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How a federal civil rights law failed to work

There’s a good, albeit lengthy, piece over at the non-profit journalism site ProPublica about how the 1968 Fair Housing Act has never been implemented, leaving the U.S. largely segregated by race.

Not only that, but ProPublica found in “Living Apart: How the Government Betrayed a Landmark Civil Rights Law” only two instances in the law’s 40-year history where the federal government withheld funds to communities that violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to develop affordable housing options, a key component of breaking down the racial segregation in America’s community.

The piece finds a hero in George Romney, father of the presidential candidate Mitt, who was the head of HUD at the time of the law’s passage. Romney tried to leverage federal dollars to push for desegregation in housing, a move that was shut down by President Nixon, according to the ProPublica piece by Nikole Hannah-Jones, a journalist who spent some time earlier in her career reporting for the Raleigh News & Observer.

Read more here:

Over the next four decades, a ProPublica investigation shows, a succession of presidents — Democrat and Republican alike — followed Nixon’s lead, declining to use the leverage of HUD’s billions to fight segregation.

Their reluctance to enforce a law passed by both houses of Congress and repeatedly upheld by the courts reflects a larger political reality. Again and again, attempts to create integrated neighborhoods have foundered in the face of vehement opposition from homeowners.

“The lack of political courage around these issues is stunning,” said Elizabeth Julian, a former senior HUD official. “The failures of fair housing are not just by HUD but by the country.”

Nixon’s vision for America largely came to pass and the costs have been steep. More than 20 years of research has implicated residential segregation in virtually every aspect of racial inequality, from higher unemployment rates for African Americans, to poorer health care, to elevated infant mortality rates and, most of all, to inferior schools.

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