The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
By Richard Rothstein
In honor of the US inauguration week, I’ve chosen The Color of Law as our recommended book. Because while it is a knee jerk response for many United Statesians to claim “we are better than the last four years,” I find it most patriotic to unflinchingly approach and challenge the anti-Black legacy of legislation that has shaped the country we live in today.
As Rothstein puts it, “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.”
This book delivers a powerful message: segregation was not created by accident or by prejudiced individuals. It will not be reversed by accident or “in some mysterious way, by changes in people’s hearts.” We need equally aggressive policies to the ones adopted by federal, state and local governments in the first place.
Rothstein concludes the book with a collection of possible remedies and the reminder that “we will have to contemplate what we have collectively done and, on behalf of the government, accept responsibility.” A powerful and important read!
Quote: “Half a century ago, the truth of de jure segregation was well known, but since then we have suppressed our historical memory and soothed ourselves into believing that it all happened by accident or by misguided private prejudice. "
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