Richard Rothstein’s new book is The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.  And indeed, the operative word here is “forgotten,” reminding us of the power of white amnesia to forget the history of race-based public policies that have divided people and shaped the racial wealth divide.

The Color of Law is a powerful history of how the past shows up in the present — how a century of de jure legally and government-sanctioned patterns of residential segregation are imprinted on our geography and communities.

Many presume that residential segregation is the historical result of private actors — redlining by banks, steering by real estate agents, and racially-motivated neighborhood pressures.  The Color of Law, however, explains how government actions are responsible for extreme patterns of spatial separation of races.  These include government enforcement of racially restrictive covenants, rules governing public housing placement, exclusionary zoning policies, and explicit racial provisions of Federal Housing Administration mortgage ensuring policies.

Wellesley, Massachusetts selected The Color of Law as their “all community read” for 2018.  The author Richard Rothstein spoke on March 26th for a program hosted by “Welcome to Wellelsey.” Last year, my book Born on Third Base was the all-community read, so I was invited back to introduce Richard and have a conversation with him. You can watch the full discussion below.


Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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