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Richard Rothstein at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library (October 24)

4. The Color of Law Book tour occurred and no one cared.

Affordability within the city of Atlanta was a primary topic of conversation among the candidates but, when discussed, most focused only on the issues plaguing Atlanta today. There has been no collective outrage about the fact that, for generations, African Americans have faced unique barriers to owning a home — and enjoying the wealth it brings. In Atlanta, where predominantly black neighborhoods are still waiting for the real estate market recovery, the link between race and real estate fortune is overtly evident (Washington Post, 2016). Acclaimed author, scholar and NAACP fellow, Richard Rothstein, wrote a book that makes one declarative statement, “Racial segregation is a public health issue – every metro area in this country is segregated and history textbooks lie about government’s role in creating this problem”. In his book, The Color of Law, Rothstein 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. The book details how federal housing policies in the 1940s and ’50s mandated segregation and undermined the ability of black families to own homes and build wealth. During the climax of the mayoral election, Dr. Rothstein visited the Carter Center. I was able to hear him speak and was amazed on how clear he was on his role – to bring forward the historical facts on residential segregation, not to debate it. It would have been a good opportunity to galvanize active discussions within the mayoral race – especially by black candidates and voters – on how Atlanta can begin to repair the effects of these unfair policies. It baffles me that, collectively, we want to complain about affordability and gentrification, yet we don’t thirst for our history. If we don’t confront the historical and political underpinnings that have led to the racial divides in our city – and the economic disparities in residential property values – then how can we truly move forward? Relatedly…

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