The Color of Law

The Color of Law

A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Richard Rothstein

We might contemplate a remedy like this: Considering that African Americans comprise about 15 percent of the population of the New York metropolitan area, the federal government should purchase the next 15 percent of houses that come up for sale in Levittown at today’s market rates (approximately $ 350,000). It should then resell the properties to qualified African Americans for $ 75,000, the price (in today’s dollars) that their grandparents would have paid if permitted to do so. The government should enact this program in every suburban development whose construction complied with the FHA’s discriminatory requirements. If Congress established such a program and justified it based on the history of de jure segregation, courts should uphold it as appropriate. Of course, no presently constituted Congress would adopt such a policy and no presently constituted court would uphold it. Taxpayers would rebel at the cost, as well as at the perceived undeserved gift to African Americans. I present this not as a practical proposal but only to illustrate the kind of remedy that we would consider and debate if we disabused ourselves of the de facto segregation myth.

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