Government action consigning African Americans to separate and inferior housing has damaged not only their prospects for residential accommodations; it has also harmed their prospects for financial accumulation, access to employment, educational advancement, and social acceptance. The housing crises imposed upon blacks by government and other forces have been studied and explained by commentators for decades with a sobering repetitiveness. In 1967, the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission) famously declared that “[w]hat white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”
Twelve years later, in a wonderfully comprehensive law review article revealingly titled “Apartheid in America,” James A. Kushner showed how, to a large extent, residential “racial isolation is a result of government policies.” In 1993, in American Apartheid, Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton argued that “racial segregation—and its characteristic institutional form, the black ghetto—are the key structural factors responsible for the perpetuation of black poverty.” Residential segregation, Massey and Denton maintained, “is the institutional apparatus that supports other racially discriminatory processes and binds them together into a coherent and uniquely effective system of racial subordination.” Arnold R. Hirsch diagnosed the pathology of residential segregation in post–World War II Chicago in Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960, while Thomas J. Sugrue did the same for Detroit in The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit.
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