Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, The

Richard Rothstein
In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law incontrovertibly makes clear that it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments—that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day. Through extraordinary revelations and extensive research that Ta-Nehisi Coates has lauded as "brilliant" (The Atlantic), Rothstein comes to chronicle nothing less than an untold story that begins in the 1920s, showing how this process of de jure segregation began with explicit racial zoning, as millions of African Americans moved in a great historical migration from the south to the north. As Jane Jacobs established in her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, it was the deeply flawed urban planning of the 1950s that created many of the impoverished neighborhoods we know. Now, Rothstein expands our understanding of this history, showing how government policies led to the creation of officially segregated public housing and the demolition of previously integrated neighborhoods. While urban areas rapidly deteriorated, the great American suburbanization of the post–World War II years was spurred on by federal subsidies for builders on the condition that no homes be sold to African Americans. Finally, Rothstein shows how police and prosecutors brutally upheld these standards by supporting violent resistance to black families in white neighborhoods. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited future discrimination but did nothing to reverse residential patterns that had become deeply embedded. Yet recent outbursts of violence in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, and Minneapolis show us precisely how the legacy of these earlier eras contributes to persistent racial unrest. “The American landscape will never look the same to readers of this important book” (Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund), as Rothstein’s invaluable examination shows that only by relearning this history can we finally pave the way for the nation to remedy its unconstitutional past.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2020-05-21
(my rating is actually zero stars, but goodreads won't let you put that)

there is no prescriptive summary of richard rothstein's recipe for black genocide a.k.a. *the color of law* that will bring you closer to possessing the ability to properly identify and challenge power. you either have it or you don't. can you see my secular humanism falling away? this is my pure analysis speaking: either you can see rothstein's sociology as extending the law's violent codification of race towards the end of physically regulating the residential profile of black bodies or you think i'm being hyperbolic. were there any hope for my secular humanism, i could find some comfort in the complete nonsensical legalistic straw of a sociologist who evidently has never had reason to peer over his piles of data at the world outside his window and see the police gun down mike brown to seriously feel that policy is the originary final boss to be tamed to overthrow global white supremacy. i won't find that comfort because i know if the straw has enough charisma it becomes the material world. at one point rothstein recommends a counseling component to integrationist policy proposals to assist poor blacks getting on in rich white neighborhoods. i needed that counseling while reading this book. the answer is never liquidating the capitalists whose property and resource interests the police exist to protect, the answer is never resource redistribution and a fundamental re-organization of society. could you imagine anything more terrifying than living next to billionaires? there aren't enough poor doors on earth to relieve their anxieties. and it's not a philanthropic tax-exempt fix, it must be a massive re-distribution of life chances beyond the insultingly dinky percentages of BMR whatever fake still-unaffordable bullshit developers are mandated. how about a world with no more fucking rich people? (yimby/nimby it's all the same shit: the elite's discretion to locate undesirable bodies, through pure hegelian force finding undesirables to giddily consent to those discrete undesirable locations...) oh god, the mister stevenson commute case study that is the central intestine rothstein organizes his shit factory around... i haven't been so mad in a long ass time... i didn't realize this is literally the yimby bible: i was thinking how can i talk about the yimby deployment of this text. rothstein has been making numerous public appearances at yimby events. his fearless white insistence on the logistics of where black bodies should be allowed to accumulate ought to be a taken as yimby ethnic cleansing in its purest undiluted form. i think about the long journey of how i arrived at what i would describe as a political consciousness after growing up in a white neighborhood through a timeline of two distinctly disparate racialized interpretive communities of hip hop"how the second one, the black one, trumped the first one, the white one"_ what if i only had the white reading of rap trapped in an integrated neighborhood? this is a terrible book, i won't waste any more time with this bullshit for now"_
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