Why We Must Fight Economic Apartheid in America

lost in the hullabaloo over the Supreme Court’s decisions last week upholding
the Affordable Care Act and allowing gays and lesbians to marry was its
decision on housing discrimination. It’s significant and timely.

In a 5-4
ruling, the Court found that the Fair Housing Act of 1968 requires plaintiffs
to show only that the effect of a policy is discriminatory, not that defendants
intended to discriminate.

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decision could affect everything from bank lending practices whose effect is to
harm low-income non-white borrowers, to zoning laws that favor higher-income
white homebuyers.

some background. Americans are segregating ever
more by income in terms of where we live. 

years ago, most cities contained a broad spectrum of residents from wealthy to
poor. Today, entire cities are mostly rich (San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle)
or mostly impoverished (Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia).

Because a
disproportionate number of the nation’s poor are black or Latino, that means
we’re experiencing racial segregation on a much larger geographical scale than
ever before – a kind of economic apartheid. 

Which is
why, for example, black students are more isolated
today than they were 40 years ago. More than 2 million black students
now attend schools where 90 percent of the student body is minority.

to a new study by Stanford researchers, even many middle-income black families
remain in poor neighborhoods with low-quality schools, fewer parks and
playgrounds, more crime, and inadequate public transportation. Blacks and Hispanics typically need higher incomes than whites in
order to live in affluent neighborhoods.

To some
extent, this is a matter of choice. Many people prefer to live among others who
resemble them racially and ethnically.

But some
of this is due to housing discrimination. For example, a 2013 study by the
Department of Housing and Urban Development found that realtors often

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