Today is National Read a Book Day. I hope everyone is able to spend at least a little time with a book today, and to make reading an important part of your life in general.
Here’s one book I’d highly recommend: The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. The subtitle says it all -- “A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.”
I’m not sure the history is totally forgotten. When I was on Capitol Hill and at HUD we were working to overcome the awful government sponsored racism in housing put in place during the decades before and after World War II when the contours of many suburbs were formed. We also fought to honor the spirit and letter of the Fair Housing Act and other anti-discrimination laws that had been enacted to try to address the institutional racism that sadly still exists.
But it’s heart-breaking to read Rothstein’s account of how relentlessly so many political and community leaders worked to deny Black people the opportunity to simply live where they should have been able to live, and then all the other negative impacts that flowed from that reality. The continuation of those repugnant efforts today by the Trump administration shows how far we still have to go to eliminate racism in our society.
While we have a lot more work to do in Takoma Park, we’ve taken some steps in that direction through actions like the adoption of our Racial Equity policy and the approval of our Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan. Our efforts to reimagine public safety will be getting more formally underway this fall.
Meanwhile, The Color of Law can help frame some of these discussions in a way that provides vital historical context.