‘The Color of Law’ author Richard Rothstein to speak at DePaul Oct. 4

Cortelyou Commons
DePaul's Cortelyou Commons will be the site of Richard Rothstein's Oct. 4 discussion of his book “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America." (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)
Government policy at the local, state and federal levels has played — and continues to play — a critical role in the segregation that’s seen in major cities across the U.S., argues author Richard Rothstein in his 2017 book “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America.” The housing policy expert will speak Oct. 4 at DePaul on governmental roles in creating and enforcing racially discriminatory housing and lending policies and the legacies of such policies today.

The talk, co-hosted by DePaul’s Center for Black Diaspora, department of geography and the School of Public Service commemorates the 50th anniversary of the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968.

“Rothstein’s work is essential to understanding racially discriminatory housing and lending practices in the U.S., and of the role of national, state and local governments in their creation and perpetuation,” says Christina Rivers, director of the center and associate professor of political science.
Richard Rothstein
(Image courtesy of Richard Rothstein)

“It is also an important reminder that state-sanctioned discrimination was pervasive beyond the Jim Crow South. While redlining, restrictive housing covenants, and the like were formally abolished decades ago, a quick glance at Chicago’s current residential patterns reveal the enduring nature of such practices. In that sense, Rothstein’s work interrogates why Chicago is a ‘city of neighborhoods’ by shedding light on the intentionally discriminatory underpinnings of that euphemism.”

Rothstein is a Senior Fellow at the Haas Institute at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law; Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute; and Senior Fellow Emeritus of the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. In addition to “The Color of Law,” Rothstein is the author of “Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right,” “Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap” and “The Way We Were? Myths and Realities of America’s Student Achievement.” He has co-authored “The Charter School Dust-Up: Examining the Evidence on Enrollment and Achievement” and “All Else Equal: Are Public and Private Schools Different?”

“Chicago remains one of the most segregated cities in the country,” says Winifred Curran, an associate professor and chair of geography in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “Urban policies that encourage gentrification, aggressive policing and privatization are leading to increased concentrations of urban poverty in Chicago and many other large cities. While these policies are not as explicitly racist in their language as some of the historic policies noted in Rothstein's book, their racialized outcomes accomplish the same results.

“Rothstein's work is so important because he shows us that segregation is not just some unfortunate part of our history, but that the legacy of segregation is still actively shaping the lives of Americans in ways that have distinctly racialized outcomes. He also teaches us that urban policies such as zoning are continuing to build segregation in our cities,” Curran adds.

Euan Hague, an urban geographer and director of the School of Public Service, researches housing and gentrification issues in Chicago.

“Racial segregation has fundamentally shaped our cities,” says Hague. “What Rothstein’s book reiterates is the central role that the federal government (working with state and local governments) played in ensuring that housing remained segregated for much of the 20th century. These urban policies, largely put into place in the post-World War II era, shape the urban landscapes that we have inherited today.

“You can’t understand current issues about segregation (and all the associated impacts on education, health, quality of life, policing, etc.) without understanding how these public policies shaped the cities that we live in today. Understanding the past enables people to make changes in the present and the future, and having a better understanding of how we got to here can help us put forward solutions for more equitable, socially just and racially integrated urban futures,” Hague adds.

Rothstein’s talk begins at 6 p.m. with an opening reception set for 5:30 p.m. at Cortelyou Commons on the Lincoln Park Campus. The event is slated to last until 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. More information and registration available at: http://bit.ly/richard_rothstein.

The lecture is one of several events hosted by DePaul’s Center for Black Diaspora this fall that has ties to 1960s black America. Other events include discussions on black theater, music and fashion during the decade. More information available at: http://bit.ly/center_for_black_diaspora.​​​​