Richard Rothstein has titled his new book The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, and the operative word here is indeed “forgotten.” With white amnesia, we have forgotten the history of race-based public policies that have divided people and shaped the racial wealth divide.
The Color of Law offers a powerful history of how the past shows up in the present — how a century of de jure legally and government-sanctioned patterns of residential segregation are imprinted on our geography and communities.
Many presume that residential segregation is the historical result of private actors — redlining by banks, steering by real estate agents, and racially-motivated neighborhood pressures. But The Color of Law explains how government actions have generated extreme patterns of racial spatial separation. Among these actions: the government enforcement of racially restrictive covenants, rules governing public housing placement, exclusionary zoning policies, and the explicit racial provisions of Federal Housing Administration mortgage-ensuring policies.
Wellesley, Massachusetts has selected The Color of Law as its “all community read” for 2018. The author Richard Rothstein spoke on March 26 for a program hosted by “Welcome to Wellelsey.” Last year, my book Born on Third Base was the all-community read, so I was invited back to introduce Richard and have a conversation with him. You can watch the full discussion below.
Rothstein is a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and a fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He is the author of several books in addition to The Color of Law, including Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Improvement to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap.
Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies. He is co-editor of Inequality.org and the author of Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good and his new book, Is Inequality in America Irreversible?