The Color of Law

By Jerry Levine

It’s been 150 years since the end of the Civil War and 50 years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act. However we still have a divided society – whites on one side and blacks on the other. Richard Rothstein in his book The Color of Law argues that the racial divide stems from a deliberate segregation of housing fostered largely by federal, state and local governments in cahoots with bankers, real estate developers, labor unions and the general public. He discusses many issues resulting from housing discrimination, including unemployment, household income, wealth accumulation, education and crime.

Rothstein begins about 100 years ago with a history of restrictive covenants and “redlining” mortgage lending practices in housing markets across the country. Public housing had very similar restrictions as private housing; and, unbelievably by today’s standards, this was Federal Housing Authority (FHA) policy. Restrictive covenants were upheld by the Supreme Court, with three of the sitting justices at the time recusing themselves from the decision because they themselves lived in homes with restrictive covenants. In addition to restrictive covenants, violence against new black home owners moving into an all-white neighborhood was a huge problem from the ‘20s through the ‘60s. There was rarely an arrest or prosecution of perpetrators. 
Rothstein also discusses the issue of white flight, both in public and private housing. The FHA justified its racial policies because they were worried that both black home ownership and white flight would contribute to FHA mortgage defaults. So, the FHA built white-only or black-only projects. Blacks were frequently denied both FHA and VA mortgages, and thus they might only be able rent a home, which prevented them from accumulating wealth as home values appreciated. Blacks frequently ended up obtaining risky private contract mortgages where missing one mortgage payment meant foreclosure. Newspaper stories just last week in my home city of Chicago indicated that blacks still pay much higher property taxes than whites for comparable housing. To help meet expenses and insure against foreclosure, many black home owners rent part of their house to additional families to help cover costs. This over-crowding leads to neighborhood deterioration, crime and over-crowded schools.

Rothstein maintains that racial segregation was created by government action, and once entrenched, segregation is difficult to reverse. He argues that did not need to happen. He argues that starting about 100 years ago, if the government had declined to build racially separate public housing, and had not allowed suburbs to adopt exclusionary zoning laws, and had told developers that they could not have FHA guarantees unless the houses were open to all, and state courts had not blessed private discrimination, and if churches, universities, and hospitals had faced loss of tax exempt status for their promotion of restrictive covenants, and the police had arrested rather than encouraged perpetrators of violence, and if real estate commissions had denied licenses the brokers who used unethical blockbusting techniques, and school boards had not drawn attendance boundaries to insure segregation, and if highway planners had not been allowed to demolish African-American neighborhoods to build new roads, and if African-Americans had the same access to labor markets as other citizens, we would live in a very different country. I love his idealism, but to accomplish what he wanted during what I remember of that period of time seems Herculean.

I believe the real culprit was not the government, but the basic prejudice of many Americans, especially then. Political leaders can push for change, but in the end in a democracy like ours, the will of the people prevails. The good news is that attitudes have been changing for the better. I personally see a vast change from the attitudes of my immigrant grandparents, who lived in their own little ethnic enclave and barely spoke English, to my very successfully integrated, diverse children and grandchildren. My family and friends are a mix of people of all shapes and sizes, religions and colors, with differing sexual orientations. This country is changing. Unfortunately, it takes such a long time.

Question: Why does everybody hate Trump?

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19 thoughts on “The Color of Law

  1. AvatarSteve

    When you live in small town Canada, for the most part hearing about the “problem of racism” is some far away problem that we only hear about in the media happening somewhere else. Growing up encountering someone of a different race was infrequent and to be honest, a bit of a curiosity. The greater Toronto area has now become one of the most diverse areas of the world so you don’t know who you will see, but you don’t see outright racism very often. My worst offense is falling occasionally for the stereotype that in the back off my head thinking that the black person I am dealing with today is somehow mad at me just for being a white person. Drive an hour to Buffalo and you might as well be on another planet. Go into the circle K and I see stuff that makes me wonder “what was the point of that comment”? If racism is something that we pretty much universally agree is bad for society, why do individuals make such an effort to perpetuate it?

    Maybe some people don’t have enough to keep their minds occupied and have time for spewing crap at others. It’s enough just to try and get through the day, Hating on people is just to much work. As far as making it better, “shrugs”.

    1. AvatarJust another Canuck

      Maybe a good place to start the change to the segregation mindset in the USA is for the government and statisticians to stop asking the question of “what race are you”? To stop asking & recording a person’s race on any sort of form, document or statistic would be a paradigm shift in attitude and race relations in the USA.

  2. AvatarJames Munroe

    People don’t hate Trump.
    They are scared of him. In the story above you mention if we had the courage to not make
    separate sections, would have been good. The same thing is happening here, old policies being questioned be the new guy. Old guys and girls don’t want to change, and will fight Mr. Trump not to lose it. As the fighting continues over the next few years, the public should see who is holding us back and who is trying to move forward. I hope.

  3. AvatarAlex

    Question: Why does everybody hate Trump?
    My question #1: Is the question above a question, or a statement?
    My question #2: Why does the author of that question place the desired for actual?
    As for “The Color of Law”, at this time I see the problem in existing of Affirmative Act of Equal Employment Opportunity. Initially, it was created to protect “minorities”. In fact, it improved the statistics, but made the “minorities” worse than they were. Now they do not need to be the best in order to build the career. It is enough to have specific skin color. If the Affirmative Act is not cancelled, then in couple generations these people will lose their ability to struggle for better life.

  4. AvatarBetty

    President Trump is not a man most people can look up to or respect. He does not bring out the best in us and therefore is not a true leader. His politics began with his lie of President Obama’s birthplace. While campaigning he promised people that had been through hard times and felt that the system only benefited the rich that he would fight for them and they were happy to vote for him. Maybe he believed it himself but in the end his character is flawed and he can’t get away from his true nature. He is not a man of his word. He has a trail of lawsuits and believes in bullying people to get his way. This may have worked for him in real estate and in reality television but does not work in Washington or global politics. In that arena we look for true leaders that have strong convictions, a high moral compass, and a vision that lifts the majority of Americans. Sadly, this is not President Trump.

    1. Avatarrick

      Betty I imagine you look to true leaders that have strong convictions a high moral compass, and a vision that lifts the majority of Americans.

      I would surmise you look up to President BJ Clinton, who said: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time, never.”

      The vision majority of American males have is that of an impressionable young 22 year old impressionable cute intern under the historical Resolute desk servicing the President whilst making phone calls to world leaders.
      Additionally making oral sex a household word and adding “Lewinski” to the worlds lexicon.


      Speaking of enriching oneself, in HiLlEry’s own words they left the Whitehouse BROKE, yet in a eight years amassed over ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS,.
      Imagine that!
      I am glad they overcame that “broke” thing.
      It is sad to see a former President as a pauper in the poor house or homeless shelter…

      And I will just mention President Obama’s famous statements:
      “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,
      If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too.”
      “This will reduce your premiums”

      It was also President Obama who ordered the VAPORIZING of American Citizens WITHOUT due process vie numerous drone strikes.

      And then there is the Communist from Vermont, a cranky old timer from Brooklyn, Bernie Sanders, who helped incite one of his volunteers to ASSASSINATE REPUBLICAN Congress members.

      The champion of the poor downtrodden, and economic inequality, just bought a $600,0,0 waterfront vacation home adding to his real-estate portfolio.
      How did a simple Senator from Vermont amass a MILLION DOLLAR net worth?

      I will continue to look with respect at President Donald John Trump!!!

      1. Avatarrick

        Hey Joe,

        I offer you the opportunity to refute any of my comments.

        I merely stated facts.
        I used their own words.

        You say I am “full of hate” and you don’t even know me.
        All the ladies love me!

        We are just winning more and more…

  5. AvatarPhil

    Why? Because he is totally unprepared to handle the job. He just lacks the experience, intellect and the knowledge to handle the tasks at hand. I’m in no way even considering his policies or agenda here. Even if all those completely aligned with mine, I’d still say he is completely unprepared for the job and I’d have voted against him still.

    Trump was unable to carry a majority vote against a pretty flawed challenger. If somehow we could vote again today with all the knowledge we now have, imagine the landslide that would be against him. He would lose the popular vote by double digit percentages.

  6. AvatarDonnie M

    Before the last election America was at a cross road. Which way to go. The powers that are driving us towards a global government, or new world order if you will, received a blow last November 8th. While Trump is not perfect, no one is, Obama and Hillary were both part of the establishment out to guide us into a global government. The media is totally behind globalism and the new world order. They are panicking about loosing their foot hold to get rid of our Constitution and force us into compliance with a global government. Most all politicians belong to the CFR, ( council on foreign relations) If you do the research you will find people that started the UN was started by convicted communist spy Alger Hiss. The UN charter has nothing in common with our Constitution what so ever. Our founding fathers and George Washington warned about those who wanted to take our freedom away. After signing the Declaration of Independence a woman asked Ben Franklin what did you give us? a democracy or monarchy. He said, We give you a Republic…..If you can keep it. So we are very close to losing it and if Hillary would have won more of our rights would be down the tubes. I have never seen the losing party become such big cry babies bullies. Whining and complaining moaning etc. They are acting like a 2 year old who cannot have their way. Conservative didn’t do that when B/O became president and he has made this country more divided than any other president in recent past. SO much crime is being committed by leaking information and media going berserk over fake news. It is all to undermine President Trump. I am for praying for this administration as they need it to stand up from all the lies and attacks. I challenge all to read the Constitution and you will see that our country was going in the wrong direction. That’s why people voted him in as they were tired of the BS that B/O was doing. He is an outsider when it comes to politicians that’s why the establishment positions hate him.

  7. AvatarGordy

    Trump stated so many times that he was going to make some changes, now it is their mission to stop him. He’s brash, but he is doing and he is saying (Ok, tweeting)

    1. Term limits. The founding fathers never figured in career politicians who somehow become rich yet their salary cant support it. Want to drain the swamp, the answer is right in front of us, but show me the senator who would vote for it. Want to fix Obamacare; Put Congress on it and I’d give them 3 months.
    2. Welfare. Great idea to dumb down the population, but it isn’t teaching anybody to fish. Keep handing them fish out, and a large group of the population will forget how to catch one. And that crap about illegal immigrants should be able to collect welfare and vote, Come On.
    3. Protection. Who could have predicted that Muslims would wage a holy war against Christians all over the world. Only everyone who read even part of the Koran would get it, the rest have to wait until the group is large enough to think they can win to see the holy war unfold. I really don’t think a wall is the answer, but more of a symbol.

    I like Trump for at least bringing these and other issues to the top, even though the blockade against him seems insurmountable. I am also happy that Clinton didn’t win, because I had a lot of customers that would have given up and closed if she had, like 30 of them. To date, we only lost 3 and the rest are still plugging away, doing their best and winning.

    Remember Aristotle: There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.

  8. AvatarSara

    I agree Kelly! Respect the office and the Constitution.
    If you don’t maybe you are in the wrong country. Neither are negotiable.
    But, you may have a hard time getting over their borders.
    Good Luck!!!

  9. AvatarArt Santana

    Not everybody hates Trump, proof is that he is the president. Does everyone support him? no, not even most of those that voted for him. See latest’s approval polls. His bullying attitude, lack of political correctness tact and ineptitude in foreign relations have gone from shocking to annoying to I do not care anymore. I always believed that his presidency would be the ultimate reality show and 6 months into office has just made my prediction true. Don’t get me wrong, I did not want Hillary or Bernie in either. It is what it is, the daily shocking news will continue to come to someone that just loves the spot light and does not allow his tongue to ask permission to his brain before spitting the next outrageous thing out. Love what he is doing to the stock market and my 401k though. My America is still great!

  10. Avatarrick

    Donald J. Trump tweeted:
    POTUS Approval at 50 Percent!
    New poll from Rasmussen Reports shows that half of American voters approve of the job President Trump is doing.


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