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Sun Oct 25, 2015, 01:34 PM

Historian Says Don't 'Sanitize' How Our Government Created Ghettos [View all]

Powerful interview of Richard Rothstein, a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and senior fellow of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California Berkeley.

"...We have a myth today that the ghettos in metropolitan areas around the country are what the Supreme Court calls de facto, just the accident of the fact that people have not enough income or - to move into middle-class neighborhoods - or because real estate agents steered black and white families to different neighborhoods or because there was white flight. But the truth is that while those things existed, the major reason we have ghettos in every metropolitan area in this country is because federal, state and local governments purposefully created racial boundaries in these cities. It was not the unintended effect of benign policies. It was an explicit, racially purposeful policy that was pursued at all levels of government. And that's the reason we have these ghettos today, and we are reaping the fruits of those policies.

This was not legal; it was unconstitutional. But this was the policy the federal government followed. As I said, it was once well known. You know, in 1970, George Romney, who was the secretary of housing and urban development under Nixon, the father of the recent presidential candidate, announced that the federal government had created a white noose around African-American neighborhoods - Negro neighborhoods, he called them - in central cities. And it was the federal government's obligation now to untie that noose. And Romney implemented a series of policies designed to integrate the suburbs, to reverse the policies that had been pursued in the previous 20 years. He proposed to withhold federal funds for all kinds of things, sewer projects or water projects or parklands, from any suburban community that didn't desegregate, by repealing ordinances that prohibited the construction of multifamily units or that didn't take their fair share of public housing throughout the metropolitan area or that didn't accept subsidized housing. And he actually - Romney actually did withhold federal funds from three suburbs as his first round of this policy. He called it Open Communities.

And there was such an uproar in the country about it that President Nixon reined him in. Romney was forced to cancel the Open Communities program. He was eventually forced out as secretary of housing and urban development. And we've had nothing since from the federal government that was anywhere near as aggressive in trying to reverse the policies that the federal government had pursued to create segregation."

Transcript here http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=406699264|
Listen here http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=406699264&m=406749329

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