Title: The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
Author: Richard Rothstein
Thoughts: This book is fascinating and is similar to The Address Book in exploring the intersection between race and housing policy. The Color of Law focuses specifically on government policy in the 20th century and how those policies both created and exacerbated racial inequality. Rothstein gives the example of Black families purchasing homes in all-white areas, only to be met with dynamite, bricks through their front doors, and white mobs burning crosses on their front lawns. If—not when—police did show up, they generally did nothing to protect the Black families, and on more than one occasion, the antagonizers (who plead guilty) had no action taken against them, while the Black homeowners were arrested for various charges such as “disturbing the peace”.
Another small but critical point that Rothstein discusses is the specific verbaige used to discuss these policies in current history textbooks. The two textbooks most widely used in American middle- and high school classes today often teach that “Black people were segregated” or that “freeways into metropolitan areas were built through historically Black neighborhoods”. This use of the passive voice removes agency—and therefore blame. Who segregated Black people? Who built freeways into metropolitan areas through historically Black neighborhoods? As Rothstein explains, the government did.