Monday, April 09, 2018

Now We Know EXACTLY How Blacks Were Left Out Of Federal Middle Class Creation...,


NYTimes |  Critics of the Fair Housing Act have glibly attempted to dismiss attempts to end segregation as “social engineering” — as if rigid racial segregation in housing were a natural phenomenon. In fact, the residential segregation that is pervasive in the United States today was partly created by explicit federal policies that date back at least to World War I. It is now widely acknowledged that the federal insistence on segregated housing introduced Jim Crow separation in areas of the country outside the South where it had previously been unknown. It stands to reason that dismantling a system created by a set of government policies will require an equally explicit set of federal policies.

The scholar Richard Rothstein exposed the roots of this shameful process in his recent book “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.” He reported that the government’s first effort to build housing for defense workers near military installations and factories during World War I was founded on the premise that African-American families would be excluded “even from projects in northern and western industrial centers where they worked in significant numbers.”

The same toxic pattern prevailed under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, when the government created the first public housing projects for nondefense workers, building separate projects for black people, segregating buildings by race or excluding African-Americans entirely. Particularly telling is the fact that racially integrated communities were razed to make way for Jim Crow housing.

The federal insistence on rigid racial separation found its most pernicious expression in the Federal Housing Administration, created in 1934 to promote homeownership by insuring mortgages. As the sociologists Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton document in “American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass,” the government typically denied mortgages to African-Americans, shutting out even affluent black people from the suburban homeownership boom that remade the residential landscape during the middle decades of the 20th century.

Government at all levels embraced racial covenants that forbade even well-to-do African-Americans from purchasing homes outside of black communities. Cut off from homeownership — the principal avenue of wealth creation — African-Americans lost the opportunity to build the intergenerational wealth that white suburban families took for granted. The vast wealth gap that exists today between whites and African-Americans has its roots in this era.

The argument for what became the Fair Housing Act emerged forcefully in the 1968 Kerner Commission report, which blamed segregation in large measure for the riots that ravaged the country in the 60s and called for national fair housing legislation. The housing law might well have died in committee had the country not erupted in fresh violence after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. It was signed into law a week later.

The housing act put the federal government on record as supporting open housing and prohibiting the pervasive discrimination that had locked most African-Americans out of decent accommodations and homeownership. But the version that passed in 1968 had been declawed — stripped of enforcement provisions that would have given HUD strong authority to root out discrimination. Nearly a quarter-century would pass before Congress strengthened the law. So during that time, African-Americans were left subject to the harsh discrimination the original act was supposed to preclude.

This progressive sounding law — which requires entities that receive federal money to “affirmatively further” fair housing goals — was consistently undermined by officials of both parties who had little appetite for confronting entrenched segregation.