This week, I read The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein. My interest in this book began as that of scholarly endeavor, as I am constantly looking for 1) ways to communicate the honest/naked truth about segregation as an American vestige and 2) policy prescriptions to fix what I think is the biggest contributor to inequality, stratification, and so many of our societies' problems. Ta-Nehisi Coates called the book "Brilliant". I'd call it a prerequisite for American History.
I went into The Color of Law believing that I knew all there was to know about segregation; the novel shattered that myth and the general prevailing one, that segregation was mostly a result of private discrimination. Rothstein methodically lays out the argument that it isn't de-facto segregation that was to blame for the America we see today. In fact, he concludes that not only was de-jure segregation to blame for mass racial separation but that there is a competent legal argument to support its undoing. In the greater conversation of race and ethnicity in America, the focus is most often put on people: real estate agents, the KKK, angry mobs that met the Freedom Riders etc. We often think of the government, with a number of exceptions, being the mediator that generally protected the rights of blacks in the Northern United States from Reconstruction on and the Southern states, beginning to do so in the seventies. Brick by brick, Rothstein tears this narrative down. And he purposefully begins in San Francisco, the most quintessentially liberal city in the country, and shows how what happens there from WWI to WWII on throughout the 70s, occurred throughout the country.
Link to full review in bio.