The government can’t measure equality of opportunity, but it can measure equality of result. 

CEO Horacio Mendez’s letter in response to this column by Charles Lipson ran March 11

Until fairly recently, federal, state and local policies defined where African-Americans could live in violation of laws ranging from the 1866 Civil Rights Act to the Fifth, 13th and 14th Amendments. Government incentives formalized racial segregation in housing, relied on an appraisal industry with a policy to maintain that segregation, and created an insurmountable racial wealth divide. The Federal Housing Administration’s underwriting manual mandated racial segregation through the premise that homes and suburban developments would be too risky to insure if they were in racially mixed neighborhoods or anywhere near a black neighborhood, even though most racially mixed neighborhoods were thriving and safe at the time. 

The combination of forced segregation, resettlement and a lack of access to financing created a situation where African-Americans were kettled into neighborhoods and forced to overpay for their housing, which led to an inability to afford upkeep and the necessity to rent out rooms in already crowded homes and apartments. In Mr. Lipson’s Chicago, it is conservatively estimated that black families were deprived of $4 billion in generational wealth from contract selling alone. Having benefited from this unparalleled economic redistribution and effectively marginalizing a significant portion of our population through the unequal application of law, some feel that it is too disruptive and too expensive a problem to address. This seemed to be the case judging by the line of questioning that senators had for Marcia Fudge and Merrick Garland. Do these opinions portend the usual ebb in the cycle of moral outrage after each of our country’s recurring and embarrassing racial episodes? I hope not, but history is not on my side.

Horacio Mendez

President and CEO

Woodstock Institute