Housing Segregation in America.
Commentary By Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver-Velez
When we think about Lorraine Hansberry, we automatically jump to her best known work, “A Raisin in the Sun,” which was inspired by Hansberry’s experiences growing up in a segregated Chicago.
Today is the anniversary of the 1940 Supreme Court ruling in Hansberry v Lee.
Fighting for Home: The Roots of A Raisin in the Sun
When real estate developer Carl Augustus Hansberry sought to buy a better home for his family in 1938, he settled on a turreted brick structure at 6140 South Rhodes Avenue in the Washington Park area of Chicago. In doing so, he directly confronted one of the most entrenched realities of urban segregation: restrictive covenants. These agreements, signed by the property holders of Chicago’s white neighborhoods, stipulated the exclusion of all black residents with the insulting exception of “janitors, chauffeurs, or house servants.” By 1938, restrictive covenants covered over 85% of the city, crowding its African-American population into dismal, overpriced housing. City leaders at many levels framed such restrictions as a necessary bulwark against racial disharmony. “However unsatisfactory [the covenants] may be,” declared Robert Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago, “they are the only means at present available by which the members of the associations can stabilize the conditions under which they desire to live.” Those who defied the covenants, writes Chicago historian Arnold Hirsch, faced not only “mere examples of anti-Black animus,” but an entire system of “sophisticated psychological warfare” intended to keep them caged in the ghettoes.
Ironically, even as the covenants grew stricter, the economic situation worked against them. By 1937, Chicago had 50,000 more African-American residents than apartments where their occupancy was permitted. White property owners capitalized on the great demand, at times extracting exorbitantly high rent from black tenants in violation of the covenants. James T. Burke, the prior owner of the house that Hansberry purchased, was one such landlord. He asserted that he would “put negroes in every block of that property.” In the end, it took only Carl Hansberry’s occupancy to set off an uproar. Predictably, the local property owners association challenged Hansberry’s residency, claiming that “unless an injunction is granted, said neighborhood [would] become mixed, both white and colored with its attendant evils.” But Hansberry fought back, using his own real estate expertise and enlisting the aid of experienced NAACP lawyers. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that since an earlier case had upheld the legality of the covenant, the issue was res judicata — already adjudicated and not subject to further decisions. On these grounds, it ordered the family to “remove from the premises.” Undaunted, Hansberry appealed, and the case ultimately landed before the United States Supreme Court in October 1940.
While the legal battle raged in Washington, Hansberry’s family was fighting a far more brutal war from their new home. His daughter Lorraine, ten years old at the time, would later describe how her mother, Nannie Louise Hansberry, stayed up nights clutching a pistol to defend her children from the “hellishly hostile” mobs, thrown bricks, and threats of arson that besieged them. After two weeks, the Supreme Court finally reached a verdict, reversing the Illinois decision and securing the Hansberrys’ residency. However, wary of openly addressing the racial roots of the case, the Court abstained from ruling against restrictive covenants in general.
I have always been interested in the events that took place in Chicago at that time. My grandparents knew the Hansberry’s and my grandmother — who was white, and angry about Chicago’s segregation, joined a group of activists — who began to buy houses in all white areas and sell them to black families. She became an “acceptable” buyer. This was not “blockbusting” which realtors used to encourage white flight.
For more on the history of housing segregation, a book I’d suggest you read is Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
This “powerful and disturbing history” exposes how American governments deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide (New York Times Book Review).
In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law incontrovertibly makes clear that it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments—that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day.
Through extraordinary revelations and extensive research that Ta-Nehisi Coates has lauded as "brilliant" (The Atlantic), Rothstein comes to chronicle nothing less than an untold story that begins in the 1920s, showing how this process of de jure segregation began with explicit racial zoning, as millions of African Americans moved in a great historical migration from the south to the north.
As Jane Jacobs established in her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, it was the deeply flawed urban planning of the 1950s that created many of the impoverished neighborhoods we know. Now, Rothstein expands our understanding of this history, showing how government policies led to the creation of officially segregated public housing and the demolition of previously integrated neighborhoods. While urban areas rapidly deteriorated, the great American suburbanization of the post–World War II years was spurred on by federal subsidies for builders on the condition that no homes be sold to African Americans. Finally, Rothstein shows how police and prosecutors brutally upheld these standards by supporting violent resistance to black families in white neighborhoods.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited future discrimination but did nothing to reverse residential patterns that had become deeply embedded. Yet recent outbursts of violence in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, and Minneapolis show us precisely how the legacy of these earlier eras contributes to persistent racial unrest. “The American landscape will never look the same to readers of this important book” (Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund), as Rothstein’s invaluable examination shows that only by relearning this history can we finally pave the way for the nation to remedy its unconstitutional past.
America is more diverse than ever — but still segregated
“The United States is on track to be a majority-minority nation by 2044. But census data show most of our neighbors are the same race.”
Since 1990, more than 90 percent of U.S. metro areas have seen a decline in racial stratification, signaling a trend toward a more integrated America. Yet, while areas like Houston and Atlanta have undergone rapid demographic changes, cities like Detroit and Chicago still have large areas dominated by a single racial group.
Some 50 years ago, policies like the Fair Housing Act and the Voting Rights Act were enacted to increase integration, promote equity, combat discrimination and dismantle the lingering legacy of Jim Crow laws. But a Washington Post analysis shows that some cities remain deeply segregated — even as the country itself becomes more diverse.
You can take a look at segregation/integration data for your zip code — using the tool that is embedded in the article.
How segregated is the community you live in?
News round up by dopper0189, Black Kos Managing Editor
The incident started when the McKenzies were headed to a cell phone store at Wolfchase Galleria in Memphis and spotted an “older white male security guard following a group of young black men not far from a mall entrance,” according to Kevin, 59, who said his “antenna went up” when he saw the young black men being targeted.
Kevin claims that as soon as the teens began to outpace the guard, the guard pulled out his radio to call in reinforcements. That’s when a black law enforcement officer appeared and escorted the young men out of the shopping center. When Kevin asked authorities what was going on, he said he was told the boys’ hoodie sweatshirts had violated a mall policy. “Hoodie profiling was news to me,” Kevin wrote.
A “code of conduct” posted at Wolfchase Galleria makes no mention of hoodie sweatshirts and only touches on its dress code by stating “Wear appropriate clothing.” McKenzie acknowleged to Yahoo Lifestyle that the mall has seen its share of crime, and that he understands “they don’t want people to come in and not be able to be identified through the cameras,” but he didn’t see any kids with their hoods up that day. He added, “To make the leap from having a crime problems to a hoodie profiling policy that ends up with a young man in hadcuuffeds is not the way to go.”
Kevin remembers the teens leaving but then returning to the mall entrance, with one declaring, “We have rights.” He told Yahoo Lifestyle, “I don’t know what that private securty guard saw that had him trail [the teens] and have them thown out, but I do know that they were challenging that policy and there was nothing on their heads.”
About four law-enforcement officials intercepted the young men before they could reenter, Kevin recalled, and threatened to arrest them for “criminally trespassing on private property.” The next thing he knew, Kevin was witnessing one of the teens — dressed in a hoodie but with the hood down — being handcuffed and led away. “In a predominantly African American area like Memphis and Shelby County, [using trespass laws to enforce the dress code policy] clearly disproportionately targets young black men,” he wrote.
Kevin was filming the entire time, and that may be why authorities targeted him next. “[A] black sheriff’s deputy approached me and told me I also was breaking the mall’s rules. ‘You’re in violation of mall policy,’ he said. ‘So you can be asked to leave too, so you might want to put your phone up,'” Kevin wrote. He kept filming, so officers then told him to leave or he too would be arrested, he claimed. But he said he didn’t even have time to respond when he found himself being placed in handcuffs and escorted down the escalator and to a back office.
The Houston area’s courts are going to be a lot more diverse thanks to a group of 17 African-American women and their “magic.”
The women, who were part of an effort dubbed the “Black Girl Magic” campaign, all won races Tuesday to be judges in various Harris County courts in an election that featured more black women on the county’s ballot than any other.
The “Black Girl Magic” campaign debuted over the summer with a viral photo that featured the 17 women and two other sitting Harris County judges inside a courtroom. Although those two judges lost their bids Tuesday for seats on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, they will retain their local judgeships.
Those behind the campaign say it was part of an effort to broaden the diversity of the Houston area’s judiciary and ensure that more African-Americans and other minorities can bring their backgrounds and life experiences to the bench and better reflect the diversity of the nation’s fourth largest city.
For 10 years, some residents in Denmark, South Carolina, have been suspicious of the rust-colored water coming from their taps. They've been collecting samples in jars and using bottled or spring water, even though the local and state government assured them it was safe.
But through a Freedom of Information Act request and a one-year investigation, CNN has found new information that may cast doubts on those assurances.
The state government was adding a substance to one of the city's four wells, trying to regulate naturally occurring iron bacteria that can leave red stains or rust-like deposits in the water. The substance, known as HaloSan, was not approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency to disinfect drinking water.
The city's mayor says that all of the city's wells flow into one system to be distributed throughout the city.
This February, the small African nation of Djibouti took control of the Red Sea container port of Doraleh from DP World, completing what it considers the final act in a lengthy wrangle with the Dubai-based ports operator. Djibouti has accused the international ports company, which had operated Doraleh since 2006, of deliberately underusing the facilities in favor of other terminals along the Red Sea.
“It is obvious they want to control the whole sea transport from Singapore to the Suez Canal,” says Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority. He adds that DP World also operated Jeddah port in Saudi Arabia and Berbera in the unrecognized state of Somaliland.
In July, Djibouti started the first phase of a $3.5 billion free trade zone in which China Merchants Group and Dalian Port Authority hold a stake, a development that DP World says violates its 30-year exclusive concession. The Dubai company has vigorously contested Djibouti’s version of events, pointing to a ruling by the London Court of International Arbitration — dismissed as “inconsequential” by Djibouti — that DP World’s contract cannot be revoked.
“We will take every action to protect the rights of the shareholders,” says Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, DP World chairman and CEO. “The action actually has hurt Africa as a whole. Anyone that builds a port or an infrastructure project and goes to borrow money, the banks will ask for more interest because the possibility of takeover by government becomes real.”
The tussle over Doraleh is a microcosm of a much larger struggle for influence on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden that has sucked in not only Gulf and Middle Eastern powers but also the likes of China, the U.S. and France.
Those three countries, together with Japan and Saudi Arabia, have military bases in Djibouti, ostensibly for fighting near-endemic piracy — most of it off the Somali coast. The proximity of these major powers, particularly China, in tiny Djibouti adds another dimension to what is already a multifaceted battle for the military as well as economic clout in the region.
Ten men arrested for allegedly conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar are to face a forced anal examination on Friday, activists have told the Guardian.
The procedure is supposed to discover evidence of homosexual activity, though many say the primary aim is to humiliate and hurt.
The UN Committee against Torture has said such examinations “have no medical justification” and campaigners say they violate international law.
The arrests were made on Saturday night at a party at Pongwe Beach resort and follow calls by Paul Makonda, regional commissioner for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s biggest city, for citizens to begin reporting homosexuals for round-ups in a country where anti-gay rhetoric has soared in recent years.
Makonda said he had put together a team of officials and police that would target gay people, who could face lengthy prison sentences.
The number of girls undergoing female genital mutilation has fallen dramatically in east Africa over the past two decades, according to a study published in BMJ Global Health.
The study, which looked at rates of FGM among girls aged 14 and under, suggests that prevalence in east Africa has dropped from 71.4% in 1995, to 8% in 2016.
The reported falls in the rates of FGM are far greater than previous studies have suggested, though some in the development community have advised caution over the figures.
In February, the United Nations Population Fund warned the number of women predicted to be mutilated each year could rise to 4.6 million by 2030, an increase driven by population growth in communities that carry out the practice.
According to the study in the BMJ, the rates of FGM practised on children have fallen in north Africa, from 57.7% in 1990 to 14.1% in 2015. In west Africa, prevalence is also reported to have decreased from 73.6% in 1996 to 25.4% in 2017.
Glory Edim, 35, is a well-read Black girl and her Well-Read Black Girl community is growing each day. The New York resident started Well-Read Black Girl as an online community in 2015. The name was inspired by a custom t-shirt her boyfriend had gifted that had the term emblazoned on the front. Edit began posting on various social media platforms as the Well-Read Black Girl and eventually that turned into an in-person book club that she led each month at various Brooklyn locations along with the authors of the book of the month.
At the time, Edim was working at Kickstarter as a publishing lead. She taught people best practices for using KickStarter. This was a skillset that came in handy when she raised $39,000 for the first Well-Readspace“> Festival last fall.
Now the Well-Read Black Girl has added yet another layer to the movement with the publication of the Well-Read Black Girl Anthology featuring a bevy of talented writers such as Jesmyn Ward, Tayari Jones, Jacqueline Woodson, and others. The book was published in print and online on October 30th of this year by Penguin Random House.
Edim, a Howard alum, is currently in the thick of putting on the second annual Well-Read Black Girl Festival.
WELCOME TO THE TUESDAY PORCH