I’ve always blamed banks and insurance companies for redlining neighborhoods, essentially creating slums and causing “white flight” to the suburbs. Instead, I learned that it was deliberate actions on the part of government at all levels that created, promoted and enforced segregated neighborhoods and white-only urban and suburban communities. It was these actions, as well as those of banks, insurance companies, realtors, etc., that created the conditions that left African-Americans little choice in where to live and almost no opportunity to create assets through homeownership.
Read Richard Rothstein’s book, The Color of Law, to learn the details. Then check out the “Mapping Prejudice Project,” an effort to identify the racial restrictions embedded in Minneapolis property deeds. (Might the deed to your home contain racially restrictive language?)
I’ve also included a link to a recent talk by a Harvard University sociology and public health professor, “The Fierce Urgency of Now,” discussing how the physical and mental health of all Americans is threatened by institutional racism. And last, but not least, check out “The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a devastating recounting of the ways in which African-Americans have been deliberately denied access to all the ways in which White Americans have prospered.
Rothstein is a leading authority on housing policy. In this extensively researched book, he makes abundantly clear that it was laws and policy decisions passed by local, state and federal governments that promoted the discriminatory housing patterns that continue to this day. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited future discrimination, but did nothing to reverse residential patterns that had become deeply embedded.
See also Pedro Nicolaci da Costa's article: "Public housing plays a huge role in racial segregation and inequality — but not in the way most people think"
See also his talk on YouTube: “The Social Factors of Health”
David R. Williams is the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology at Harvard University. Dr. Williams is an internationally recognized social scientist focused on social influences on health.
“Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”
“If you sought to advantage one group of Americans and disadvantage another, you could scarcely choose a more graceful method than housing discrimination. Housing determines access to transportation, green spaces, decent schools, decent food, decent jobs, and decent services. Housing affects your chances of being robbed and shot as well as your chances of being stopped and frisked. And housing discrimination is as quiet as it is deadly.… Housing discrimination is hard to detect, hard to prove, and hard to prosecute."