In remarks to a sellout crowd at the University of Baltimore, Richard Rothstein described the widespread consequences of decades of racial segregation in housing. Children who live in segregated communities often lack access to quality schools, and their ability to learn and achieve suffers due to compounding challenges like asthma, lead poisoning and stress.
As part of the Jane Harrison Speaker Series on the Importance of Housing, presented Oct. 3 by the Homeless Persons Representation Project (HPRP) and the Baltimore Housing Roundtable, Rothstein decried the “national myth” that housing segregation has been caused solely by private entities and is, therefore, not the government’s responsibility to address. “Today’s residential segregation is not the unintended consequence of individual choices,” he said, “but of unhidden public policy that explicitly segregated every metropolitan area in the United States.”
Rothstein, a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute and a Senior Fellow, emeritus, at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, details the history and impact of racial segregation in his acclaimed 2017 book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America. He began his career studying achievement gaps in education and turned his attention to housing, he said, when he realized that minority access to quality education was rooted in housing segregation.
Following Rothstein’s remarks, a panel of local advocates, including HPRP’s Carolyn Johnson, Tony Fugett of the Baltimore County Branch of the NAACP, and journalist and author Antero Pietila, discussed housing discrimination and solutions in the Baltimore metropolitan area. Event sponsors included the University of Baltimore School of Law and the Baltimore Bar Foundation.