De Jure versus De Facto Racism

Torino As we move forward on the Home Savers Campaign we are finding victims of predatory practices among all communities black, white, and brown, but more often than not since these are lower income communities, there seems to be a significant tilt towards residential segregation. Lawsuits in some cities and research reports are starting to argue that this is blatant discrimination.

Reading an excellent, recently published, book, The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, marshals the evidence that the impact on our communities was not accidental. He makes the case overwhelmingly that, contrary to recent Supreme Court decisions, this is not de facto racism, meaning just the fact that that people are prejudiced and don’t care to live near each other, but is de jure racism, a matter of longstanding public policy. Rothstein sums up the argument of his book early, writing,

The Color of Law demonstrates that racially explicit government policies to segregate our metropolitan areas are not vestiges, were neither subtle nor intangible, and were sufficiently controlling to construct the de jure segregation that is now with us in neighborhoods and hence in schools. The core argument of this book is that African Americans were unconstitutionally denied the means and the right to integration in middle-class neighborhoods, and because this denial was state-sponsored, the nation is obligated to remedy it.

Rothstein demonstrates how de jure segregation worked most effectively in general housing and housing finance policy, but also in the areas of school location by local communities and tax assessment policies that over assessed lower income areas and under-assessed largely while middle income areas. The situation around redlining and the failure of the Federal Housing Authority to guarantee mortgages in non-white areas until the mid-1970s is well known, but Rothstein moves the clock back as well, citing a 1910 Baltimore “ordinance prohibiting African-Americans from buying homes on blocks where whites were a majority and vice versa.” He notes that similar zoning restrictions were passed in Atlanta, Birmingham, Miami, Charleston, Dallas, Louisville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and Richmond among other cities.

De jure segregation was not just a Southern and border state phenomena. Taking the segregation and siting of public housing projects as an example, he notes that a dozen states passed laws in the 1950s requiring a popular vote before approval of a location. That dirty dozen included California, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, hardly Southern strongholds. He tells the story of the committed segregationist city fathers of Boston, Massachusetts who built the Mission Hill housing project, where I hit the doors as a young organizer, and then built a Mission Hill Extension, so that the first was black, and the second was white. The fight to keep Detroit a haven for white homeowners propelled neighborhood segregationist into the mayor’s office there. Rothstein also effectively argues that suburbanization was a governmental supported and enabled segregation project.

And, of course he revives the argument that rent-to-own and installment land purchases in urban areas, forced by the inability to acquire home ownership by minorities in any other way, created ghettos and exploited African-Americans. As we know from hitting the doors in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Detroit, Akron, and so many other cities with ACORN’s Home Savers Campaign, that’s still the case.

Finishing the book or walking the streets of urban America, there’s never a doubt that governmental fiat blocked natural integration and mandated segregation. When will justice be served and a remedy be offered?


Trump Team Thumping Protesters Part of a Troubling Trend

03firstdraft-trump-tmagArticleNew Orleans   When I used to call up Charlie Andersen, my home-garage, auto mechanic, about whether one or another of my beat up trucks was ready to be picked up, he’d always warn me by saying, “Don’t bring twenty; bring plenty!” There was rarely a better expression that could stand for one of the central commandments for organizers.

These are hard days to be protesters trying to speak truth to power. Those in positions of power and authority have a bitter core of violence bursting out almost everywhere. A woman communications professor, now fired, in the middle of a protest called out for reinforcements, saying, “Can I get a little muscle here?” A US Senator on the Judiciary Committee claimed they were going to handle any Obama Supreme Court nominee like a “piñata,” beating the pulp of them essentially.

And, then you have Donald Trump. He’s claimed he wished he wasn’t on the podium and could take a punch at a protester in one incident. He’s offered to pay the legal fees for his thumpers if they do take some swings. He’s hard-handled news commentators from his press conferences from Univision. He’s placed private security goons throughout his crowds now to muscle up on protesters.

I don’t want to even deal with the issue of how sad and pathetic it is to hear a 70-something year old man with a comb-over claim he could somehow land an effective punch on a 20-something protester, but I can’t help myself. Mr. Bully-Mouth can only be implying that he might still be able to take a swing at a woman effectively, and I’m not sure he wouldn’t have a butt whipping every way from Sunday by any young man or woman with 50 years on him.

But, let’s talk about the protesters because they might have more sense. I wonder if social media isn’t like a bad drug giving some folks the idea that they are one-person warriors. I guess there’s something to be said for the wild men and women who single-handedly have snuck into Trump rallies, raised their voices, posters or flags and then run the gauntlet of abuse and punches to get out of these rallies alive, but I can’t help wondering why that seemed like such a good idea for a night’s workout? In some places, New Orleans for one, there were a handful, but in others, it seems there were lone rangers. Why not travel in a pack? Why not bring twenty? Or, even better, bring plenty?

We need mass actions around racism and misogyny, not ones and twos speaking up before being chanted down.

This is an organizing opportunity and that, dare I say, trumps, the lone wolf tactics.

We don’t really need truth to power, as much as we need to show our “troops to power.”