The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

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

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...

Title:The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
Author:
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ISBN:1631492853
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:368 pages

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

  • Rachel Cohen
    Apr 27, 2017

    my review:

  • The American Conservative
    May 05, 2017

    Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America doesn’t start off in the Deep South, Detroit, Baltimore, or the multitude of other places in the United States where segregation has often been examined. Instead, the research associate at the Economic Policy Institute begins his exploration in an unlikely place: San Francisco. There readers find Frank Stevenson, a transplant from Louisiana who found work in the booming manufacturing sector during

    Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America doesn’t start off in the Deep South, Detroit, Baltimore, or the multitude of other places in the United States where segregation has often been examined. Instead, the research associate at the Economic Policy Institute begins his exploration in an unlikely place: San Francisco. There readers find Frank Stevenson, a transplant from Louisiana who found work in the booming manufacturing sector during World War II.

    Stevenson’s story is typical of the African-American experience. He works hard but is blocked from access to new homes and certain jobs because of the color of his skin. Rothstein meticulously describes how local (via zoning and housing associations in places like Palo Alto) and federal (though discrimination in guaranteed mortgages from the Federal Housing Administration) authorities worked hand-in-hand to create segregated neighborhoods as black migrants came to California for the same reason so many others did—to find a slice of the American Dream. His conclusion that governments could impose segregation “where it hadn’t previously taken root” serves as a salient message that carries throughout the book.

  • Ira
    May 08, 2017

    Shocking and just disappointing that this hasn't been laid out so systematically before. I had no idea that government policies were so integral to the foundation and reinforcement of segregation. The author made an excellent choice to focus on the happenings in typically "liberal" enclaves of the north and California to make his point. Shockingly to me personally, my childhood suburb showed up as an anecdote (and Supreme Court case) unknown to me during my youth and my current suburb showed up

    Shocking and just disappointing that this hasn't been laid out so systematically before. I had no idea that government policies were so integral to the foundation and reinforcement of segregation. The author made an excellent choice to focus on the happenings in typically "liberal" enclaves of the north and California to make his point. Shockingly to me personally, my childhood suburb showed up as an anecdote (and Supreme Court case) unknown to me during my youth and my current suburb showed up in a 1959 anecdote. I can now give my wife a clearer answer on why our neighborhood is not as diverse as we would prefer.

    The book was well organized, a taut read, and the choice to go with notes in the back (without any footnoting) made for a very accessible read, which I preferred. My one (minor) complaint is that I didn't necessarily need the suggestions for solutions because I'm just not sure that the author proposed good ones (because I don't think there are good ones).

  • Louis
    May 09, 2017

    Richard Rothstein’s

    investigates the role of government policy in shaping and maintaining segregation in America after Reconstruction. President Franklin Roosevelt, either out of sincere belief or political calculations, introduced segregation into many of the New Deal programs such as housing and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Among other policies, the government would only guarantee mortgages for white World War I

    Richard Rothstein’s

    investigates the role of government policy in shaping and maintaining segregation in America after Reconstruction. President Franklin Roosevelt, either out of sincere belief or political calculations, introduced segregation into many of the New Deal programs such as housing and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Among other policies, the government would only guarantee mortgages for white World War II veterans and would not guarantee loans for any integrated development.

    Policies at both the state and local level also helped create slums as well. By the mid-20th century overt anti-integration ordinances were beginning to be struck down and cities responded by using zoning and planning rules to achieve the same objective: ordinances prohibiting the construction of anything other than single-family homes and Rostein notices that many of these ordinances are still in effect today.

    is an intriguing but also troubling read and makes it clear that while most of us are familiar with segregation in the abstract, not everyone is aware of how systemic segregation was. It was not merely the result of a few racists individuals acting on their own but rather the result of legally mandated policies, with effects that continue to linger to the present day.

  • Bookworm
    Jun 10, 2017

    Great history but rather dry. I forgot what exactly led me to this book but it sounded quite interesting. A history of segregation and racial discrimination in the US? I don't know much about real estate, housing, etc. but it sounded like it would be informative.

     

    And it was. Author Rothstein traces the ways and methods the US government used to segregate black people in housing. Everything from allowing racial discrimination  to ignoring when black people brought legal action against white landl

    Great history but rather dry. I forgot what exactly led me to this book but it sounded quite interesting. A history of segregation and racial discrimination in the US? I don't know much about real estate, housing, etc. but it sounded like it would be informative.

     

    And it was. Author Rothstein traces the ways and methods the US government used to segregate black people in housing. Everything from allowing racial discrimination  to ignoring when black people brought legal action against white landlords/organizations/businesses to the refusal to desegregate neighborhoods, etc.

     

    I was shocked as I read it but in retrospect I realized I really shouldn't be. It probably helped that I am somewhat familiar with some of the areas the author discusses and suddenly so many things made sense. Why certain areas or neighborhoods have "bad" reputations. Why it's not uncommon to see commentary in the media or social media posts about why particular areas have certain issues relating to crime, food deserts, school funding, transportation accessibility, etc. Considering that we're really not all that far away from the policies that helped create these issues and problems, it made sense to me how and why there are particular perceptions about certain cities, neighborhoods, areas, etc. 

     

    It was fascinating and troubling. And to his credit it was helpful that Rothstein traced how and why certain politicians governed and why that even if presidents or other government officials were actually open to desegregation, fair housing, accessibility, etc. they were often stopped by other means: white neighbors who didn't want desegregation, southern Democrats who were needed (and therefore throwing out provisions that would deal with racial discrimination for example). Unfortunately and frustrating, especially when we still very much see the consequences in the present day and see results of studies that have outlined what happened due to what those policies built.

     

    Overall it was informative but I won't lie, sometimes it wasn't very interesting. Reading about particular cities/neighborhoods and looking at the histories of presidents, unions and governmental programs/entities were all interesting. But sometimes the text really got into the weeds that was a bit much for me. In the end I'm still glad i picked it up.

     

    It might be a bit of a niche book for some so I'd recommend the library before deciding if this is a book you really need or want to have.

  • Carl
    Jun 21, 2017

    Excellent study, well researched, well written, & an obvious passionate involvement with the topic. Rothstein makes it terribly & undeniably clear how being an African-American is this land of the free is to be cheated of your rights, your money & your human dignity. Most of us have learned to believe that residential segregation, especially in the north, is a product of cumulative human choices & preferences to be among similar neighbors & therefore government while having f

    Excellent study, well researched, well written, & an obvious passionate involvement with the topic. Rothstein makes it terribly & undeniably clear how being an African-American is this land of the free is to be cheated of your rights, your money & your human dignity. Most of us have learned to believe that residential segregation, especially in the north, is a product of cumulative human choices & preferences to be among similar neighbors & therefore government while having failed to eliminate segregation is to be held blameless in causing it. Rothstein disabuses us of that comfortable notion. From the end of the Civil War on, government action (generally as opposed to inaction) at the local, municipal, county & state & federal levels has stacked the deck against African-Americans rights to live where they chose & where they might avail themselves of the greatest economic opportunities for themselves & educational opportunities for their children in a remarkable variety of ways. This is another essential but very upsetting addition to the literature. Incidentally, it makes a nice "bookend" with "Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City" by Matthew Desmond.

  • Peter
    Jun 18, 2017

    A comprehensive look at the segregationist and racist

    around housing in America from the Reconstruction to present day. At times it was dry, as is legislation in general, but the broad and far reaching evidence of exactly how explicitly prejudice was encoded into policy after the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and how federal and local government were complicit in endorsing, promoting or at least remaining neutral to this prejudice is extremely unsettling.

    And what's scarier is how little is k

    A comprehensive look at the segregationist and racist

    around housing in America from the Reconstruction to present day. At times it was dry, as is legislation in general, but the broad and far reaching evidence of exactly how explicitly prejudice was encoded into policy after the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and how federal and local government were complicit in endorsing, promoting or at least remaining neutral to this prejudice is extremely unsettling.

    And what's scarier is how little is known and discussed in any current day dialogue around social issues in the U.S. Attempts to address the issues are frequently shut down under the auspices of neutrality and meritocracy.

    The Q&A/FAQ chapter also very critically responds to some questions that many will inevitably have after reading the book. Well done to the author on including this.

  • Martha Toll
    Jun 18, 2017

    Could everybody please read this ? It's an essential history of America's state sponsored history of race discrimination in housing.

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