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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2009

Official – de jure – Discrimination of U.S. Minority Blacks

By Daya Gamage – Asian Tribune Exposure of America’s Hypocrisy
Washington, D.C. 13 October, (Asiantribune.com):

\ “The result of de jure residential segregation has to include not only how public policy geographically separated African Americans (the minority Blacks) from whites but also how federal and state labor market policies, with undisguised racial intent, depressed African American wages.

In addition, some and perhaps many local governments taxed African Americans more heavily that whites. The effect of these government actions were compounded because neighborhood segregation itself imposed higher expenses on African American than on white families, even if their wages and tax rates had been identical.

The result: smaller disposable incomes and fewer savings for black families, denying them the opportunity to accumulate wealth and contributing to make housing in middle-class communities unaffordable.

“If government purposely depressed the incomes of African Americans, with the result that they were priced out of mainstream housing markets, then these economic policies are also important part of the architecture of de jure segregation”.

In the just published The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, Richard Rothstein, Research Associate of the Economic Policy Institute and Fellow of the Haas Institute at the University of California-Berkeley, splendidly documents how de jure and de facto segregation and discrimination of America’s 11% minority Black community – the African Americans – took place beginning from the early last century to the present times:

Present times when the United States advocates and lectures Third World nations how to effectively eliminate discrimination against their minority communities and send diplomatic emissaries from Washington to teach them how to devise official policies to help minority communities in those nations on upward mobility and highlighting the misery of ethnic minorities in those nations.

A house is a precious possession of any person living in the United States: If the house is in a good neighborhood, its equity increases; the enhanced equity is used by the family to educate the children, pay for their college tuition and student loans. The result: the family has the opportunity to have upward mobility in society with good education, higher income and comfortable living.

What is documented in Richard Rothstein’s book is that the federal, state and local governments as well as financial institutions facilitated the whites to obtain/purchase houses in neighborhoods that are well maintained and prevented the Black minority community in penetrating into such neighborhoods. The result: the vast Black minority – the African Americans – were forced to living in ‘ghettos’ depressing their household income, sub-standard education for the children and driven to low-paying employment or higher unemployment in the Black community.

Rothstein on the long-term effects of African-Americans being prohibited from buying homes (in fact the federal, state and local governments placed obstacles) in suburbs and building equity:

“Today African-American incomes on average are about 60 percent of average white incomes. But African-America wealth is about 5 percent of white wealth. Most middle-class families in this country gain their wealth from equity they have in their homes. So this enormous difference between a 60 percent income ratio and a 5 percent wealth ratio is almost entirely attributable to federal house policy implemented through the 20th century.”

Rothstein says these decades-old housing policies have had a lasting effect on American society. “The segregation of our metropolitan areas today leads…to stagnant inequality, because families are much less able to be upward mobile when they’re living in segregated neighborhoods when opportunity is absent, “he says.

The book gives evidence how the white families sent their children to college with their home equities; they were able to take care of their parents in old age and not depend on their children.

They’re able to bequeath wealth to their children. None of those advantages accrued to Black minority Americans, who for the most part were prohibited from buying homes in those suburbs.

While the Fair Housing Act of 1968 provided modest enforcement to prevent future discrimination, it did nothing to reverse or undo a century’s worth of state-sanctioned violations of the Bill of Rights, particularly the Thirteenth Amendment which banned treating former slaves as second-class citizens. So the structural conditions established by 20th century federal policy endure to this day.

Rothstein meticulously describes how local (via zoning and housing associations in places like Palo Alto in California) 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.

The book offers modern examples of how federal and local agencies, often established under the banner of promoting affluence, became tools of racial discrimination based on the longstanding belief that black and white Americans hold “natural” antipathy toward each other. For centuries this belief—spurred on by a mix of fear and nonsense—has shielded politicians and lawmakers as they reinforced stereotypes to consolidate authority. The Color of Law shows how this operated across the United States during the first half of the 20th century and in many places lingers today.

Rothstein wrote The Color of Law for an audience of five: Chief Justice John Roberts and his conservative colleagues on the Supreme Court. He “adopt[s] the narrow legal theory of Chief Justice Roberts, his colleagues, and his predecessors. They agree that there is a constitutional obligation to remedy the effects of government-sponsored segregation, though not of private discrimination.” Rothstein argues that, in fact, most segregation falls “into the category of open and explicit government-sponsored segregation.”

By all metrics, American housing is a world of self-perpetuating racial segregation. Black and white Americans, in particular, rarely live together.

In contrast, a Third World developing country like Sri Lanka has facilitated its minority (11%) Tamils, who elected to leave the predominantly Tamil north-east region, buy property and houses to settle among the majority Sinhalese in the South-Western regions. In fact, 54 percent minority Tamils live among the majority Sinhalese in South-West region.

Richard Rothstein insists that contemporary segregation, far from being de facto or accidental, would not have come to exist without active encouragement by government: local, state, and—most of all—federal.

The U.S. federal government created mortgage-support programs like the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA insured bank mortgages, making them accessible to large swathes of the middle class for the first time. But in order to qualify for FHA protection, a house had to be in a "low-risk" neighborhood. And in order to be deemed low-risk, a neighborhood had to be entirely white. Mere proximity to a black neighborhood could be disqualifying.

Neighborhoods were rewarded by the FHA for segregated schools; for restrictive neighborhood covenants banning future sales to non-whites; and for highways, boulevards, and other physical barriers that discouraged interracial mingling. Most favored of all were houses that were outside of racially mixed cities altogether, in new suburban subdivisions that could be guaranteed all-white from the start.

Therefore, with extremely rare exceptions, only white Americans were in a position to accrue home equity—a reserve they could use to weather financial storms without moving, to fund their retirements, or to leave an inheritance to their children. Black Americans, by contrast, were increasingly forced into crowded neighborhoods and put at the mercy of slumlords and predatory lenders. Even after the discriminatory policies that had created these divisions ceased to exist, the divisions remained. Black households have less family wealth, which in America tends to mean less education, less access to work, less income, and less freedom to live where you please.

- Asian Tribune -

Official – de jure – Discrimination of U.S. Minority Blacks
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