LWVAAC Books for Learning

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein (a synopsis)

      In The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein argues with precision and insight how segregation in America is the byproduct of explicit government policies at the local, state, and federal levels.

      Racial segregation of our neighborhoods has long been viewed as a manifestation of unscrupulous real estate agents, unethical mortgage lenders, and exclusionary covenants. This is commonly known as "de facto” segregation, practices resulting from private activity, not law or public policy. However, Rothstein shows in case after case, that private activity could not have sustained segregation without government policies designed to ensure the separation of African Americans from whites. The term for this is “de jure” segregation. Because these policies resulted in the unfair treatment of citizens, Rothstein argues “de jure” segregation violates the Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

The author, a former columnist for the New York Times as well as a Fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP, has spent years documenting evidence that the government actually promoted discriminatory practices in the residential sphere.  At every step of the way, Rothstein demonstrates the government and our courts upheld racist policies to maintain the separation of whites and blacks - leading to the powder keg that has defined Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, and Chicago.

The Color of Law is not a tale of red versus blue states. It is the story of America in all its cities, large and small, liberal and conservative.

The Color of Law was designated one of ten finalists for the National Book Award for best nonfiction book of 2017.


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