Read: January 2023

Inspiration: Heard a podcast on the topic of “redlining” and wanted to learn more; recommended by a friend


Written with the help of ChatGPT, below is a brief summary to understand what is covered in the book.

“The Color of Law”, published in 2017 by author and public policy expert Richard Rothstein, is a historical analysis of how government policies and practices intentionally created and maintained racial segregation in American cities. Rothstein argues that this was not a result of individual choices, but rather a deliberate and systematic violation of the civil rights of black Americans by federal, state, and local governments. He provides extensive research and evidence that supports his claim, including examples of racially restrictive housing covenants, redlining, and discriminatory zoning laws. The book also examines the devastating consequences of segregation, such as concentrated poverty, inferior education, and limited economic opportunities for black Americans. Overall, “The Color of Law” sheds light on a crucial aspect of American history and calls for urgent action to address the ongoing effects of segregation on society.

Unedited Notes

Direct from my original book log, below are my unedited notes (abbreviations and misspellings included) to show how I take notes as I read.

Key distinction is focus is de factor (by private choices) vs de jure (by law) segregation, Supreme Coury say gvt has responsibility to remedy de jure but common belief is most of segregation impacts are due to private choices so not under scope, on the contrary—most segregration due to gvt policy in violation of 13th amendement which most explicitly about slavery but also about treating as second class/unfairly, SCOTUS should recognize true constitutional violation and act not pass off as private issues, blockbusting is practice is 50s CA where local real estate agents warn of incoming minority buyers to scare whites to sell then sell to minorities who need housing at inflated levels—local housing authority say couldn’t intervene in scaremongering, housing insurers often refuse to insure mortgages of blacks moving into white areas or vice versa and gvt allow it which perpetuated the issue, New Deal programs such as TVA and CCC segregate and give blacks worse/leftover housing, PWA of new deal had rule that housing projects match original neighborhood racial mix—and even where more diverse, would tweak to advantage whites, want to respect local attitudes—euphemism to keep segregated public housing, late 60s rules to keep public housing for those below certain income and push out middle class which deterioriated conditions for poor who stayed (less political influence), congress push for more public housing post ww2 but couldn’t get bill through if also include antisegregation amendment so settle with conservatives, Woodrow Wilson 1913 begin segregation in gvt at federal level—separate gvt offices/cafeterias, 1910 Baltimore first to introduce zoning ordinance to declare separate living areas for blacks and whites, frame as desirable to prevent “conflict”, New Orleans and Indianapolis adopt rules that for blacks to move to white majority zones need written consent of majority living there, often use economic zoning as cover for segregation (i.e. designate areas as only to be for single family homes which lower class cannot afford and therefore keep homogeneity of neighborhood (usually by race), Herbert Hoover was secretary in 20s behind economic zoning—say apartments in single family areas hurt “property value”, industrial/toxic industry developments met strict protests in white residential neighborhoods so no choice to set up in black areas where local gvt’s ignored protest—add to slum environment, econ zoning protect white neighborhoods and push lower income blacks away (circumvent court ban of racial zoning), Woodrow Wilson saw homeownership as way to get capitalist buy in post-1917 communist revolution in Russia (program focus on whites moving away from apartments to single fam homes), 1910s-50s “restrictive covenants” in property deeds limit property ownership to whites and often require local association membership to buy home (meant needs whites approval), federal gvt essentailly support practices as FHA provide better insurance rates to homogenous/white communities (often not insure if non-white), gvt had odd rel’ship as SCOTUS in 1917 rule gvt segregation of homes violates Constitutional right to private transactions—but circumvented via covenants and FHA funding requirements which were private for federal gvt say cannot stop, 1962 JFK finally truly bring federal gvt in line to stop practices, “blockbusting”: b/c blacks had limited choice, agents could jack up prices for blacks but on “contract sales” where pay monthly with no equity gain and eviction if 1 miss—thus work super hard, neglect maintenace (even have others stay for rent) so whites see deteriorate, agents scare into White Flight then property values sink, blacks stuck while whites leave—self fulfilling narrative of integration killing value of land, redlining is boxing blacks out, reverse redlining is overmarketing like in ’08 for overpriced homes that inevitably default for low income people—subprime loans pushed towards black communities and even incentivized at banks that fed gvt allow to happen, blacks default at much higher rates than whites and lost homes in ’08 crisis, interstate highway construction late 30s through 60s often explicitly intended to push out african americans—disrupt/destroy communities and zone them out to other areas, “urban renewal” give way to destroy homes as desire, just help suburban whites commute to downtown, no plans to helps displaced by federal gvt highway plans until 1965 once too late, violence towards african americans tolerated if try to move to white neighborhoods, riots, dynamite, rocks, and firebombings 1910s-60s, Chicago was notable epicenter where police look the other way and not prosecute/arrest whites destroying blacks home, “move-in violence” continue across US through 80s with proper holding to account of perpetrators, New Deal notably crafted to favor whites to pass into law with Southern support—set foundation for wage suppression as New Deal not create jobs and safety nets equally for all—locally under New Deal, blacks denied certain roles and no upward mobility to wage increases, also separate living conditions, during ww2 Roosevelt institute federal nondiscrimination policies but focus was winning war and local enforcement essentially nonexistent—blacks relegated to lowest tier job, similarly postwar even VA not treat equally for housing and jobs, property taxes based on set municipal rate then multiply by assessor home value (not market value)—assessors would undervalue white homes and overassess black so blacks pay higher taxes (higher assessor value not help in market—only for tax, so disadvantage), income gap takes substantial time to recover even as laws for equality enter—home prices in suburbs has soared (benefits accrued to white owners), longer buffer than integrating buses or restaurants for example, so still continues to lag, schools teach myth of de facto segregation vs de jure (praise FHA and New Deal, no mention of denial for blacks for homes, worse wages and jobs, etc) so kids don’t understand neighborhood makeups and lack of diversity properly, fair share inclusionary zoning is important—% of new developments in white/well off areas designated for low income/african americans, need to be proactive to change residential landscape and community diversity, argument is not that such policy is cost free—property values may creep down, crime may creep up, more $ to school counseling, etc but necessary for progress as cannot wait until “perfect” moment

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