“Color of Law” is wrong —nonprofitters need to stop using it as an example of how their wealthy funders are really the “good” people

“Color of Law” is wrong —nonprofitters need to stop using it as an example of how their wealthy funders are really the “good” people

Possibly this goes without saying, but the housing crisis is not because the government is making corporate America be racist and classist. 

And despite what nonprofits funded by wealthy developers and tech moguls say, our government can solve this problem, and they tried to once before. 

During the 1950s, Americans were moving from the cities to the suburbs. The suburbs were where all your dreams could come true. 

Black people weren’t allowed to dream in the 1950s, at least not openly with an above the board loan. 

From Shadow of Credit Penn Law:

In the absence of traditional sources of mortgage financing, one of the most common methods available for African Americans to finance a home purchase was the installment or land contract. The contract was subject to predatory abuse in a number of manners. First, the buyer often did not gain title to the property until the last installment payment was made. Second, the installment contract acted to prevent the buyer from gaining any equity in the property over the course of the agreement term. Third, usury laws and mortgage interest rate ceilings did not apply since the installment contract was a private contract between the parties, a seller could charge any interest rate that the buyer was willing to pay. Fourth, the buyer could be kept ignorant of the actual value of the property since appraisals were not necessary to finance the transaction.”

Many of the suburb developments had a “no Black people” allowed clause. 

These policies were made by the same developers that are pushing you out of your home today. This wasn’t the government. In fact, the government tried to stop this policy. 

Housing segregation started before the New Deal

Books like “Color of Law” by Richard Rothstein say the segregation/racism was owing to the government, in his book, he specifically pointed to the New Deal.

While Rothstein has an interesting perspective (and quite useful for we need smaller government libertarian types— “see Black people the government is racist”) to say that racism started in 1933 and the government is evil is not exactly the full picture. 

America always tries to act like its racism is a mystery. It’s not. 

De facto segregation vs De jure segregation

Officially there are two kinds of racism in the US.

  • De facto segregation/racism: segregation/racism that existed because of the voluntary associations and neighborhoods.
  • De jure segregation/racism: segregation/racism that existed because of local laws that mandated the segregation.

Most de jure racism in the United States comes into existence due to capitalism and the money that comes with it through de facto segregation.

The institutions of de facto racism are banks and developers. They aren’t individuals or little clubs. Believing that is like believing the world was created in seven days, because that is what the Bible says. Institutions are wealthy and wide reaching and have a vested interest in their actions seeming random. 

Think about the enslavement of Africans. It was initially a de facto practice, but as it began to make huge money, they were able to not only create propaganda to support slavery, but get laws written to support and defend their actions. Color of Law

De facto always comes before de jure, and that is the case with Black people in housing. 

Racial covenants have existed in the United States since at least the 1890s.

In Buchanan v. Warley (1917) the Court unanimously rejected a Louisville, Kentucky city ordinance prohibiting the sale of real property to Blacks in white neighborhoods or buildings as it violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections for freedom of contract. 

So what did developers do in 1920? 

They doubled down on racial covenants in private developments. All through the 1920s, the NAACP fought this, but courts stated that it was not subject to the Fourteenth Amendment due to it being a “private action.” 

Laissez faire capitalism kept Black people from obtaining the American Dream not “The Government.”

And the housing crisis that is currently happening? The US has two government mechanisms that they’ve used before that can fix this, universal supports and entitlement.

We don’t need to recreate the wheel. We don’t need tiny houses. We don’t need to lower the bar, so that sleeping on a park bench is recognized as a form of housing. We need to stop letting wealthy people, empowered by racism and classism tie our government’s hands with racist propaganda with the goal of keeping their taxes low and the masses desperate.

There are literally billions and trillions of dollars that can be used to develop a housing system that is universal and an entitlement aka guarantee.

We just need to move the funding from developers and implement the mechanisms that are on the books to fund and manage it. 


by Teka Lo, Public Intellectuals

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