Michael Finocchiaro's Reviews > The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
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it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction, american-21st-c, history

Richard Rothstein's deeply researched book about segregation in America is a timely and important read if one truly wants to sound the depths of anger and despair that are at the heart of the BLM movement and the general feeling of disenfranchisement in the African-American community. The evidence he cites is at every level of government - federal, state, local - and constant since Reconstruction on into the 80s and beyond. I found it imminently readable and informative and I highly recommend this book to be read in these particular times before 3 Nov 2020.

A few scary quotes: sorry but the eReader did not give page numbers :-(

In a 1962 Saturday Evening Post article, an agent (using the pseudonym "Norris Vitchek") claimed to have arranged house burglaries in white communities to scare neighbors into believing that their communities were becoming unsafe.
This sounds like the fake antifa rioters in 2020...

Several cities sued banks because of the enormous devastation that the foreclosure crisis imposed on African Americans. A case that the City of Memphis brought against Wells Fargo Bank was supported by affidavits of bank employees stating that they referred to subprime loans as "ghetto loans." Bank superiors instructed their marketing staff to target solicitation to heavily African American zip codes, because residents there were being exploited. A sales group sought out elderly African Americans, believing they were particularly susceptible to pressure to take out high-cost loans.
A similar suite by the City of Baltimore presented evidence that Wells Fargo established a unit staffed exclusively by African Americans who supervisors instructed to visit black churches to market subprime loans. The bank had no similar practice of marketing such loans through white churches.

Scary. And I bank with WF which makes me say WTF?

But when the builder's intent to sell both to blacks and whites became known, the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors rezoned the site from residential to industrial use. When he found a second plot, Mountain View officials told him that they would never grant the necessary approvals. He next identified a third tract of land in another town near the Ford plant; when officials discovered that the project would not be segregated, the town adopted a new zoning law increasing the minimum lot size from 6000 to 8000 square feet, making the project unfeasible for working-class buyers. After he attempted to develop a fourth site on which he had an option, the seller of the land canceled the option upon hearing that the project would be integrated. At that point, the builder gave up.
In the ensuing years, African American residents in Milpitas continued to be confined to Sunnyhills and a relatively undesirable project, built in the 1960s between two freeways and a heavily trafficked main shipping thoroughfare. The Ford plant closed in 1974. Milpitas is no longer all white - it now has many Hispanic and Asian families - but the effects of the earlier segregation remain visible: African Americans make up only 2 percent of the population.

And California is supposed to be liberal? This is so awful. And then folks wonder why Black Lives Matter is such a critical, vocal movement...
In Miami, as US-1 heads down between Coral Gables and Coconut Grove, they pulled the same shenanigans by putting a horrifying project in, essentially, the middle of the highway. I never understood this until now...

Federal interstate highways buttressed segregation in cities across the country. In 1956, the Florida State Road Department routed I-95 to do what Miami's unconstitutional zoning ordinance had intended but failed to accomplish two decades earlier: clear African Americans from an area adjacent to downtown. An alternative route utilizing an abandoned railway right of way was rejected, although it would have resulted in little population removal. When the highway was eventually completed in the mid-1960s, it had reduced a community of 40000 African Americans to 8000.
This explains a mystery that always bugged me growing up in Miami: why the crappy neighborhoods lined that piece of I-95 just north of downtown: the answer was explicit racism.

Henry Wallace proposed to President Roosevelt that highways routed through cities could also accomplish the "elimination of unsightly and unsanitary districts." Over the next two decades, the linkage between highway construction and removal of African Americans was a frequent theme of those who stood to profit from a federal r0ad-building program. They found that an effective way to argue a case for highway spending was to stress the capacity of road construction to make business districts and their environs white.

Same thing happened with I-35 in Austin related later in the book:
"The city closed other schools and parks for African Americans outside the Eastside area that had been designated for their residence. Additional inducements for African Americans to consolidate were created by the construction on the Eastside of a new segregated library, a new park, and an improved segregated high school. Then, in 1938, the segregation of the African American population in the area was further reinforced when the planning commission chose it as the location for Rosewood Courts, the all-black public housing project that had been won for Austin by Congressman Lyndon Johnson, while he also won a companion project for whites close to downtown.
Once African Americans had been pushed into the Eastside, municipal services in the neighborhood declined. Streets, for example, were more likely to be unpaved than in other parts of the city; sewers were poorly maintained and often clogged, and bus routes that served the Eastside were suspended during the summer because the same routes served the University of Texas and were not needed for students when the university was on break. Zoning rules to preserve neighborhoods' residential character were not enforced on the Eastside, leading to the establishment of industrial facilities in the area."

I lived in Austin for 3 years in the 90's and always wondered why the east side of I-35 was such a stark contrast to the west side - it was just getting gentrified because of the explosion of population, but now I understand why the airport was on that side along with factories and stripclubs.

In Raleigh in the early 20th century, neighborhoods of black and white concentration were scattered across the city. They included two relatively prosperous African American neighborhoods, Idlewild and College Park, on what was then the city's northeast side. These middle-class communities of owner-occupied single-family homes no longer exist because in the 1920s the school board decided to transfer all schools for black students to the far southeastern section of the city, where planners hoped to isolate Raleigh's African Americans...
A story that got repeated over and over again across the country.

It is too painful for me to retype the evidence of physical attacks on black communities: lynchings, fire-bombings, etc. that were a result of white anger at desegregation because it hits too close to home in the current dystopian trumpian environment.

Read the book.
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Reading Progress

August 7, 2020 – Started Reading
August 7, 2020 – Shelved
August 7, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
August 7, 2020 –
August 7, 2020 –
August 7, 2020 –
August 8, 2020 –
26.0% "Fascinating and depressing. If you want to understand the anger and frustration in the African American community and the inverse of white privilege, this book is so enlightening."
August 10, 2020 – Finished Reading
August 30, 2020 – Shelved as: non-fiction
August 30, 2020 – Shelved as: american-21st-c
August 30, 2020 – Shelved as: history

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Denise (new)

Denise H. Thank you for this, dear Michael. Timely and important ! :)

Michael Finocchiaro Thanks Denise!

message 3: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Great review Michael. What a sad and outrageous sequence of events.

Michael Finocchiaro Thanks Barbara, and yes it is very, very outrageous. We need to vote blue to get things back on track starting now...

message 5: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan K If you haven't read Bryan Stevenson's "Just Mercy", add it to your list

Michael Finocchiaro Thanks Jonathan, I will

message 7: by Angela M (new)

Angela M Thanks for your excellent review, Michael.

Michael Finocchiaro Thanks Angela!

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