Housing segregation underlies many of our country’s most serious problems: disparities in education and wealth between black and white families, and the persistent health issues and high incarceration levels within African American communities.
This is no small matter.
Recently, I described in the New York Times how the Trump administration is set to erode the limited progress we have made toward unwinding government housing policies that segregated neighborhoods throughout our nation. The administration now proposes housing rules that will make it much more difficult to challenge many policies that reinforce residential racial segregation.
Take a moment to read this article on-line at the New York Times which details how the Trump administration is on the verge of undermining the limited progress we have made in ending housing segregation.
The social and economic problems that are a direct result of housing segregation are stubborn and damaging.
Educators have not been able to make significant progress in their efforts to close the racial gap in academic achievement in large part because we enroll the most socially and economically disadvantaged children in poorly resourced schools, located in poorly resourced neighborhoods.
Racial health disparities stem, in part, from so many African American families consigned to areas where they have less access to healthy air and healthy foods.
Black men’s unjustifiable rates of incarceration partly result from their concentration in segregated neighborhoods that lack viable employment opportunities or decent public transportation to access good jobs.
Segregation also has a direct political impact: further polarization in our country.
How can we ever develop the common national identity essential to the preservation of our democracy if so many black and white families live so far from one another that we have no ability to understand and empathize with each other’s life experiences?
In The Color of Law, I described how 20th century federal, state, and local policies—explicitly racial—created, reinforced, and sustained racial boundaries in every metropolitan area in the United States.
The Civil Rights movement won important victories in the 1950s and 1960s, yet our failure to redress residential segregation underlies our most serious racial inequalities.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited ongoing racial discrimination in housing, but did little to explicitly prohibit policies that reinforce segregation where the racial intent is either masked, unconscious, or even absent. Yet courts, up to the U.S. Supreme Court, have consistently found that discriminatory policies (even if racial bias is unintentional) that perpetuate segregation are a violation of the Act where non-discriminatory alternatives are available. A proposed rule of the Department of Housing and Urban Development would undermine those court decisions.
“Even if federal, state and local officials, along with banks, insurance companies and real estate brokers, no longer intend to discriminate by race, their policies can sometimes have that effect, reinforcing and perpetuating segregation,” I showed in my New York Times piece last month.
The Trump administration is poised to make the situation even worse.
A second rule proposed by the administration removes the requirement that suburban communities have an “affirmative” plan to remove policies and practices that perpetuate segregation. And yet a third rule would allow retail banks that take deposits from residents of low-income neighborhoods to fail to extend mortgages and other credit products to residents of those neighborhoods.
In short, the administration’s hostility to justice for racial minorities continues unabated.
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We should invest in policies that can reverse the effects of generations of housing segregation and ensure that all Americans have access to essential community resources, regardless of their race and regardless of the neighborhoods in which they were born. Redressing segregation is necessary to enhance the economic opportunities of current and future generations.
Thank you,
Richard Rothstein
Distinguished Fellow, Economic Policy Institute, and author of The Color of Law
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