Rudnik > The Fight for Fair Housing

| May 20, 2015

A Half-Century Removed, the Struggle for Equal Housing—and Communities—Rages

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Nick Rudnik, Valdosta Today Opinion Contributor:

The twentieth century American civil rights movement, principally, spanned a mere fourteen years—from 1954 until 1968. In 1954, the Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, unanimously held that school segregation was unconstitutional. Following Brown, a slew of civil rights era legislation and court rulings paved the way to reforming the nation’s abject racial policies. And of course, the civil rights movement tempered in 1968 following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Just days following the assassination of King, President Lyndon Johnson signed the final major piece of legislation of the civil rights era: the Civil Rights Act of 1968, or the Fair Housing Act.

The landmark 1968 law prohibits racial discrimination in housing (among other barred forms of discrimination). But as of late, the future of the Fair Housing Act is in great doubt. By the end of the Supreme Court’s annual term, it is expected to deliver a deeply significant ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project.

The appellee, the Inclusive Communities Project, a non-profit from Dallas, alleges that Texas officials have used low income tax credits to purposefully concentrate low income housing in predominantly minority neighborhoods—succinctly, mainly black and Latino areas. This dynamic leaves majority white neighborhoods financially out of reach for low income minority families and, thus, furthers an institutionalized system of segregation.

The case before the Court this term poses a fundamental question in federal civil rights law: does the Civil Rights Act of 1968 merely prohibit overt, intentional discrimination in housing, or does it also apply to seemingly inadvertent, neutral policies that nevertheless lead to grossly segregated communities?

Many may ask: why is fair housing still important a half-century removed from the civil rights movement? Hasn’t much changed in the intervening half-century since the great activism, demonstrations, and protests of the civil rights era? Indeed, the 1968 law was enacted to help ensure a true solution to Jim Crow: full integration. In fact, for nearly a century prior to Brown, and for a short period following, segregation was the way of life in the south.

We can remove the legal, structural, and institutional barriers of racial segregation—desegregation—but that will not move many of the underpinning attitudes in society. This will not lead us toward a true resolution of our differences—reconciliation. The Fair Housing Act tacitly recognizes that desegregation alone will not improve our communities. For this, we need integration. Integration not in some other time, not in the distant future, not someday to be announced or determined at a later date, but now, here in this time and in this place.

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed under these premises. Housing is the lynchpin of true integration. For if poor, minority families cannot move into better neighborhoods, they find themselves marred in the same cycles of poverty and crime; their children forced to attend the same poorly funded and performing schools, and embracing a life of crime over improvement; and our communities stay homogenous, monolithic, segregated. Fair housing is the fulcrum to integration, to truly improving our nation’s worst communities. Perhaps most importantly, we should remember that by perpetuating deeply segregated communities, we deny full integration from coming to fruition.

Regardless of a judicial opinion, the fair housing act is one in a pantheon of federal proclamations that bring us closer to what King referred to as the “beloved community.” To King, this was not a utopian pipedream, but an attainable reality that can only be accomplished through nonviolence. In the beloved community, racism, poverty, homelessness, plight, prejudice, and more will be eliminated for the simple notion that basic human, and Christian, compassion and decency will no longer allow it.

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was one of several laws that typifies the high ideals inherent to King’s beloved community. It is a law that brings us closer to being a nation and a people worthy of the title “beloved community.” Today, on the eve of the unraveling of the Fair Housing Act, we must ask, does the demise of this landmark law bring us closer, or further, from King’s dream of integration? And if not, what does this say about America? What does it say about the beloved community? The former is no closer to achieving the latter. Clearly, we are yet so very far from that mountaintop, that beloved community.


rudnik-thumbnailNicholas A. Rudnik is currently pursuing a degree in political science with a concentration in American politics at Valdosta State University. Previously, he’s served as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 111th Congress and in the Office of U.S. Congressman Sanford Bishop. Further, Nick has served on staff at an institutional interest group, the Association of American Law Schools, in Washington and has worked in the private sector. He has presented his research, focused primarily on congressional parties and elections, at regional academic conferences and hopes to pursue a graduate degree in political science. Nick is currently completing two manuscripts relating to southern congressional elections and judicial decision-making in the area of campaign finance; he can be contacted via e-mail at narudnik@valdosta.edu. Follow Nick on Twitter: @NickRudnik.

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3 Comments on "Rudnik > The Fight for Fair Housing"

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  1. billeeg says:

    I hear you, you are saying that we, whites, should embrace low class / no class families of thuggs and illegitimate children on welfare, driving noisy cars with loud sound systems, that show no respect for anyone. They are usually over weight and walk 3 or more wide down the streets and dare you to try and get by. We, whites, should adapt to their life style, accept their culture and change our way of life to accommodate them. I accept the blame for failing to give more. I realize that by working for 40 + years that I have not done enough, I should have had 2 jobs. Naw, that wouldn’t be enuf. And Nick, may I inquire- How close to MLK Dr do you live ? Same BS, do as I say, not as I do….

    • Jeff says:

      Totally agree with you Billeeg, these people live in all white gated enclaves in the belt way and want everyone else to live with the crime, disrepect and destruction these people bring upon any community they come into.

  2. Jeff says:

    I pray that SCOTUS reverses the lower court rulings and that this will be the start to the finish of this issue nationwide. Hopefully we will see an end to HUD and all of its programs through defunding at the Federal Level and dismantling of these socialist social engineering experiments that have been massive failures, destroying communities and forcing private property owners to contract with the Federal Govt on its terms. If you want to get out of the ghetto then stay in school, get a job, go to college and earn in just like everyone else. Plenty of minorities do it. The time to end the welfare state and the fleecing of taxpayers has come. I hope the court will not let us down.