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The Color of Law with Richard Rothstein: Discussion & Book Signing

  • Brava Theater Center 2781 24th Street San Francisco, CA 94110 (map)

The Color of Law with Richard Rothstein: Discussion & Book Signing


Doors at 6:30pm
Talk begins at 7:00pm
Book signing at 8:00pm

Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law offers an original and insightful explanation of how government policy in the United States intentionally promoted and enforced residential racial segregation. ...[H]is argument, which calls for a fundamental reexamination of American constitutional law, is that the Supreme Court has failed for decades to understand the extent to which residential racial segregation in our nation is not the result of private decisions..., but is the direct product of unconstitutional government action. The implications of his analysis are revolutionary.
— Geoffrey R. Stone, Professor of Law (and former dean) at the University of Chicago Law School

Join Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, for a discussion on the racist history of housing in the United States, followed by Q&A and a book signing.


The Color of Law documents how American cities, from San Francisco to Boston, became so racially divided, as federal, state, and local governments systematically imposed residential segregation. These policies were supplemented by racially purposeful government programs that depressed African American incomes, making escape nearly impossible from neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage. Properties in African American neighborhoods frequently had higher assessed-to-market-value ratios, resulting in higher property tax payments.

The federal government certified unions that excluded African Americans from membership, denying them full participation in the economic boom that followed World War II. Such programs still influence tragedies in places like Ferguson and elsewhere. Scholars have separately described many of these policies; The Color of Law uniquely brings them together to show how they interacted to create a powerful system of residential segregation in every metropolitan area. Under our legal system, it is difficult if not impossible to design effective policies to integrate the nation, because we are hobbled by the notion that our segregation is “de facto,” arising from private discrimination, personal choices, and the unintended consequences of economic forces.

Once we understand that our racial landscape has been created and maintained “de jure,” by governmental law and policy, we can engage in a national conversation to design remedies. We could, for example, prohibit suburbs from maintaining zoning that prohibits affordable housing, like modest single family homes, town-houses, or apartments. We could require that all new development be mixed-income. For lower-income families hoping to move to integrated neighborhoods, we could prohibit landlords from discriminating against “Section 8” voucher families and adjust voucher administration to make them affordable in middle-class communities. Such policies are not only feasible, but in the context of our shameful history, constitutionally required.


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Earlier Event: October 7
Island Soldier
Later Event: October 11
San Francisco Dance Film Festival