The Color of Law

The racial segregation of our neighbourhoods has long been viewed as the result of unethical real estate agents, unethical mortgage lenders, and exclusionary covenants operating outside of the law, according to scholars and social critics. This is what is commonly referred to as “de facto segregation,” which refers to practises that were the result of private activity rather than laws or explicit government policy. However, as Rothstein demonstrates in case after case, private activity could not have imposed segregation without explicit government policies (de jure segregation) designed to ensure that African Americans and whites were kept apart.

A former newspaper columnist

Rothstein, a former columnist for the New York Times and a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, as well as a Fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has spent years compiling evidence that the government not only ignored but actively encouraged discriminatory practises in the residential sphere. The consequences have been devastating for generations of African-Americans who have been denied the right to live where they want to live and raise and educate their children in the places where they will thrive the most.

However, while the Fair Housing Act of 1968 provided modest enforcement to prevent future discrimination, it did nothing to reverse or undo more than a century’s worth of state-sanctioned violations of the Bill of Rights, particularly the Thirteenth Amendment, which forbade treating former slaves as second-class citizens (a practise prohibited by the Constitution). As a result, the structural conditions established by federal policy during the twentieth century continue to exist today.

Rothstein demonstrates how the government and our courts upheld racist policies in order to maintain the separation of whites and blacks at every step of the way, ultimately resulting in the powder keg that has defined Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, and Chicago, among other cities. The Color of Law is not a tale of Red versus Blue states, as is commonly believed. The storey of America is unfortunately one that can be told across the board in all of its municipalities – large or small, liberal or reactionary –

What readers of The Color of Law have to say about the publication:

‘The Color of Law,’ by Richard Rothstein, is one of those exceptional books that will be discussed and debated for many decades to come. On the basis of careful examinations of a variety of historical documents, Rothstein has presented what I believe to be the most compelling argument ever published on how the federal, state, and local governments contributed to and reinforced neighbourhood segregation.” The Truly Disadvantaged is written by William Julius Wilson, who is an author.

« Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law is a groundbreaking and insightful account of how government policy in the United States intentionally encouraged and enforced residential racial segregation. The central premise of his argument, which calls for a fundamental reexamination of American constitutional law, is that the Supreme Court has failed for decades to comprehend the extent to which residential racial segregation in our nation is not the result of private decisions by private individuals, but is the direct result of unconstitutional government action. His argument is that the Supreme Court has failed for decades to understand the extent to which residential racial segregation in our nation is not the result of private decisions by private individuals, The ramifications of his analysis are potentially revolutionary.” Stone, author of Sex and the Constitution, is a good example of this.