A COLOR OF LAW: A FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF HOW OUR GOVERNMENT SEGREGATED AMERICA

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Hilbert Morales
EL OBSERVADOR

Persons of color need to know about RESTRICTRIVE COVENANTS which may still exist on the deeds of real estate property. My personal experienced with real estate restrictive covenants happened during 1960, when I was purchasing my Palo Alto, CA home.

Many deeds may still have these restrictive covenants now deemed unconstitutional. My family has lived in Palo Alto since 1959; our three children attended and graduated from schools in Palo Alto Unified School District whose annual budget per student was $12,500 (in contrast to $6,500 per student per year elsewhere).

A child’s public-school education is influenced by family’s income, society and its economy. Not enough ‘low income families’ understand the complex matrix of issues such as racism, bias, bigotry, prejudice and xenophobia which all influence pre-k-12 education.

Ideally, education prepares a developing child’s mind with the basics: reading, writing and math skills plus a system of evidence-based logic, persistence, motivation and curiosity to keep on learning for life from one’s experiences. Vicarious learning from the experiences of others is very important requiring relationship awareness and communication skills, a stable temperament and ability to adapt changes.

A COLOR OF LAW: A FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF HOW OUR GOVERNMENT SEGREGATED AMERICA by author Richard Rothstein, Haas Institute and Economic Policy Institute, U.C. Berkeley, was published May 2017.

This book was the basis for an article entitled “The Segregation That Shaped Richmond” by Otis R. Taylor, San Francisco Chronicle, published January 19, 2018, page D1. Both present segregation’s legacy.

“Angela Cox, a 32-year employee of Richmond Public Library, was disquieted by government policies that established racist inequalities through housing developments in Richmond, (CA), the (San Francisco) Bay Area and nationally (during WW II, 1941-45, when the Richmond shipyards required additional workers to sustain the production of one Liberty cargo ship per day.”

“Richmond was a white community (24,000 residents) which suddenly had to provide housing for people of color (African Americans) who became 10% of the local population very suddenly. Public housing projects built were financed by Federal Housing Authority (FHA).”

“Rothstein’s research began as an education policy project (which revealed) how social and economic disadvantages are compounded (by segregation). So, if you are concerned about education policy, then do something about neighborhood segregation. I know it looks like a housing book. Public housing segregation has been documented before, as have been the discriminatory policies of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). What this “Color of Law” (book) does is connect the flagrant, systematic racism to the inequality that persists in neighborhoods and schools today.”

“Academics tend to focus on very narrow issues, so bringing all of these aspects of government sponsorship (of) segregation together in one place is a major achievement and contribution.”

This book argues that residential segregation was unconstitutional, a violation of the 13th Amendment. A year after the amendment abolished slavery in 1865…the Civil Rights Act of 1866 which declared equal protection for U.S. citizens of every race and color to “inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens.”

“But, that is not how this country has operated. Instead… racial segregative policies promulgated the disenfranchisement of Blacks (People of color).”

Cox said, “I did not fully comprehend the breadth and the architecture behind it until I read this book. Because…I thought the whole discrimination and restrictive covenants were designed by real estate companies. Yes, real estate agents (who) panicked white homeowners with tales of neighborhoods being invaded (by ‘blockbusting Blacks’), and police looked the other way when Black homeowners and renters were terrorized by their white neighbors.”

Rothstein writes, “But racial segregation was and remains a (social and) economic issue (today). We have created a caste system in this country with African Americans kept exploited and geographically separate by racially explicit government policies. Although most of these policies are now off the books, (their restrictive covenants) have never been remedied and their effect endures.”

“During WW II, (Richmond, CA) was this nation’s shipbuilding hub. It was ‘all hands-on deck’, which is why from 1940 to 1945 Richmond’s population grew from 24,000 to about 100,000. Its Black population rose from a few hundred to over 10,000… a shock to the mostly white city.”

“All these new workers needed homes. The federal government’s solution was to build segregated public housing. Blacks and whites could work together to defend this country, but they would not live together. What’s more, the shabby housing constructed for Blacks was near railroad tracks and close to the shipyards while the sturdier homes for whites were built closer to white residential areas.”

“The dense (public) housing for Blacks did not have resources like parks and community centers while projects for whites tended to be single family homes with amenities and maintenance services.”

“And Rollingwood, a suburb of Richmond, CA., was built to meet the demand for housing, but to finance its construction the federal government required that none of the 700 houses be sold to Blacks. The government also required each home to have an extra bedroom with a separate entrance for a white worker.”

“By 1950, more than three-fourths (75%) of Richmond’s Black residents lived in public war housing projects. “I think most Black people knew that there was discrimination, but did not know to what degree it happened,” said Cox, a 30-year resident of Richmond. “Sometimes the discrimination is still there; it just looks different.” The effects of Richmond’s racial segregation are still being felt almost 80 years later. Just look at their schools.”

The West Contra Costa Unified School District (has) schools in Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Pinole, and Hercules; serves 33,000 students, 70% of which are Latino and/or Black. (An education non-profit) ‘Go Public Schools West Contra Costa’s 2017 report found that by Kindergarten and first grade Black and Latino students have an achievement gap when compared with students of other ethnic backgrounds. For example: Only 28% of Black First Grade students read at or above the District’s benchmark reading level.

A chapter in THE COLOR OF THE LAW states “TO IMPROVE EDUCATION PEOPLE MUST UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY ARE FIXING.” The first thing to do is an information campaign targeting the community to acquaint people with the history so that they understand that it’s not a de facto system, but an unconstitutional system that requires a remedy.” Rothstein says, “Once (the stakeholders) understand that, we can begin to talk seriously about solutions.”

There are (persons) who do not want to be educated (or informed). Individuals such as our President has emboldened neo-Nazis, (KKK) and white supremacists with his racist rhetoric. There are (persons) like our President, who refuse to acknowledge the truth about America. These are the people who would rather believe kneeling NFL players are disrespectful of the American flag; not protesting police brutality; and the racial inequality outlined in ‘THE COLOR OF LAW’.

The truth hurts. But, we are going to keep talking (factually) about it. (Today) there is an openness to talking about our racial history. Rothstein says, ‘There is a general receptivity today and an interest in talking about these issues that has not ever existed before.

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