The Color of Law

Richard Rothstein

"We like to think of American history as a continuous march of progress toward greater freedom, greater equality, and greater justice. But sometimes we move backward, dramatically so. Residential integration declined steadily from 1990 to the mid-twentieth century, and it has mostly stalled since then."

p. 39

"My purpose, however, is not to argue courtroom standards of proof. I am interested in how we got to the systematic racial segregation we find in metropolitan areas today, and what role government played in creating these residential patterns. We can't prove what was in council members' hearts in Arlington Heights or anywhere else, but in too many zoning decisions the circumstantial evidence of racial motivation is persuasive. I think it can fairly be said that there would be many fewer segregated suburbs than there are today were it not for an unconstitutional desire, shared by local officials and by the national leaders who urged them on, to keep African Americans from being white families' neighbors."

p. 54

"Zoning thus had two faces. One face, developed in part to evade a prohibition on racially explicit zoning, attempted to keep African Americans out of white neighborhoods by making it difficult for lower-income families, large numbers of whom were African Americans, to live in expensive white neighborhoods. The other attempted to protect white neighborhoods from deterioration by ensuring that few industrial or environmentally unsafe businesses could locate in them. Prohibited in this fashion, polluting industry had no option but to locate near African American residences. The first contributed to creation of exclusive white suburbs, the second to creation of urban African American slums."

p. 56

"Certainly, we cannot hold the government accountable for every action of racially biased police officers. Yet if these officers' superiors were aware of racially discriminatory activities conducted under color of law, as they surely were, and either encouraged these activities or took inadequate steps to restrain them, then these were no longer merely rogue actions but expressed state policy that violated the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantees of due process and equal protection."

p. 142

"It is certainly true that one cause of segregation today is the inability of many African Americans to afford to live in middle-class communities. But segregation itself has had a high cost for African Americans, exacerbating their inability to save to purchase suburban homes. Income differences are only a superficial way to understand why we remain segregated. Racial policy in which government was inextricably involved created income disparities that ensure residential segregation, continuing to this day."

p. 175

"Undoing the effects of de jure segregation will be incomparably difficult. To make a start, we will first have to contemplate what we have collectively done and, on behalf of our government, accept responsibility."

p. 217

© Kyuwon Lee, 2020.