Happy 4th of July. In keeping with this holiday celebrating our nation’s independence, we’ve reviewed The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein (2017).
Rothstein is policy researcher at Berkley and friend of Ta-Nehisi Coates. The book is a review of segregation and anti-blackness in zoning laws, real estate practices, and public housing from the end of Reconstruction to present-day. Rothstein’s main contention is that segregation in America was not a de facto condition driven by private personal choices, but that it was an agenda promoted by the federal government.
Federal policies that created single-race public housing in previously integrated neighborhoods, incentivized the construction of all-white suburbs, and classified mortgages in predominately black areas as more risky (redlining) all contribute to the irreversible segregation architecture that America deals with today. Segregation was not only imposed in places with a history of slavery, but also in areas where it had never previously existed:
Carey McWilliams, who who had been California’s housing commissioners in the early years of World War II, later wrote that “the federal government [had] in effect been planting the seeds of Jim Crow practices throughout the region under the guise of ‘respecting local attitudes.’ (p. 37)
Click below to listen to the rest of our commentary on the book:
*Here are some additional post-recording thoughts:
1.Consistent with our previous methodology of guerrilla podcasting, this episode was planned on the 801 rapid bus and recorded at the Austin Public Library.
2.If it wasn’t clear in the podcast, we want to reinforce it now: this book should be required reading for anyone who works in government, housing, land development, or planning.