The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein is a long tedious read, but is a convincing argument that racial segregation is a product of government action rather than of private choices. Rothstein, using great detail and numerous examples, explains redlining and protections through government loans, mortgages, and oversights even of private banks along with predatory and reversed redlining. A published code of ethics mandating discrimination written for licensed realtors, the impact of tax exemptions for non-profit organizations, churches, and universities, and segregated housing projects with very little neighborhood amenities such as playgrounds and parks influenced overtly and racially restrictive housing opportunities for decades. Many of the laws and policies have slowly changed, not only in housing but also in labor, but “as a nation, we have paid an enormous price for avoiding an obligation to remedy the unconstitutional segregation we have allowed to fester.”
I slowly plowed through this book because our little village became contentious over a proposed apartment complex containing 24 units designed for the affordability needs of our county residents and families. People vehemently against the construction were worried about “those kinds of people—we all know who they are—who will bring harm to our community and schools.”
I cringed every time I heard these words.
Fortunately, our school officials were outspoken and welcoming as supportive of the construction, in that the stability of housing in light of significant wage gaps is a humane right for our countless unseen homeless children.
Stability is necessary for all of us in our communities.