figure out—they wanted, and still today want, to prevent black people from clustering in their Village (shades of the M. Night Shyamalan movie) and attracting more black people who might thereby start to view Oak Park as welcoming to African Americans. So they scatter black people among white people, and they try to locate white people among black people already living in Oak Park, both to prevent clustering that might attract more black people. I suspect that they probably also try to directly discourage African Americans in other ways, though I can’t speak personally to that. Turned off by their overt racism, I ultimately found an apartment in Oak Park by myself, in those early Internet days, by going to the offices of the Chicago Reader the night before, before the paper was distributed, and being the first to call one of the few apartments offered for rent that week. Unsurprisingly, I had to leave a voice mail, and I was called back, having met the Village’s effective main criterion of a good renter—being white. I encourage you, though, after you read Rothstein’s book, to go to the OPRHC’s current website, or to the “History” article linked from their site, to see the contortions that racists go through to justify their racism, especially when their own self-image is as completely non-racist, and to see how precisely the OPRHC lines up with the practices Rothstein documents. For example, in the OPRHC’s FAQ, they ask “Question: Do you have listings online? Can I get them over the phone or email?” Answer: “We don’t, and here’s why: Because our services are customized to each individual client, we must meet with you in person to review your financial requirements with you and discuss your space and location needs and any other preferences you might have.” Ha ha. Yeah, that might be it. Sure. If Oak Park really wanted to help people find rentals, they’d operate a purely on-line service. And they’d also change their zoning, which includes many fun rules, such as forbidding “For Rent” signs and on-street overnight parking, the better to discourage black people from Austin from walking around town, or owning houses or apartments without expensive off-street parking. But they don’t do any of those things, because the reality is they don’t want “those people” from Austin coming into their town. Enough about Oak Park, although as I say, it is in many ways the perfect exemplar of the practices documented by this book. “The Color of Law,” while not flawless, is very impressive on many levels. It offers voluminous scholarship; it offers detailed history. But what most impressed me was that at each step of the way Rothstein directly and without flinching or evasion addresses all possible counter-arguments. When the reader thinks “but what about . . . . . ?,” the next paragraph or next chapter is nearly certain to address just that question. And in case he missed anything, Rothstein has an entire ending section on “Frequently Asked Questions” to directly answer questions and objections raised by others during his research. Throughout the book, Rothstein makes great efforts to be intellectually honest, which makes his book very different than most modern political debates, where advocates pretend that their desired solutions are cost-free, and their opponents are idiots or driven by malice. Rothstein freely admits where he expects there to be costs, and gives specific reasons why and by whom those costs should be borne. If he thinks there is malice (and given the topic of his book, it could not be otherwise), he does not spend his time focusing on it, rather spending his time on facts. This honesty is refreshing and adds considerable power to the book. A major theme running through “The Color of Law” is that the distinction between de jure and de facto segregation is both functionally fictitious and obfuscatory. Non-black people (me, for example) tend to think of housing discrimination as something in the past, engineered mostly by individuals in their private capacities, though with effects in the current day. It’s more convenient to think that way, after all. Just as importantly, we tend to think that if, in some cases, the government did engage in segregation (de jure), it doesn’t any more, so there’s little to talk about. Plus, anyway, we conclude that by now the effects of private and government actions are impossible to separate. Rothstein rejects all this, or rather, claims it obscures more than it clarifies. First, there was, until relatively recently, vastly more de jure segregation than most people are aware. Second, even if de jure segregation is now gone, what we think of as de facto segregation was primarily driven by earlier de jure segregation, and therefore the government, not private choice, is almost exclusively responsible for present-day patterns of segregation, as well as the consequent multiple negative effects on African Americans in the present day of that segregation. Third, because it was our government, we are all responsible for finding a solution. Although most of the book is taken up with the dry bones of statistics and with carefully phrased parsing of specific instances of de jure segregation and their effects, Rothstein frames his book with the story of Frank Stevenson, born in 1924 in Louisiana. As a young man he moved to San Francisco, working in war industries and settling in Richmond, just north of Oakland. Many African Americans came to California to work, because the war opened up (some) opportunities for good jobs for black men—but it did not open up opportunities for good homes. Rothstein documents the myriad ways in which men like Stevenson and their families were forced into less desirable housing, usually far from their jobs. These included official refusal by the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration to insure mortgages for black applicants seeking homes in white areas, or for white applicants seeking homes in black areas. They also included putatively private practices such as blockbusting (real estate agents trying to stir up white panic about declining house values if black people moved in or near) and redlining (bank refusal to lend for housing in any area where many black people lived). All of northern California engaged in these practices—which is largely why Stanford and Palo Alto have almost no black people today, because black people were kept out and now they can’t afford to enter. And Stevenson’s descendants are, if not poor, barely middle class—unlike the vast majority of descendants of white wartime workers. Rothstein then spends much of the rest of the book delineating the breadth and impact across the country of each of the obstacles encountered by Frank Stevenson and other African Americans in California. He discusses at great length government efforts to ghettoize (his word) black people, both where they lived and most especially as they moved north. These efforts began primarily in the Progressive Era (segregation was actually less aggressive earlier) and were led by Progressives. They were aggressively supported and expanded by Franklin Roosevelt and his team of Democrats, both on the national level and in most large municipalities (but primarily driven at the federal level). There were so many such efforts, with interlocking effect, and Rothstein itemizes them all, that the reader’s eyes begin to glaze over. They included discriminatory mortgage insurance (or the lack thereof); innumerable explicit racial restrictions in development and housing sales; location of services and schools; the racism of the Tennessee Valley Authority; the segregation of federally driven high-rise housing projects; and much more. Rothstein also documents the intermittent attempts by courts to forbid various segregation practices, usually promptly evaded by government functionaries who made slippery statements about how they were really complying with the law (a practice that seems to characterize most functionaries of the administrative state even today, on any issue where the courts overrule the superior judgment and insight of bureaucrats). The book extensively covers zoning—something mostly neutral on its face, but widely used by Oak Park, and thousands of other localities, to keep black people out. Occasionally such zoning was explicitly racial, but early on that was forbidden by the courts, so various clever alternatives were used, primarily focused on preventing the creation of housing attractive to lower income people (with other actions taken against higher income black people who didn’t get the message). And just in case the reader starts to think he means just places like Alabama, Rothstein points out that zoning and other local ordinances were used to drive black people almost wholly out of—Montana. Another chapter elaborates further on FHA policies designed to prevent black people from obtaining desirable housing (including, most poignantly, in Levittown). The next chapter tells how ostensibly private discrimination, such as in housing covenants, relied not just on direct government enforcement (which was ended relatively early) but on governments refusing to enforce laws against those who intimidated or used violence against black families daring to move to white areas. Other chapters cover tax policy; numerous additional local efforts to keep black people out, such as by hugely raising utility connection fees for “black developments” and paying black people to go away by offering them above-market prices for their homes. None of this is strictly news, but its breadth and permanence, as well as its brazen conduct, is news to most people, including me. Rothstein also repeatedly points out the knock-on effects of housing segregation. Renting, or owning a house in a less desirable neighborhood, prevents the building of equity over decades. Subsequent generations therefore get less money handed down to them. Living far from jobs makes it harder to get, and to keep, a good job. Related to this were government efforts to suppress black wages, such as by Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration, which was designed to set much lower wages for industries with a heavy African American presence, and the Civilian Conservation Corps, with its segregated camps and assignment to blacks of menial, unskilled jobs, thus hampering skills development. This continued after the Depression and World War Two, when blacks were largely excluded from the good jobs in many industries that boomed and allowed millions of white people to enter the middle class. And, even aside from overt segregation, when you make less money, you have less choice in housing, and are more likely to end up in cheaper, crowded, already segregated housing. Of course, it does not take much historical knowledge to know that racism against black people was widespread government policy, both North and South, for a long time. (The exceptions were areas where public policy was heavily influenced by Christian social principles, which drove anti-racism just like it drove abolitionism.) Gun control, for example, was originally introduced, in the South post-Reconstruction, as a naked effort to strip black people of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms, so that they could be more effectively oppressed. But historical knowledge is in short supply nowadays, so Rothstein fills in the picture for readers, and then adds plenty of detail. The author notes in several places that the Progressive movement, from Woodrow Wilson (“an uncompromising believer in segregation and black inferiority”) on down, was incorrigibly racist, most aggressively against African Americans. He does not note, but could have with profit, that this was closely related to the racism of the Progressive-run eugenics movement, which sought to “purify the race,” and was led by, among others, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. She founded it with a primary goal of limiting the black population through the eugenics methods of the day, including birth control, forced sterilization, and abortion. As she said, in writing, talking of hiring black ministers to propagandize recalcitrant black people opposing her methods, “We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” And even today, Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg let her mask, or hood, drop a few years back, noting with approval that Roe v. Wade invented a constitutional right to abortion in part because of “concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of.” That is, to be clear, Ginsburg thinks it good to encourage the killing of black people so there won’t be so many of them. If that’s what a sitting Supreme Court justice, the heir of Woodrow Wilson’s Progressives, today feels comfortable saying in public, it’s no wonder that de jure housing segregation lasted so long. The inevitable conclusion from Rothstein’s powerful demonstration of overwhelming government discrimination against black people is that the African American experience is unique. He draws that conclusion, without hesitation. Unfortunately for today’s Left, though, this is the wrong conclusion, because today’s American Left relies nearly wholly on identity politics, and its underlying Marxist theories of oppression and emancipation, to unite its coalitions and to stir up rage to action. If one group is unique, then this program collapses of its own contradictions. Thus, Rothstein has been criticized in some quarters for overtly refusing to use the term “people of color,” instead explicitly insisting on “black” or “African American.” “When we wish to pretend that the nation did not single out African Americans in a system of segregation specifically aimed at them, we diffuse them as just another ‘people of color.’” He similarly refuses to use the vague term “diversity,” in effect recognizing it as a cult word designed to obfuscate through its meaninglessness—rather, he insists on using the precise goal term “racial integration.” This speaks well of his passion for exactitude, but undercuts the bogus narrative of generalized, non-specific but all-powerful “white privilege,” and thus makes him guilty of wrongthink. If Rothstein worked at Google, he’d be fired. Rothstein ends with a list of possible “fixes,” ranging from giving effectively free houses to black people, to eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, to various fairly complex schemes to incentivize the building of low-income housing in desirable suburbs. He openly admits that these fixes have considerable costs, ranging from direct monetary costs to the increase in local crime that will result from importing young black men—noting, with rare honesty, that “integration cannot wait until every African American youth becomes a model citizen.” But he also freely admits none of these are constitutional under current principles or are politically palatable—both to white people, and, what he does not say, to non-black “people of color.” Thus, his primary goal is educate—to show readers that the common narrative of “it was a long time ago, and it wasn’t really the government, and anyway don’t black people choose to live by themselves” is wrong, and to hope such education bears fruit in public policy, especially in the courts. And Rothstein sticks to that goal. Unlike Ta-Nehisi Coates, he does not get bogged down in blaming white people for every bad thing that has ever happened to a black person. This gives more power to his analysis, not least by preventing those in his audience uncomfortable with his analysis and conclusions from wriggling away or changing the topic. There are many unanswerable questions, which Rothstein does not get sidetracked into addressing. What would patterns of housing, and economic progress, look like in a world without the government actions Rothstein narrates? How much did government segregation contribute to the destruction of the black family from the 1960s onward, with consequent further negative impacts on black economic progress? How can cultural pathologies in some African American communities be repaired? All these are worthwhile questions, but not the focus of the book, which is a wise choice by the author, I think. Yes, there are some false notes. Most of these consist in mushy application of legal principles. No, the Fifth Amendment does not “prohibit the federal government from treating citizens unfairly.” That may be a layman’s version of the Fifth Amendment (or rather the Fifth Amendment viewed through the Fourteenth), but that is not what the Fifth Amendment says, and to import vague concepts like “fairness” decreases clarity. Similarly, Rothstein makes much of the Thirteenth Amendment, arguing that the long history of government housing discrimination “was not only unlawful but was the imposition of a badge of slavery that the Constitution mandates us to remove.” The Thirteenth Amendment says nothing about “badges of slavery.” Rothstein also insists on referring to all discriminatory actions as unconstitutional as of the time they were taken, stating “I reject the widespread view that an action is not unconstitutional until the Supreme Court says so.” In fact, all of us . . . bear a collective responsibility to enforce our Constitution and to rectify past violations whose effects endure.” I am all for private interpretation, and I agree with Rothstein that what is unconstitutional should not be defined solely by the Supreme Court, but also by legislators and simple individuals. Dred Scott should not be viewed as having made slavery constitutional in its time, any more than Roe v. Wade should be viewed as having made abortion constitutional in our time. In practice, though, Rothstein’s moral outrage on constitutionality does not really add to his overall argument. [Review continues as first comment.]

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Cohen

    my review: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_an...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    This was a very powerful book that documents at both the big-picture and individual level how housing segregation policies were imposed across the United States. Other books Ive read in the past couple of years have taken on pieces of this (and Ta Nahesi Coates Atlantic piece on reparations covers the issue at some length as well) but this is the best single book on the topic Ive read thus far. The core argument, laid out in systematic detail, is that segregation was carried out by government This was a very powerful book that documents at both the big-picture and individual level how housing segregation policies were imposed across the United States. Other books I’ve read in the past couple of years have taken on pieces of this (and Ta Nahesi Coates’ Atlantic piece on reparations covers the issue at some length as well) but this is the best single book on the topic I’ve read thus far. The core argument, laid out in systematic detail, is that segregation was carried out by government officials and legitimized under the force of law (as well as threat of violence, and rules of finance), and did not (contra the conclusions of Justice John Roberts in a recent case on school desegregation) just result from individual acts or personal preferences. The most striking takeaway from the book was how, perhaps in contrast to popular understanding, segregation was a national, and definitely not exclusively Southern, phenomenon, backed by federal policies. The book was unfortunately weakest in providing a path forward or proposed policy remedy for generations of foreclosed opportunity, a challenge that it acknowledges would be extremely politically difficult to effect. Still, found it very valuable as a guide to understanding how segregation policies shaped our homes, schools, the country’s politics, economy, and urban landscape, as well as millions of African American lives.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This is a well-researched book that outlines all the ways in which the government has used the long arms of the state to discriminate against blacks. I wish this book had been published when I was writing my book (named The Color of Money coincidentally) because I could have used some of this research. Some of this history was written in Crabgrass Frontier, but this is a book that needed to be written.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    This is an excellent book with just a few difficulties. Some of it is within Rothstein's interpretations (mainly of the amendments) but most of the negative side of the book lies within the fact that it is an extremely difficult law term and concepts of their use "type" of read. And I am not a lawyer, although I do study lawyers' and judges' decisions in minutia word copy when they occur in real time. That's exactly why no Supreme Court judge should be evaluated for that position on one issue of This is an excellent book with just a few difficulties. Some of it is within Rothstein's interpretations (mainly of the amendments) but most of the negative side of the book lies within the fact that it is an extremely difficult law term and concepts of their use "type" of read. And I am not a lawyer, although I do study lawyers' and judges' decisions in minutia word copy when they occur in real time. That's exactly why no Supreme Court judge should be evaluated for that position on one issue of possible leaning, partisanship, or any other factor beyond his understanding and use and applications of the standing laws of his/her past decisions. Some of the other reviews of this book are excellent. The best of any such very difficult level and subject on GR's, IMHO. One is especially. I have not the skill to word exactly what the differences are between de facto and de jure discrimination. But living my entire life in or very near to Chicago, I know it when I see it. Segregation is an end result of the latter (de jure) far more than it is of de facto. And yet all evaluations, nearly universally, in politico, in organizational form or in reactive protests etc. all continually use and define de facto as the "problem". When it isn't at all. Governmental policies and de jure circumstance and reality of the outcomes of governmental directions have caused more misery than they have ever helped. Rothstein can help you understand why and how and what happened. Before I was born, my Sicilian grandmother- only in this country (USA) less than 8 years was firebombed out of her 2 flat for renting to blacks (Wentworth Ave.) It was at least 20 years before I was born but I heard about it all the time. These immigrants would eat a couple of eggs a day and spend all of their wages on buying derelict property. Live in it at 10 persons a small apartment at times and use the bottom floor as a "store" or bakery or something. They literally worked themselves to death. Here you will see the other side of that equation too. And what happened in the 1960's with the great Northern migration. And how the Progressive movement (growing out of a Sanger type of "looking at the world" and limiting defective or "extra" children) has further decimated. Welfare annihilating the father figure and making (at this point) more than 75% of all black families single Mother, no male role model within the home. This is much closer to the truth of the ghetto formations than any other book I've ever read. In the 1950's and even later, I can remember being far, far more integrated and with better living quality and relationships to upward tending examples and intermixing on all counts (especially churches and community groups) than exists now in Chicagoland. In my own neighborhood (Ashburn) that was absolutely true. Every year now within the city proper itself, it seems worse instead of better. Crime, homicide within black on black numbers, that's for sure. Where I live in Will County it is completely integrated and our crime, homicide rates are nearly nil in comparison. But most of us have had victim stories to tell in our origins. Especially for robbery and assault which are much worse now in some of the districts we were born within. 70 or 80 years ago? And they are WORSE now? It's a hard subject to breech. And the black experience certainly is a unique and singular experience quite apart from any other groups. Be they recent arrivals or those of 100 other past origins. And the remedies by law have in cause and in case, made things worse. I've been a witness. This book will explain all the repercussions in law, economics, culture etc. etc. of de jure discrimination. Federal, state and local levels of de jure - across the boards. It's true.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Hall

    Fuck the FHA (and the New Deal at large), fuck HUD, fuck the VA, fuck federal, state and local housing policies, fuck banks, fuck real estate brokers, fuck developers, fuck churches, fuck universities, fuck hospitals, fuck homeowners' associations and FUCK the police. Fuck white people. This book will make you angry.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Conor Ahern

    This succinct history puts the lie to the idea that people congregate with others of their race mostly out of preference and custom, and that the material side effects thereof (wealth, educational opportunities, etc.) are blameless incidents for which we bear no collective responsibility. In a scant 200ish pages, Rothstein bludgeons you with anecdote after anecdote of federal, state, and local officials or policies that disrupted working and middle class white and black Americans' attempts to This succinct history puts the lie to the idea that people congregate with others of their race mostly out of preference and custom, and that the material side effects thereof (wealth, educational opportunities, etc.) are blameless incidents for which we bear no collective responsibility. In a scant 200ish pages, Rothstein bludgeons you with anecdote after anecdote of federal, state, and local officials or policies that disrupted working and middle class white and black Americans' attempts to live in integrated environments, and presents devastating evidence of the wealth gap that has opened between the races in large part because of this government-designed segregation. Whether through evictions, police refusals to protect the homes of African Americans in white neighborhoods from marauding gangs, VA refusals to grant mortgages to black GIs unless they bought in black neighborhoods, or cities' deliberate attempts to maintain the complexions of all-white and all-black neighborhoods while destroying most integrated ones, all levels of government were complicit in the 150+ year long effort to preserve the badges and incidents of slavery and to ensure that blacks remained a separate and distinctly lower class than whites. Sadly, it seems that these are things that are too shameful to admit to ourselves. They cloud our rosy myth of a just, egalitarian, and meritocratic society, and they're too complex to compress into a neat argument in a culture governed by soundbyte discourse. How we could right this wrong is a complex and interesting question, but it's not clear that we possess the understanding and empathy to decide that housing segregation is something that even needs to be redressed. But this is hardly unique: slavery is not particularly complex, nor is substandard schooling post-Brown v. Board, yet none of it registers in the mind of the average American as something deserving of reparations. But the dollar figures that Rothstein presents--the degree to which the government has forced black people in particular into communities where their ability to generate wealth then turns nugatory--are hard to argue with, and the causality is so recent that there are people alive today who were born into integrated communities with which the assorted governments of this country had not yet had the chance to meddle. All of this makes Rothstein's proposed solutions at the end of this study that much more crucial and interesting--chimerical though they may be. When I got back from my vacation this weekend I showed some of the pages of this book to our deputy commissioner, who is currently suing at least one residential community that was explicitly founded for whites, aided by the government in this mission, and forcibly exclusionary of black tenants. We are trying to hold them accountable for far more recent transgressions, but all with the aim of achieving a more equitable society by redressing past wrongs. It's plodding, incomplete redress, but especially as a government worker in a more enlightened administration, it's what is right and necessary and I'm glad to be a part of it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Seymone

    Excellent. Eye opening read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Canton Winer

    An important read for anyone interested in segregation, racism, and social justice. Lays out a compelling argument for how government action at the federal, state, and local level--and not simply the decisions of individual racists--have resulted in and perpetuated segregation in America.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael Siliski

    Makes a very convincing case that the racial segregation of American neighborhoods was the result of explicit US government action, rather than an accidental byproduct of people clustering with others like them. The book is structured as a legal argument in reaction to a series of Supreme Court decisions (e.g. 1973, 2007) that found that neighborhood segregation was de facto (by fact) rather than de jure (by law, i.e. government mandated), and therefore not the responsibility of government to Makes a very convincing case that the racial segregation of American neighborhoods was the result of explicit US government action, rather than an accidental byproduct of people clustering with others like them. The book is structured as a legal argument in reaction to a series of Supreme Court decisions (e.g. 1973, 2007) that found that neighborhood segregation was de facto (by fact) rather than de jure (by law, i.e. government mandated), and therefore not the responsibility of government to fix. It’s actually quite incomprehensible after reading the book to think that segregation wasn’t government mandated. The author brings a barrage of examples to make a compelling argument. Stories about zoning, redlining, lending policies, mobs, and subtler actions like school site selection extend across the country, from the SF Bay Area to Montana to the Great Lakes region to New England… and everywhere else (not just the South!). As a lay reader, it was far more evidence than I needed, and at a certain point I began skimming through the unending waves of examples and tried to focus purely on the structure of the argument, but as a work of legal scholarship I can’t fault the author for including them all. It is interesting to think about what exactly the line between de jure and de facto is… this seemed like it would be a bright line at the onset of the book, where you have either “bottoms-up” decisions of individuals about where to live vs “top-down” decisions of governments to create laws about where people can live. But in reality, government expresses the will of the people (at least the majority), and as such, what happens in almost all of the examples in the book is that individual (racist) preferences of white homeowners get turned into government policy, often at the municipal level. So in retrospect, of course its de jure. The weight of this history also makes a compelling case for some positive action to redress it. Since homeownership is so central to wealth in this country, wealth is transferred across generations, and upward mobility is more limited here than in many other developed countries, it’s hard to say that ending the discriminative policies is the same as ending the discrimination itself.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Svetlana Kurilova

    5* for the information and 3* for writing style MUST-read book! Do not ignore what happened, rather learn from these mistakes and do the right thing in the future! It took me almost two months to finish this book. There is so much resistance in accepting that one race can so strategically with a strong support of the law and government), so purposefully segregate American population for decades leading to pretty much unfixable damage where and creating an enourmous gap between "the whites" and 5* for the information and 3* for writing style MUST-read book! Do not ignore what happened, rather learn from these mistakes and do the right thing in the future! It took me almost two months to finish this book. There is so much resistance in accepting that one race can so strategically with a strong support of the law and government), so purposefully segregate American population for decades leading to pretty much unfixable damage where and creating an enourmous gap between "the whites" and "the blacks". I am ashamed to be associated with the race that has done this. But I hope we will learn and become more empathetic and supportive for each other no matter what background, race, culture or religion we are coming from.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    In the "Color of Law", Richard Rothstein shows that the use of discriminatory residential practices in the US, including 'racially' zoned housing areas, restrictive covenants, the creation of fear of loss of property values and at times violence have been in effect from the reconstruction period in the late 19th Century and continued into 21st Century. These practices have disproportionately affected African Americans, keeping their communities poor and leading to the creation of segregated In the "Color of Law", Richard Rothstein shows that the use of discriminatory residential practices in the US, including 'racially' zoned housing areas, restrictive covenants, the creation of fear of loss of property values and at times violence have been in effect from the reconstruction period in the late 19th Century and continued into 21st Century. These practices have disproportionately affected African Americans, keeping their communities poor and leading to the creation of segregated neighbourhoods, where none previously existed. The most disconcerting thing about this is that the policies have been supported by the state and federal government. Not just in the Southern States, but throughout the US. Also, whilst these 'racial' discriminatory practices are no longer openly applied, their effects have carried over into the lives of the children, grandchildren, and other generations of African American families, also keeping them in poverty. This is another excellent and well-researched history of discriminatory practices in the US, showing that despite the idea of the "American Dream", where anyone can achieve whatever they want, inequality has been and continues to be a feature of US society.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Audacia Ray

    "Half a century ago, the truth of de jure segregation was well known, but since then we have suppressed our historical memory and soothed ourselves into believing that it all happened by accident or by misguided private prejudice. Popularized by Supreme Court majorities from the 1970s to the present, the de facto segregation myth has no been adopted by conventional opinion, liberal and conservative alike." This is such a deeply well-researched and unflinching look into the role that federal, "Half a century ago, the truth of de jure segregation was well known, but since then we have suppressed our historical memory and soothed ourselves into believing that it all happened by accident or by misguided private prejudice. Popularized by Supreme Court majorities from the 1970s to the present, the de facto segregation myth has no been adopted by conventional opinion, liberal and conservative alike." This is such a deeply well-researched and unflinching look into the role that federal, state, and city governments have played in establishing and reinforcing housing discrimination in recent history. Really important book, I highly recommend it. The author even does something few histories do - explore options for remedies, and owning that "Undoing the effects of de jure segregation will be incomparably difficult. To make a start, we will first have to contemplate what we have collectively done, and on behalf of our government, accept responsibility."

  16. 5 out of 5

    laurel [suspected bibliophile]

    A must read (or must-listen) of the government sanctioned segregation of America...even after the supposed "integration" of Black and white communities. Definitely check this out, particularly if you are white and think that people of color like to live together because of togetherness and that there's no reason that they are universally more impoverished than white Americans. This book does a great job highlighting the dual poverty roller coasters, and how different races are on different tracks A must read (or must-listen) of the government sanctioned segregation of America...even after the supposed "integration" of Black and white communities. Definitely check this out, particularly if you are white and think that people of color like to live together because of togetherness and that there's no reason that they are universally more impoverished than white Americans. This book does a great job highlighting the dual poverty roller coasters, and how different races are on different tracks (some with speed bumps, missing rails, poorly maintained mechanics and angrily placed pennies), which can prevent minorities (specifically Black Americans) from escaping from poverty and moving economically upwards, thanks to de jure segregation acts from governments at all levels.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This one is a bonafide Must Read! Highly recommend to everyone! If youve read The New Jim Crow or Evicted and felt like youve learned a lot, this one will open your eyes even more to the history & complexity of the moment we find ourselves in, how it got this way, and how we might just be able to unravel it if we have the will. This book takes us through how this country was segregated long after it was legal to do so, and how its become self perpetuating. I really can not recommend it This one is a bonafide Must Read! Highly recommend to everyone! If you’ve read The New Jim Crow or Evicted and felt like you’ve learned a lot, this one will open your eyes even more to the history & complexity of the moment we find ourselves in, how it got this way, and how we might just be able to unravel it if we have the will. This book takes us through how this country was segregated long after it was legal to do so, and how it’s become self perpetuating. I really can not recommend it enough!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Quin Rich

    This book is so incredibly frustrating. To be clear, I do not at all dispute the factual account that Rothstein provides, nor do I in anyway disagree that he has clearly documented a state-perpetrated injustice by the US government at federal, state, and local levels towards African-Americans. Although he conducted no original research, the synthesis Rothstein provides here is commendable. Yet at the same time, I find his thesis unnecessarily narrow in both scope and vision. His focus on This book is so incredibly frustrating. To be clear, I do not at all dispute the factual account that Rothstein provides, nor do I in anyway disagree that he has clearly documented a state-perpetrated injustice by the US government at federal, state, and local levels towards African-Americans. Although he conducted no original research, the synthesis Rothstein provides here is commendable. Yet at the same time, I find his thesis unnecessarily narrow in both scope and vision. His focus on debunking what he calls "the myth of de facto segregation" by demonstrating the clear and consistent role the US government played in constructing and maintaining racial residential segregation across the country leads him to erase the role of private capital (e.g. Banks, real estate agencies). Furthermore, his liberal political orientation leads him to affirm the very same political institutions that had consistently maintained racial segregation as the potential agents of resolution to this injustice. Most of all, Rothstein completely obfuscates *why* the US government produces and maintained a system of de jure racial residential segregation until the present day. This is my biggest critique of the book. Rothstein gives the reader no explanation for why racial segregation has been maintained so assiduously since the late 19th century. To be fair, this is not entirely his fault; most contemporary research on racial residential segregation documents its oppressive effects on Black people, but fails to offer any historical or political account for why this system was established in the first place. By way of answer, I would suggest that the system of racial residential segregation in effect in this country has its origins in efforts by the white ruling class to suppress Black political power and break Black-white working class solidarity following the breakdown of Reconstruction after the Civil war. As the Atlantic article linked below contends, white elites sought to crush an emerging coalition between white and Black workers to institute a multiracial democracy that sought to advance working class interests and secure the material preconditions for full Black equality. While the article only focuses on the South, Rothstein's book clearly demonstrates that de jure segregation was established along a similar timeline in the North. Labor struggles were a key component of why this system was enacted and maintained there as well; segregated Black and white workers by not only residence but also occupation allows white capitalists to offer white workers a bargain to sell out Black workers in order to gain some material and psychic benefits (i.e. The "Wages of Whiteness"). Black people are made vulnerable and exploitable both at the point of production and in the housing market. Racial residential segregation created the slums that Matthew Desmond documents in his book, wherein Black women and children face rates of eviction on par with Black men's rates of incarceration. Racial residential segregation secures multiple forms of white advantage and Black oppression in its intersections with the labor market, educational system, and prison-industrial complex. You would learn precisely none of this from Rothstein's overly narrow account. He is making a very small claim; that because the US government played a direct role in segregating neighborhoods by race, it bears an affirmative responsibility to desegregate such neighborhoods. This speaks back to a certain rejection of government responsibility for desegregation by the US Supreme Court at the expense of excusing the entire political order that set up and maintains racial segregation as one key tool among many in maintaining white supremacy and capitalism in the US. Read Rothstein's book for a brief and accurate account of some key facts, but go beyond him for the political analysis. Here's that Atlantic article: https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/artic... Reading suggestions: WEB DuBois, Black Reconstruction Manning Marable, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America Yamhatta Keeanga-Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation Matthew Desmond, Evicted Cheryl Harris, Whiteness as Property

  19. 5 out of 5

    Katelyn Beaty

    To riff off the title of another essential book on race in America, the title of this book could be, "Why are all the black families living together on the other side of town?" Here, Rothstein pulls together historical records, legal research, and a quiet urgency to argue convincingly that most U.S. cities today are segregated not simply because of private decisions (de facto segregation) but largely because of government-mandated housing laws and policies (de jure segregation), by which the To riff off the title of another essential book on race in America, the title of this book could be, "Why are all the black families living together on the other side of town?" Here, Rothstein pulls together historical records, legal research, and a quiet urgency to argue convincingly that most U.S. cities today are segregated not simply because of private decisions (de facto segregation) but largely because of government-mandated housing laws and policies (de jure segregation), by which the federal government bypassed the 14th Amendment and created one of the most enduring gaps in equity and education that we live with today. The research here is meticulous and quite hard to argue with, and the FAQ section at the end anticipates natural resistance to Rothstein's "solution," which is not wholesale reparations but what he calls remedies--various financial incentives offered by the government to speed the process of integrated living. This is helpful, if dry at times, reading alongside Ta-Nehisi Coates's "The Case for Reparations."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    As a keen urbanist, I've been aware of issues like redlining, inequality in mortgage lending, "urban renewal," and replacing minority neighborhoods with highways for a long time. But this book still startled me with how brazen and official it all was. Although many Americans assume that neighborhood segregation and black poverty emerged through gradual processes, sleazy local institutions, or de facto preferences, Rothstein makes clear that they are in fact the result of de jure planning at all As a keen urbanist, I've been aware of issues like redlining, inequality in mortgage lending, "urban renewal," and replacing minority neighborhoods with highways for a long time. But this book still startled me with how brazen and official it all was. Although many Americans assume that neighborhood segregation and black poverty emerged through gradual processes, sleazy local institutions, or de facto preferences, Rothstein makes clear that they are in fact the result of de jure planning at all levels of government through most of the 20th century. The story begins against the backdrop of the Second World War and the mass migration of black workers from the deep south to other parts of the country. Housing projects were designed to accommodate workers who were turning up from distant states, and even in parts of the country that weren't previously strictly segregated, the new housing was divided along black/white lines. (The book does not account for non-white, non-black Americans, which is disappointing, but that appears to be because the laws and practices Rothstein describes didn't either.) While official segregation began earlier in the 20th century, it was at the war's end that federal, state, and local governments really began planning the housing of the future. For white families, they envisioned idyllic suburbs with new schools, highways to zip around on, parks and other amenities--protected by racially defined zoning laws and deed covenants. They endorsed policies that made it easy for white families to move into these places through preferential mortgage lending and prices that were artificially depressed through the elimination of non-white buyers as competition. For black families, they sketched out overcrowded neighborhoods near noxious industries, with underfunded schools and few recreational or work opportunities. And they made it very hard to get out. Particularly maddening is the circular logic that was deployed to justify some policies. The government wouldn't back mortgages in integrated neighborhoods because the property values weren't sufficiently stable. But the property values were unstable because the arrival of black families threatened the ability of would-be buyers to get mortgages. Officials frequently citied "public acceptance" as a reason why they promoted segregation, without regard to constitutional obligations. When the Supreme Court ruled against overt racial planning, officials started to use "single-family zoning" (to give one example) as a tool--black families who were ineligible for mortgages generally could not afford single-family houses. When they could buy anyway, arriving often as the most well-off family on the block due to their higher bar for affordability, that was when vigilantism and terrorism came into play. Rothstein gives examples of local police merely supervising rather than addressing cross burnings and other attempts to drive black families out. Governments deferred to white Americans' racist preferences even when these were not actually being voiced! The most frustrating parts of the book are accounts of well-meaning white people trying to create pleasant, integrated, middle-class or working-class neighborhoods and being stymied until they simply give up. Who were the organizations participating in this? Federal housing programs, state planning agencies, cities and towns across the country, and private companies extending beyond the obvious banks. "Hundreds, if not thousands of smaller acts of government contributed. They included petty actions like denial of access to public utilities; determining, once African Americans wanted to build, that their property was, after all, needed for parkland; or discovering that a road leading to African American homes was 'private.'" (pg. 122) Institutions like churches and libraries that we might like to think of as beneficent participated in deed covenants. Three major themes from this book jump out at me as especially relevant to our politics and activism today. First is "single-family zoning" as a code word (and constitutionally acceptable workaround) for maintaining white neighborhoods. Second is the use of schools to promote and cement segregation. Third is the use of transportation planning to promote the convenience of white non-residents over the housing of black city-dwellers. You'll never hear the words "single-family zoning" the same way again after you read this book; if you are interested in American history, cities, or justice, this is a must-read. The author's core argument is that these actions, even if they were carried out by the government over a long period of time, were unconstitutional and have never been properly rectified. While he presents just a few potential remedies as thought exercises, the main contribution of this book is to show us what's right in front of us through a more accurate historical lens, and allow us to act accordingly.

  21. 5 out of 5

    William

    So a thinking person may intuitively know that ghettos are no accident. That no poor person wants to be poor. That Black people are not inherently criminal and that the legal system is the biased tool that fosters criminality upon Black and poor. But here we have a book that divulges the Government's not only complicity but actual planing and enforcement of latter day slavery, segregation, and deprivation on Black people in America through the color of law. The American government enacted laws So a thinking person may intuitively know that ghettos are no accident. That no poor person wants to be poor. That Black people are not inherently criminal and that the legal system is the biased tool that fosters criminality upon Black and poor. But here we have a book that divulges the Government's not only complicity but actual planing and enforcement of latter day slavery, segregation, and deprivation on Black people in America through the color of law. The American government enacted laws to keep African AMERICAN citizens poor, illiterate, and forever second class. If I could create a course and force the denying participants to read 3 books, "The New Jim Crow, Evicted, and this one..if still there are those denying the immediate need for redress of historical racism's legacy....

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alondra Miller

    5 Stars Required reading. Between the years 1865 - 1965, we had legal apartheid in these United States. It was called Jim Crow. After 1965; we had illegal apartheid practices being upheld. If you believe that there is no racism, that we are all one big happy family, then this book is not for you. If you want to learn something; break out of your bubble, then read this book. These are facts. These are laws that are written in the books, to keep black folks right where they are. Too bad, many 5 Stars Required reading. Between the years 1865 - 1965, we had legal apartheid in these United States. It was called Jim Crow. After 1965; we had illegal apartheid practices being upheld. If you believe that there is no racism, that we are all one big happy family, then this book is not for you. If you want to learn something; break out of your bubble, then read this book. These are facts. These are laws that are written in the books, to keep black folks right where they are. Too bad, many bucked the system (note sarcasm). Reviewers' note: Notice that I spoke in present tense. Black history is American history; they are not two separate things.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    I wish I thought more of this book, it has received so much attention. This is an extremely important topic, but one that has been talked about before in a more interesting way. This book is basically a thesis paper. The 1st chapter is his thesis and the next 10 chapters he uses to prove his thesis, going over essentially the same things over and over again. He rarely leaves the 50s decade, it would have been nice if he expanded a bit more. This book would make a great college paper, but the I wish I thought more of this book, it has received so much attention. This is an extremely important topic, but one that has been talked about before in a more interesting way. This book is basically a thesis paper. The 1st chapter is his thesis and the next 10 chapters he uses to prove his thesis, going over essentially the same things over and over again. He rarely leaves the 50’s decade, it would have been nice if he expanded a bit more. This book would make a great college paper, but the people who should read this, people who are not aware of this already, he would have lost them after chapter 1. I also had some issues with a few things he said in chapter 12, part 10.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Hayley Stenger

    Great book, but dense and full of information. I have read something that so clearly displays point blank the illegal, unethical ,and immoral segregation of our country and how is continues till this day. I am more alert to this thank you to this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Viktoria

    An important book. It covers very thoroughly housing segregation in the US as not de facto, but de juro: it wasnt organic, but dictated and enforced by the government and helped by racist middle class communities. The book didnt address anything new for me, and it was quite dry, but it had a humbling message, especially for anyone who has experienced the white privilege. An important book. It covers very thoroughly housing segregation in the US as not de facto, but de juro: it wasn’t organic, but dictated and enforced by the government and helped by racist middle class communities. The book didn’t address anything new for me, and it was quite dry, but it had a humbling message, especially for anyone who has experienced the white privilege.

  26. 4 out of 5

    The American Conservative

    Richard Rothsteins The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America doesnt start off in the Deep South, Detroit, Baltimore, or the multitude of other places in the United States where segregation has often been examined. Instead, the research associate at the Economic Policy Institute begins his exploration in an unlikely place: San Francisco. There readers find Frank Stevenson, a transplant from Louisiana who found work in the booming manufacturing sector during Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America doesn’t start off in the Deep South, Detroit, Baltimore, or the multitude of other places in the United States where segregation has often been examined. Instead, the research associate at the Economic Policy Institute begins his exploration in an unlikely place: San Francisco. There readers find Frank Stevenson, a transplant from Louisiana who found work in the booming manufacturing sector during World War II. Stevenson’s story is typical of the African-American experience. He works hard but is blocked from access to new homes and certain jobs because of the color of his skin. Rothstein meticulously describes how local (via zoning and housing associations in places like Palo Alto) and federal (though discrimination in guaranteed mortgages from the Federal Housing Administration) authorities worked hand-in-hand to create segregated neighborhoods as black migrants came to California for the same reason so many others did—to find a slice of the American Dream. His conclusion that governments could impose segregation “where it hadn’t previously taken root” serves as a salient message that carries throughout the book. http://www.theamericanconservative.co...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ira

    Shocking and just disappointing that this hasn't been laid out so systematically before. I had no idea that government policies were so integral to the foundation and reinforcement of segregation. The author made an excellent choice to focus on the happenings in typically "liberal" enclaves of the north and California to make his point. Shockingly to me personally, my childhood suburb showed up as an anecdote (and Supreme Court case) unknown to me during my youth and my current suburb showed up Shocking and just disappointing that this hasn't been laid out so systematically before. I had no idea that government policies were so integral to the foundation and reinforcement of segregation. The author made an excellent choice to focus on the happenings in typically "liberal" enclaves of the north and California to make his point. Shockingly to me personally, my childhood suburb showed up as an anecdote (and Supreme Court case) unknown to me during my youth and my current suburb showed up in a 1959 anecdote. I can now give my wife a clearer answer on why our neighborhood is not as diverse as we would prefer. The book was well organized, a taut read, and the choice to go with notes in the back (without any footnoting) made for a very accessible read, which I preferred. My one (minor) complaint is that I didn't necessarily need the suggestions for solutions because I'm just not sure that the author proposed good ones (because I don't think there are good ones).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    A really cogent explanation of how the US government systematically supported segregation of black Americans, not only as facilitators, but as the drivers of that segregation as a policy in the wake of the Great Depression. The arguments made in this book won't be persuasive to everyone, but I think they provide a fascinating way of thinking about how one sector of the American economy (housing) has disproportionate power over the whole of American socio-economic life. Worth a read IMO

  29. 5 out of 5

    B Sarv

    Not too long after I started reading this book I felt like my review could easily turn into a polemic instead of a review. It still might turn out like that. The Color of Law looks like it could be an encyclopedia of white supremacist government policies that were designed to oppress African Americans for the distant but imaginable future. But it isnt an encyclopedia, because it would be impossible for the author to catalog all of the enactments and sins of omission by all the state, local and Not too long after I started reading this book I felt like my review could easily turn into a polemic instead of a review. It still might turn out like that. The Color of Law looks like it could be an encyclopedia of white supremacist government policies that were designed to oppress African Americans for the distant but imaginable future. But it isn’t an encyclopedia, because it would be impossible for the author to catalog all of the enactments and sins of omission by all the state, local and federal officials. These unconstitutional governmental policies ranged from government lending practices to criminal activities by law enforcement officers. These, among numerous other activities enumerated in this book, have led to the current conditions of African Americans in terms of housing, the wage gap, the wealth gap and educational disparities. The author does a great job of explaining how the United States Constitution provides equal protection and prohibits race discrimination in the 5th, 13th and 14th Amendments. So the protection the Constitution affords is to protect the citizen against the misconduct of government officials; he carefully explains how all of the governmental conduct outlined in the book did violate those protections. To get this rolling, I share with you the experience of entering this book. In the first 12 pages there were 13 instances of local or federal enforcement of segregation in housing, schools and government services by laws and regulations. And these 12 pages only dealt with one community in California between 1941 and 1950. So there I sat, thinking of that one community for that very short space of time, trying to imagine the infinite ways throughout the United States that these sorts of racist enactments must have taken place over a much longer time. I also thought of the damage done to the victims of these policies. On the blank page between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 I wrote, “Deep Breath.” So breathe with me. I will do my best to give you a flavor of this book without spoiling too many of the details. I pity the person who picks up my copy of this book because they will have to deal with the distraction of interminable margin notes; oh and underlining too. I commented on and underlined so many of the facts and points raised in the book that I think if I included all of them in this review I would run out of allotted characters or cause people to just not bother with the book because they would feel as though they read it already in my review. Probably I added several hours onto my reading time with my dissection of the text. In short, the author detailed example after example of a willingness to subvert the publicly stated values of the nation to promote racist white supremacist values. At the Federal level, the government had so many policies that existed and that were purposely and overtly racist, as well as those that were covertly racist, that I cannot possibly address all of them. I want to give a little exposure to three of them: 1) the Federal Housing Authority (FHA); 2) the Veterans Administration (VA); and 3) the construction of interstate highways. Here is a little sample, “In 1955, President Eisenhower’s housing administrator told a congressional committee that the government should not “move to precipitously” to eliminate racial segregation from federal programs. The administration formally abolished a policy. . . .(stating that) African Americans and whites receive public housing of equal quality.” (p.33). This is only one of many instances of how the FHA sought to ensure segregation in housing. That testimony was given the year after the Brown v. Board of Education decision which established the principle that separate facilities (for schools) could not be equal. In case after case, brought out in this book, the FHA blocked financing and approval of integrated housing; it specifically blocked any development that would include single family homes for African Americans. It did so by refusing to insure any loans that banks would have made for these types of developments. The Veterans Administration had the role of guaranteeing loans made to veterans. So African American veterans should have had an equal chance of having the VA guarantee their loan as white veterans had. On page 13, the author exposes the VA, “At the time, the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration not only refused to insure mortgages for African Americans in designated white neighborhoods like Ladera; they also would not insure mortgages for whites in a neighborhood where African Americans were present.” Also, in its administration of the GI Bill, an educational initiative for veterans, the VA, “….frequently restricted education and training to lower-level jobs for African Americans….In some cases, local benefit administrators refused to process applications to four-year colleges for African Americans.” (p. 167). Being a veteran does not make you a person more worthy of equal treatment under the law, but if you examine stated principles of the nation (support our troops!) it is a grotesque irony that African American veterans were treated so poorly after serving their nation. Another overt policy at the Federal level included things like highway construction, which may seem on its surface to have nothing to do with housing. But the construction of interstate highways was used to do a few opprobrious things, and they were done intentionally: the plans for many of the highways were made specifically to go through predominantly African American neighborhoods, requiring their demolition; the plans were also made to isolate African American communities between two sections of interstate highways; and there were interstates specifically designed to block African American communities off and to separate them from white neighborhoods. Also, to add insult to injury, these highways were often constructed to facilitate movement from the suburbs, where African Americans had been excluded from housing. As if that wasn’t enough, several examples were shared where mass transit spending that would benefit African Americans, was diverted to other projects. Keep in mind; all of these actions were made by governmental bodies. African American neighborhoods were demolished for other reasons. Sometimes multi-family dwellings were demolished in order to make space for industrial development. Sometimes it was to make way for developments of single-family homes (which excluded African Americans via FHA policy) and in St. Louis, “To construct its Gateway Arch, the city demolished a downtown African American neighborhood displacing residents to new black areas like Ferguson.” I was left wondering, “When have you ever seen blocks upon blocks of single family homes in a white suburban neighborhood demolished for a development project?” Local governments were active participants in race-based discrimination in housing too. Local government used all sorts of legally sanctioned bludgeons to ensure segregation – zoning laws, sewer connection charges, property assessments and various other local ordinances. For instance, if a developer approached a zoning board with a development that included African Americans, the zoning board would re-zone the area “industrial” thereby prohibiting the housing development. In one reported instance when a development was found to be for African Americans, the city raised the sewer connection rates so high that the developer had to abandon the project. At the time when schools were still segregated, local governments would also move their segregated black-only schools to compel African Americans to move to locations away from white neighborhoods. The other conduct that was official government policy was police inaction. In a two page litany of terror, literally, Rothstein delivers case upon case of arsons and fire bombings against African Americans which resulted in no arrests or prosecutions. In Chicago, there were over 500 arson bombings in the first half of the century. “In the first ten months of 1947 alone, twenty-six arson bombings occurred, without an arrest.” (p. 145) In one dreadful anecdote, an air force veteran tried to move into a Chicago suburb and the police used force to prevent his family from occupying the apartment they rented (yes, you read that right). He got an injunction against the police and the police ignored it. 4,000 whites rioted, and several broke into the apartment and burned the family’s belongings. 118 people were arrested but not one was charged. Instead, the Grand Jury (part of the criminal legal system) indicted the air force veteran, the real estate agent and his attorney on charges of inciting a riot; all of this just because his family wanted to rent an apartment. Again, the author wrote about many instances in several different jurisdictions where the police essentially acted in a similar manner; standing by or participating in the violent removal of African Americans from a home. As agents of the government they violated the rights of the people by failing in their duty to protect all citizens from unlawful conduct and failing to investigate breaches of the law, and ensuring that they were discriminated against on the basis of their race – a clear case of the state violating Constitutional provisions. For people who may not have done too much reading on race in America, this book is a great place to start. One thing the author accomplishes very well is to implicitly debunk white liberals’ favorite myth: that racism is really a Southern problem. But throughout the western, Midwestern, northern and New England States, as mentioned above, Rothstein documents police inaction in unsolved fire bombings, unsolved murders and riots; employment restrictions; segregated housing policies; and tax assessments – all of which were overt actions taken by the local and state governments in these regions to ensure racial segregation in housing and employment. The author explains the long term impact: “Once de jure segregation was established, African Americans and whites were not affected similarly by subsequent race-neutral policies.” (p. 188). My thought on this is that no subsequent policy could then be race neutral. So for example, the housing subsidy that the federal government gives to middle class homeowners, which is a government entitlement program, is not available in an equitable way to black families because they were completely shut out from the post-war housing market through the 1970s by the policies of various government agencies at different levels of government. Even today, the harm is perpetuated in the education system. As numerous observers point out there is more segregation in schooling now than at the time of Brown v. Bd. Of Education. This problem is compounded by the lack of accurate history. Rothstein suggests that one way of approaching a remedy for the historical wrongs of government imposed segregation is to ensure that the future generation is prepared for such a remedy by being properly educated about the history of these wrongs. The problem is that in textbook after textbook described by the author, nothing is said about the misconduct of the past. The education system makes it appear as though African Americans chose to remain segregated without any influence by government policies. As he correctly states, “If young people are not taught an accurate account of how we came to be segregated, their generation will have little chance of doing a better job of desegregating than the previous ones.” (p. 199). In the section of this book on Frequently Asked Questions, the author responds to the question about why he only addresses the discrimination against African Americans and not other groups such as Puerto Ricans or Hispanics. This is one part of the book where I diverge from the author’s message. Essentially his explanation boils down to, “I only deal with African Americans because they have had it the worst of all.” I am not sure I agree that this is a good reason to exclude them from this discussion. While the facts support the idea that indeed African Americans had it the worst in terms of discrimination, when we do not insist on fair treatment of all people who were discriminated against it is difficult to convince them to be allies – and seeking a remedy requires allies. So while it would be fair for him to respond by to saying that bringing up other oppressed groups was beyond the scope of his research and beyond the scope of this book, a better conclusion to this question is that all groups affected by the policies of governments should band together for a remedy. This sort of intersectionality is essential for alliances and a unified defiance and eventual reigning in of white supremacist governance. A stellar example of accomplishing this is provided by Prof. Sir Hilary Beckles in his book Britain’s Black Debt, where Prof. Beckles makes the case for reparatory justice not just for descendants of the African enslaved people but also for the indigenous people of the Caribbean. It demonstrates that intersectional analysis is possible, beneficial and unifying. In a couple of instances the author himself seems to fall for the media’s version of African Americans by adopting some generalizations that go unsupported (unusual for this text and therefore of important note). In one instance, when discussing possible remedies he says, “Black middle-class adolescents living in such close proximity to ghettos must resist the lure of gangs and of alienated behavior if they aspire to duplicate their parents’ middle-class status.” (p. 203). This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, it goes unsubstantiated that there is this “lure of gangs” for these adolescents any more so than any other adolescent. Poor whites in suburbs also affiliate in gangs and they are not in proximity to ghettos nor to predominantly African American areas. To express this concern seems to be falling into the trap of the media portrayal of gangs as a concern strictly for people of color near ghettos. The second reason this is problematic is that it ties the future value of these adolescents to the socio-economic status of their parents. The importance of these adolescents is due to them being human beings who should be treated fairly, not due to them having transactional value as middle-class employees, earning middle-class salaries, doing middle-class spending. I think the author could have done a better job with this. In another instance, when describing a remedial housing program in Baltimore County, Maryland, the author describes a mobility program that includes counseling. Describing this counseling, he says, “It provides intensive counseling to the former public housing residents to help them adjust to their new, predominantly white, middle class environs. Counseling covers topics such as household budgeting, cleaning and maintenance of appliances, communicating with landlords and making friends with neighbors.” Sadly, this goes unchallenged. First, this is problematic because the author fails to challenge the fundamental assumption of the counseling described: that assimilation to the predominant culture is necessary for integration to occur. This is deeply concerning for several reasons, not the least of which is the unattractiveness of the dominant culture which resulted in several centuries of racial oppression and genocide of the indigenous people. Secondly, it presumes that former residents of public housing projects are not clean, do not know how to care for their belongings, do not know how to get along with landlords and do not know how to make friends with neighbors. Thirdly, how about some counseling for the new white neighbors on how to overcome their decades of white supremacist brainwashing and act like human beings. Until the Barbeque Beckys of this world are counseled it is unfair and one-sided to expect assimilation as the solution. Aside from that, the whole idea of assimilation as a value is offensive. I think the author could have addressed that – he certainly demonstrated the skill to have done so. Perhaps this passage didn’t trigger in him the same level of offensiveness that it triggered in me. At the very end of this review I am going to direct readers to some additional sources in order to share some of the steps I have taken on my journey which allowed me to connect so well with the content of this book. Before I do that, I want to close with two critical points, in the author’s words: “Social psychologists have found that segregation can give whites an unrealistic belief in their own superiority, leading to poorer performance if they feel less need to challenge themselves.” (p. 196) This is a short way of saying that white supremacist policies allow white people to get away with low standards and mediocrity. Later he says, “The false sense of superiority that segregation fosters in whites contributes to their rejection of policies to integrate American society.” (p. 197). Unless and until white people stop lying to themselves and everyone else, the problems stemming from segregation, which is a white supremacist problem, will continue. In my learning journey, I recall several points along the way that connected with this book. I hope you get an opportunity to examine at least one of them. Four books I would recommend are: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Nation’s Divide by Carol Anderson Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America by Elliot Jaspin Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics by George Lipsitz Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide by Prof. Sir Hilary McD. Beckles Four web links that I suggest are less of a time commitment, but still very important and beneficial: 1. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates Makes the Case for Reparations at Historic Congressional Hearing https://www.democracynow.org/2019/6/2... 2. An article by Ta-Nehisi Coates on Reparations https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/... 3. A TED talk on Adverse Childhood Experiences Affecting Health Across a Lifetime https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burk... 4. Prof. Koritha Mitchell on Low Standards for White People http://www.korithamitchell.com/low-st... Thank you for reading. I would appreciate any feedback.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    This is important information but I dont know what the audience is. It is in a wonky style, e.g. citing history textbooks that actively omit the facts of de jure segregation. I dont think this sort of argument will convince any racists/reactionaries. This is important information but I don’t know what the audience is. It is in a wonky style, e.g. citing history textbooks that actively omit the facts of de jure segregation. I don’t think this sort of argument will convince any racists/reactionaries.

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