The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

Dear Fellow Reader,

It is said that that line from an Emily Dickenson poem that is a hymn of praise for the human spirit’s capacity for hope. The bird comes and sings no matter what and we humans hope for a better day despite our problems.

And Spring seems to do that for us. We look out and see the snow just about gone and we start thinking about warmer weather and our chance to get outside. Despite the snow that then arrives, we still have that hope for Spring.

So, it is with thoughts of daffodils that I finished The Color of Law. It was probably a good thing that I was thinking of hopefulness because I certainly would not have gotten that from the book.

I am not a student of history. It is fairly embarrassing how little history I have retained over the years. While I would feel guilty about this in relation to some books, I do not feel bad this time.

Because The Color of Law is about the history that we don’t admit to. It is our shameful past that is there to show us what we have done.

“The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” is the subtitle for the book.

The Color of Law is about the laws and policies by the U. S. Government that held black and brown people down through the history of this country. I sat most of the time with my mouth open. I can’t believe the policies that existed – even in my lifetime.

Things I didn’t know

  1.  FHA loans were only for white people. (Until like the 1960s) There was not a mortgage underwriting program for black people.
  2. The GI Bill was not given equitably for all soldiers – black returning soldiers did not get money for college – only for trade schools. And they couldn’t buy a house.
  3. Unions would not allow black members in any of the higher paying jobs.
  4. The pervasive U. S. Government attitude was that black people could not live with white people. That property values would be damaged. In fact, when there was a “white flight”, the property values were escalated because slumlords went in and bought the property for re-sale at higher prices to rip off the black people.

There are many other things but these stood out to me.

All of this history is hidden. You don’t see it in history books and it is not discussed. I would argue that unless we admit to this historical racism that we can not move away from it. History books don’t even necessarily say that slavery was bad.

I urge you to take the time to read this book. I will tell you that I only read 5 – 10 pages a day because I was so shocked by what I read. I would never have dreamed that people in power would enact policies like the ones outlined in this book. In discussing this with a friend, the comment was made that we think black people should “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” but we took the bootstraps away.

Also, it is an interesting time to be reading this book when voter suppression measures are working their way through so many state legislatures right now.

It is not an easy read. It is tough to recognize the damage that has been done but it is necessary. If hidden, our past will always haunt us.

I have hope that we can recognize our issues and work to resolve them. Please take the time to read this book.

Thanks for reading!

About Carol Early Cooney

I love to read. I love to share my thoughts on books and hope to hear what you think also. Looking to see what books I read beyond those I write about? Check out my Goodreads!
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1 Response to The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

  1. Julia Tomiak says:

    Wow Carol, thank you for sharing this. I, too, am trying to read and learn more about our history and how people of different races and cultures have been treated over the years. I will definitely add this to my reading list. I recommend STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING by Ibram X. Kendi.

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