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The Color of Law: Housing, Segregation, and Education in the U.S.

Since  Brown v. Board of Education ruled to desegregate schools, the percentage of African-American students in white majority schools increased to peak at 43.5 percent in 1988. Today,  the trend is reversing - a recent report from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project showed that number had dropped by nearly half to 23.2 percent, a comparable percentage to 1968. In the U.S., African-American wealth equals about 5 to 7 percent of white wealth.

Richard Rothstein, in his most recent book,  The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated Americaattributes that gap almost entirely to the federal housing policy of the mid-20th century. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 provided some enforcement to prevent housing discrimination, but by 1968, the federal government had already demolished many integrated neighborhoods to create segregated public housing, and had subsidized the development of segregated suburbs.

Today, almost one quarter of African Americans in the nation’s largest metropolitan areas live in neighborhoods where at least 80 percent of residents are of color. Cleveland is no exception with 45 percent of African-Americans residents living in neighborhoods that are comprised nearly 80 percent of minorities.  If we are to measure segregation by exposure to other races, the Cleveland metro area ranks as one of the  most segregated.

Jean-Marie Papoi is a digital producer for the arts & culture team at Ideastream Public Media.