July 15, 2018


By allowing towns to segregate, Israel may cross a different kind of red line: The wounds of America's redlining policy, which led to segregated housing, still fester 50 years after it was rescinded. Will the nation-state bill put Israel on the same path? (Joshua Davidovich, 13 July 2018, Times of Israel)

It took over 30 years for the US to reverse course, passing the Fair Housing Act that outlawed discrimination in April 1968.

Yet according to Rothstein and other historians, the damage had already been done, and even 50 years later, cities still bear not only the scars but festering open wounds of those policies.

A 2017 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that inequalities persisted as late as 2010 along border areas between red and yellow, and yellow and blue areas. "The maps had a causal and persistent effect on the development of neighborhoods through credit access," the authors wrote.

"We still have a very, very segregated society, in terms of housing and [by extension] schools," Brown University sociologist John R. Logan recently told US News and World Report.

According to Rothstein, a large part of the problem was the fact that by the time blacks could buy in more affluent areas, the homes there were already out of reach because prices had risen so much.

"In Levittown, there were very inexpensive homes. They sold for $8,000 to $9,000 [$100,000 in today's inflation-adjusted dollars] a piece. African American families could have afforded those and could have moved out of public housing," Rothstein said, referring to the post-war New York suburb where blacks were forbidden. By the time the town was desegregated, those homes were out of reach. "Today they are worth $400,000 to $500,000. The white families who purchased them gained enormous equity appreciation."

Meanwhile, blacks were in debt to unregulated money lenders, the only places they could get a loan, and even after 1968 some banks continued to practice racist lending policies.

The resulting legacy is rampant inequality, in both wealth and opportunities for escaping poverty. Black communities continue to not only be separate but unequal.

"Nationwide today African American wealth is about 10 percent of white wealth, but African Americans make 60 percent as much as whites. That's an enormous difference," said Rothstein, pointing the legacy of segregated housing as the main factor keeping blacks in poverty.

"Discrimination ... laws reached their apex in the mid-20th century, when the federal government--through housing policies--engineered the wealth gap, which remains with us to this day," wrote Ta-Nehesi Coates in a landmark 2014 Atlantic article titled "The Case for Reparations."

"An unsegregated America might see poverty, and all its effects, spread across the country with no particular bias toward skin color. Instead, the concentration of poverty has been paired with a concentration of melanin. The resulting conflagration has been devastating."

Historians say the racist housing policies were a way to continue segregating communities after the Supreme Court knocked down explicitly racist zoning regulations.

In Israel, clause 7B of the controversial Nation-State Bill presents a virtual mirror of those century-old processes in the US, using law to directly further existing arrangements.

Much housing in Israel is already de-facto segregated. Towns describe themselves as Jewish or Arab, aside from the odd mixed city like Haifa or Lod, and even these places have Jewish or Arab neighborhoods.

It's extremely rare for a Jew to have an Arab neighbor or vice versa, but until now it has never been part of the country's de facto constitution to enforce those separations.

The clause, which has come under vociferous criticism and may now be softened, would "authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community."

Posted by at July 15, 2018 7:42 AM