Book Review: The Color Of Law

The Color Of Law:  A Forgotten History Of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein

Let us make it clear at the outset that this is not a very good book at all.  The author’s tone is continually abusive and frequently self-contradictory.  His rhetoric is immensely poor and deeply (and unfortunately) partisan.  His conclusions and desired “remedies” on behalf of African-Americans for supposed past wrongs is immensely dangerous, and he lacks any kind of gratitude for such entitlements as already exist, only seeking to redistribute more wealth to ungrateful and unworthy ghetto denizens.  The author even finds a way to try to attack the motives of builders who provided amenities to black neighborhoods, blames a lot of ghetto violence perpetuated by blacks on high rents (despite property whose value doesn’t increase because no one wants to move into such neighborhoods) and lead poisoning, and attacks the motives of Republicans who voted for pro-black measures during the 20th century.  As someone who is no stranger to reading the sort of inflammatory nonsense that is pitched to black readers as reasonable and sensible policy [1], this book may be a new low, because it claims to be restrained and ends up not being so and desires its readers to be outraged at government behavior in the past and only manages to spark outrage against the author and those of his ilk.

This book has about 250 pages of material (and a lot of endnotes) and is divided into twelve chapters, along with a preface, epilogue, author’s note and acknowledgements, and an appendix of frequently asked questions that basically gives up the argument that the author had been making about the willingness of most whites to live blacks that the author had been dishonestly peddling through the entire book.  The author begins with a look at racist housing practices in San Francisco, accurately pointing out that if blacks were not wanted in white neighborhoods there, then the same would be the case everywhere else (1).  After that the author looks at public housing and its influence on the creation and maintaining of black ghettos (2), racial zoning practices (3), and the urge to encourage (white) people to own their own homes (4).  The author discusses private agreements that were enforced by the government concerning restrictive covenants (5) and the issue of white flight (6) away from neighborhoods threatened with unwanted new neighbors.  The author looks at IRS support and compliant regulation of racially motivated housing (7), examines local tactics to preserve segregation (8), and even state-sanctioned violence against those who would cross the color line (9).  Finally, the author ends with whining and complaining about suppressed incomes and home values (10), a look forward and back about the issue (11), and some laughable and often unconstitutional fixes (12) that would satisfy the author and others of like mind.

The author’s ignorance of how republics and democracies work throughout this book is profound, but this book makes sense when it is viewed as an extremely biased work made in favor of a particular group that seeks to make their unreasonable demands appear politic and reasonable to themselves so that they can console themselves with feeling like they are moderate when they are being extremist.  For those readers who want to get a sense of the author’s real understanding of the problem, it is worthwhile to read the appendix first, where the author openly admits that white people, in the main, do not want to live around that many black people, and that there is consequently little or no desire on the part of a majority of the public to engage in the sorts of reforms and socialist remedies that the author has in mind, which makes the rest of the book largely an exercise in partisan hackery and outragemongering, which is not too unsurprising of a modern leftist/Progressive work but also not the sort of thing that I can recommend that people read except to understand how out of touch such people are with reality and with the limits of politics to what is possible.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Book Review: The Color Of Law

  1. Pingback: If You Don’t Want My Opinion, You Don’t Get My Money | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: On New Terrain | Edge Induced Cohesion

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