The Beastie Boys and the Segregation of American Music

The outpouring from my Twitter stream yesterday on the news of the death of Adam Yauch, MCA of the Beastie Boys, surprised me.

The outpouring from my Twitter stream yesterday on the news of the death of Adam Yauch, MCA of the Beastie Boys, surprised me. To be sure, the death of anyone at 47 is sad news. Yauch was just a year older than me. But my familiarity with the Beasties began and ended in 1986, with “Fight for Your Right (To Party).” I was in college, rap was just going mainstream, and I didn’t like it.  Still don’t. Have you ever tried to hum rap?

It seems that the Beasties continued to have a very influential run and that Yauch had a productive life even apart from his music.

NYT (“Rapper Conquered Music World in ’80s With Beastie Boys“):

Adam Yauch, a rapper and founder of the pioneering and multimillion-selling hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 47.

His mother, Frances Yauch, confirmed his death. He had been treated for cancer of the salivary gland for the last three years.

With a scratchy voice that grew scratchier through the years, Mr. Yauch rapped as MCA in the Beastie Boys, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. They offered many listeners in the 1980s their first exposure to hip-hop. They were vanguard white rappers who helped extend the art of sampling and gained the respect of their African-American peers.

While many hip-hop careers are brief, the Beastie Boys appealed not only to the fans they reached in the 1980s but to successive generations, making million-selling albums into the 2000s. They grew up without losing their sense of humor or their ear for a party beat.

Mr. Yauch (pronounced yowk) was a major factor in the Beastie Boys’ evolution from their early incarnation, as testosterone-driven pranksters, to their later years as sonic experimenters, as socially conscious rappers — championing the cause of freedom in Tibet — and as keepers of old-school hip-hop memories. The Beastie Boys became an institution — one that could have arisen only amid the artistic, social and accidental connections of New York City.

In the history of hip-hop, the Beastie Boys were both improbable and perhaps inevitable: appreciators, popularizers and extrapolators of a culture they weren’t born into.

“The Beasties opened hip-hop music up to the suburbs,” said Rick Rubin, who produced the group’s 1986 debut album, in a recent interview with The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. “As crazy as they were, they seemed safe to Middle America, in a way black artists hadn’t been up to that time.”

The rapper Eminem said in a statement, “I think it’s obvious to anyone how big of an influence the Beastie Boys were on me and so many others.”

The Beastie Boys started their major-label career with two pivotal albums: “Licensed to Ill” (1986), a cornerstone of rap-rock that became the first hip-hop album to top the Billboard chart, and “Paul’s Boutique” (1989), a wildly eclectic, sample-based production that became a template for experimental hip-hop.

The Beasties brand expanded well beyond music: with their own magazine and record label, Grand Royal; with the social activism of Mr. Yauch’s Milarepa Foundation, which produced an international series of Tibetan Freedom Concerts; and with work in film, as Mr. Yauch (calling himself Nathanial Hörnblowér) directed Beastie Boys videos and went on to start Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent film production and distribution company.

The Beastie Boys’ appeal endured. Into the 2000s they could headline large events like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Each of their albums up to “To the Five Boroughs” in 2004 has sold at least a million copies, and many of them have sold in the multimillions, in the United States alone.

Rolling Stone (“Beastie Boys Co-Founder Adam Yauch Dead at 47“) adds:

Yauch co-founded the Beastie Boys with Mike “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz in 1979. The band started off as a hardcore punk group, but soon began experimenting with hip-hop. The band broke huge with their first proper album, Licensed to Ill, in 1986; it was the biggest-selling rap album of the decade and the first to reach Number One on the Billboard chart. Further albums Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head and Ill Communication cemented the Beasties as a true superstar act.

In addition to his career with the Beastie Boys, Yauch was heavily involved in the movement to free Tibet. A founder of the Milarepa Fund, Yauch was instrumental in the first Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park 1996, which drew 100,000 people – the largest U.S. benefit concert since 1985’s Live Aid. After 9/11, Yauch and the Beastie Boys organized New Yorkers Against Violence, a concert benefit for some of the victims least likely to receive help from elsewhere.

Yauch also directed many of the Beastie Boys’ music videos under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower. In 2002, he launched the film production company Oscilloscope Laboratories. As a filmmaker, he directed the 2006 Beastie Boys concert film Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! and the 2008 basketball  documentary Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot, and his production company released the acclaimed Banksy movie Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Ironically, while Rauch contributed to the racial integration of American popular music, he was also part of its segregation along the lines of musical genre.

The Beastie Boys, comprised of three men about my age who became famous at the height of my musical awareness, made it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And yet I can name precisely one of their songs. That concept would have seemed incredible in 1986, which was both the year the Beasties broke out and the Hall inducted its inaugural class.

That first group, of course, will never be topped: Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley. All were household names with very, very wide appeal; only Brown among them was arguably a genre-specific artist. Subsequent classes got a bit sketchier, largely because of an attempt to recognize “influencers” who weren’t necessarily major artists in their own right and to recognize people outside of rock and roll proper.

Still, jump to the 10th class, 1995, and it’s still household names: The Allman Brothers, Al Green, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Martha and the Vandellas, Neil Young, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Gladys Night & the Pips, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, The Shirelles, and The Velvet Underground. (The only outlier was Little Willie John, an R&B artist whose recording career spanned six years and had precisely two top 20 pop songs, none of which cracked the top 10, before dying in prison.)

Jump ahead a bit, though, and you start to see a segregation along stylistic lines. Parliament-Funkadelic and Grandmaster Flash were indicted ten years apart, in 1997 and 2007, respectively. They’re the iconic funk bands, but not exactly staples on rock radio. Or look at the 2009 class: Jeff Beck, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Metallica, Run-DMC, and Bobby Womack. There’s not a helluva lot of cross-over in the audiences for those acts.

Andrew Sullivan cites an essay by Brayden King written before Yauch’s passing to answer in the negative “Do Music Genres Exist?” But, while there may be more hybridization and cross-breeding than ever, I’d argue that there’s also more segregation. While it’s impossible to avoid rap and its variants–it’s everywhere, from movies to shopping venues–we can tailor our music listening experience more than ever before.

Rock radio still existed in those days although, thanks to the phenomenal success of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” was amalgamating into a pop mish-mash guaranteed to please no one. If you wanted to hear Metallica, you probably didn’t want to hear Whitney Houston. If you wanted to hear Run-DMC, you probably didn’t want to hear REM. So, people gravitated to either niche stations or, increasingly, to the self-selection of their Walkmans and iPods.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Peacewood says:

    You seriously can’t name a Beastie Boys song other than their first attempt?

    It could be that music is getting segregated, but…

    You could just be gettin’ old, my dear James.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Peacewood: Oh, I don’t doubt that age is part of it. But I wasn’t old in 1987, when their second album came out. Even scanning their discography, none of the other songs jump out by title–although I may well have heard a handful.

    Partly, I drifted into country during that genre’s renaissance that started around 1989. But I can also name singles–and bought CDs featuring–several of the more traditional rock-style bands that debuted in the 1990s, from Hootie and the Blowfish to Blues Traveler. And even some of the rock that made it into the adult contemporary/AOR scene in the 2000s, including Train, John Mayer, Five for Fighting, and others. Hell, I can even name a handful of songs by Enimem and Insane Clown Posse, which are of the white boy rapper genre.

  3. Just to mention, people keep bringing up “Fight for Your Right (To Party)” while talking about Yauch’s death, which is really ironic because the Beastie Boys al HATE this song. They actualy wrote it to mock “party rock” and were very annoyed it became popular with the very same people they were trying to make fun of. They hate the song so much that, despite it being one of their most well known songs, they haven’t performed it in concert in 25 years.

  4. Herb says:

    License to Ill was the first record I ever owned and I scratched the damn thing….

    The weird thing about the Beastie Boys, at least in my local radio market, is that they didn’t get any love from the hip-hop community, but the rock stations play them all the time. I’ve always wondered….is it because they’re white? Maybe…

    But then how does one account for Eminem, who had almost the opposite experience?

    I should write a letter to Clear Channel.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    @James Joyner:

    Have you ever tried to hum rap?

    James, I’m older than you are, probably by a decade, and there is some rap that is easily ‘hum-able’. Ice Cube’s “It was a good day” (sampled from the Isley Brothers’ Footsteps In the Dark) and Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride” (sampled from Parliament Funkadelic’s classic Mothership Connection album) come to mind.

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    If you can’t come up with “No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn” then you didn’t watch too much MTV in the mid-1980’s. If you can’t remember “Sabotage” you didn’t listen to too much radio in the mid-1990’s.

    Music for generations has been segregated. If you were a Buddy Holly fan in the 1950’s you probably didn’t spend too much time listening to Mario Lanza. Steppenwolf fans in the 1960’s didn’t go to all that many Dusty Springfield concerts. Black Sabbath fans in the 1970’s weren’t all too keen on KC and the Sunshine Band. So on, so forth.

    Regarding the Beastie Boys, their legacy is tied to the urban-suburban-exurban phenomenon and to the fusion between rap/hip hop and rock.

    The Beastie Boys were pure urban youth. You can’t get more urban than Brooklyn, N.Y. in the early to mid-1980’s. The kids who drank themselves blind on college campuses while listening to their music, however, were suburban WASPs. Rich kids. Private schools.

    The first band who fused rap with rock was Run DMC. Listen to “King of Rock.” Keep in mind that was a couple of years prior to “Licensed to ‘Ill.” Thing is, however, RUN DMC were black. Not too accessible to white kids from the burbs or especially to their parents. The Beastie Boys were white. Three Jewish kids.

    So all of of sudden you had rich white kids from the burbs listening to “black” music. Which in turn allowed the commercialization of black rap/hip hop and the ensuing combination of rap and rock. Aerosmith’s duet with Run DMC on “Walk This Way” in that respect was another milestone.

    Were if not for the Beastie Boys a whole host of black artists — from Dr. Dre, to Snoop Dogg to 50 Cent — would have sold a lot fewer records.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    The younger generation of teens is actually appreciating some of the old guys — Beatles, Stones, Hendrix — so there is some generational cross-over now which happened less, I think, in my day.

  8. Herb says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    “Black Sabbath fans in the 1970′s weren’t all too keen on KC and the Sunshine Band.”

    Well, that’s because Sabbath rulez and KC and the Sunshine Band….doesn’t.

    I actually just discovered Sabbath’s Never Say Die, their last record with Ozzy. It came out when I was 2, but man, I love that band.


    Not too accessible to white kids from the burbs or especially to their parents. The Beastie Boys were white.

    This white kid from the burb can attest to this experience, although my folks were cool with all rap until 2 Live Crew and NWA. But by then I was listening to Guns N Roses, so it didn’t matter. Same problem, different genre.

    The Beastie Boys were also one of the first (only?) hip hop groups cool with the “alternative” scene of the 90s.

  9. Hello World! says:

    What about Brass Monkey? My senior year of high school that’s all anyone would listen too. I hated it but love Sabatage.

  10. Brainster says:

    The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to put it bluntly, is a joke. It’s always been more of a pop music Hall of Fame, but when the Beastie Boys are in and Yes, Rush, and the Moody Blues are out it becomes pretty transparently ludicrous.

    As for rap music, I remember a conversation with a friend of mine around 1980, about what kind of music our kids would love. He said that they would like the same kind of stuff we did. I said no, they’d find something that we would absolutely despise and make it their own. Hoo-boy, do I wish I was wrong on that score.

  11. I’ve actually been listening to more rap lately, thanks to the emergence of the “nerdcore” subgenre:

    Which in someways you could argue the Beastie Boys had some hand in initiating, via songs like “Intergalactic”.

  12. mattb says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    If you can’t remember “Sabotage” you didn’t listen to too much radio in the mid-1990′s.

    Or “Intergalatic” in the early 2000’s. And both of those were played on “Top 40 Radio” — which is what took over from traditional Rock Radio.

    The first band who fused rap with rock was Run DMC. Listen to “King of Rock.” Keep in mind that was a couple of years prior to “Licensed to ‘Ill.” Thing is, however, RUN DMC were black. Not too accessible to white kids from the burbs or especially to their parents. The Beastie Boys were white. Three Jewish kids…. Aerosmith’s duet with Run DMC on “Walk This Way” in that respect was another milestone.

    Good music history (and analysis… though at least in the NYC area there were a lot of Suburban White Kids following DMC). As far as “Walk this way”, an argument could be made that it was Run DMC that led to the Aerosmith rebirth — at that point they really had not been doing anything in years. And I believe that the “Walk this way” video was the first directed video that Tyler and Perry had ever appeared in.

    BTW, without Run DMC there probably wouldn’t have been Kid Rock either.

  13. @Brainster:

    The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to put it bluntly, is a joke.

    I know I’m weird, but in my mind, the biggest evidence of how lame the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is is the failure to induct Weird Al and Spinal Tap. Both had far more influence on Rock than many of the current inductees, but are ignored because the hall takes itself way too seriously, underlining the chief problem with the hall: the absurdity of the establishment paying honor to an anti-establishment music genre.

  14. mattb says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    underlining the chief problem with the hall: the absurdity of the establishment paying honor to an anti-establishment music genre.

    Bingo. Though when was the last time that Rock was anti-establishment? The early 70’s?

  15. michael reynolds says:

    Punk has remained anti-establishment. You don’t see a lot of cross-promotions or sponsorships there.

  16. @mattb:

    It still is. You can usually identify the anti-establishment parts as the groups not getting inducted despite deserving to by any reasonable objective quality. Instead it’s mostly based on how much time the band spent fellating Jann Wenner.

  17. mattb says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I’m with Michael. Rock is completely establishment, and started being so after the end of Glam Rock. Other upstart music genres became anti establishment — the counters to rock. Most of them have ended up becoming part of the establishment (I’m looking at you Alternative).

    But, for the most part, Punk remains the most consistently anti-establishment form out there.

    And to a lesser degree there’s Alt.Rock as well (and I’m using Alt.Rock here like Alt.Country — I’m definitely NOT using it to refer to Alternative).

  18. Davebo says:

    But I can also name singles–and bought CDs featuring–several of the more traditional rock-style bands that debuted in the 1990s, from Hootie and the Blowfish to Blues Traveler.

    In my opinion neither of these bands qualify as rock but instead, good old fashioned pop.

  19. sam says:

    As I may have mentioned before, I was around for the birth of rock and roll in the 50s. Prior to that time, music, as much of America, was thoroughly segregated. We used to listen to what was then called, I kid you not, “race music” — music by black artists that was never, ever played on the mainstream radio stations. (Johhny Otis’s show was a favorite.) But white musicians listened and incorporated the tropes of that music into their own. And rock and roll was born. I’ve always thought that rock and roll was the union of country and western and rythm and blues. As for the prevelance of rap and hip hop, since I started learning Spanish, I listen almost exclusively to Spanish language pop stations (some of those artists are really good, eg, Reik and Sharkira). Hip hop is an intergral part of a lot of latin pop. It’s an interesting fusion.

  20. Neil Hudelson says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’m just out of being considered part of the “younger generation” now that I’m closer to 30 than 20. (As with all of my cultural comments I know and enjoy that this makes you feel old.) What I’ve been amazed re: music tastes of the current teen set is how varied their interests are. When I was a teen, I liked some classic rock, but mostly I liked what was on the radio–what was considered young and hip.

    Teens nowadays listen to modern crap, but also classic rock, blues, bluegrass based country (see: avett brothers, trampled by turtles), jazz and jazz influenced pop, hip hop, rap that borders on poetry (blue scholars), and a host of other music.

    The 2000s was a wasteland for music, with few exceptions. For the last few years what has been popular and marketable music has been improving by leaps and bounds. Teens right now give me hope that this trend continues.

  21. Wil Smith says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Nerd rock sounds DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince,

  22. James Joyner says:

    @al-Ameda: I know who some of those people are but don’t really know their music–in the sense that I’m sure I’ve heard it but couldn’t identify who’s who. (The same is true of the genre I call Whiny White Chick.) But, yes, that was a great line based on the music of a certain period. “Rap” has been around so long now that it’s a whole lot of different sub-genres, many of which I wouldn’t identify from the beat structure as “rap.” There’s certainly some urban music that’s actually melodic, rather than the angst that was early rap or the “gangsta” stuff of the 1990s. Even some of the early stuff, from Pet Shop Boys to Tone Loc was hummable, even if I wasn’t the target audience.

    @Tsar Nicholas: I came to MTV a bit late but didn’t really watch all that much of it. By the time we had cable, there was so much crap on MTV that I wasn’t that interested. And by the 1990s I was listening to country radio, which was good for maybe eight or nine years and then got boring. Now, I mostly listen to sports and non-partisan talk.

    “If you were a Buddy Holly fan in the 1950′s you probably didn’t spend too much time listening to Mario Lanza” – I think this is a category error. Most people who listen to rock don’t listen to bluegrass,either.

    “Steppenwolf fans in the 1960′s didn’t go to all that many Dusty Springfield concerts. Black Sabbath fans in the 1970′s weren’t all too keen on KC and the Sunshine Band. So on, so forth.” I’m sure that’s right. The difference, though, is that back in the day the radio stations played both of them and people who listened to popular music were well acquainted with all those bands.

  23. michael reynolds says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    I don’t resent your youth and am so happy to see you and your generation stepping up to pay for the Medicare I intend to exploit the hell out of in a few years. (I’m pretty sure daily massages should be considered medical necessity.)

    Yeah, I really like this generation, and not just because they buy my books. They’ve moved beyond a number of prejudices, including what was my generation’s tiresome belief in its own wonderfulness.

    Although, on the other hand, I just a few minutes ago realized why my 15 year-old chose a movie theater for us to see The Avengers that is far from his school. And why he’d prefer to buy his shoes online rather than going to the mall with his father.

  24. KansasMom says:

    @mattb: I finally have something to hold against RunDMC.

  25. John Cole says:

    You could just be gettin’ old, my dear James.

    Age has nothing to do with it. James and I are roughly the same age, and I have ever Beastie Boys album ever made, and could not only give you titles but lyrics all day long.

    My guess is James just didn’t like the style of music, they didn’t appeal to them, and so he doesn’t know anything about them. I’m not sure how that N of 1 gets James to his wider opinion about society and music as a whole.

  26. James Joyner says:

    @John Cole: My point is that, once upon a time, it was pretty much impossible to ignore pop subgenres that didn’t appeal to you. The Beasties arrived on the scene just as that was changing. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, even, you pretty much listened to whatever came on the radio. It was next to impossible for a fan of, say, Billy Joel, not to also be pretty familiar with REO Speedwagon, Led Zeppelin, and AC-DC. If they were popular, you just heard them. But I was easily able to keep up with developments in post-Beasties pop while almost completely ignoring major rap artists.

  27. John Cole says:

    @James Joyner: I wasn’t trying to be confrontational, and were you talking about other artists, I would definitely agree. But the only way you could avoid the Beastie Boys in the 80’s and 90’s was to not own a radio at all. They were omnipresent. Even Intergalactic received widespread radio play on a wide variety of radio stations, and that was nowhere as widely played as licensed to ill, paul’s boutique, or ill communication.

    As to your larger point, though, I would tend to agree. I’d bet there are going to be a number of acts entering the hall of fame that I definitely could not name one song. I just don’t think the Beastie Boys is one of them- they were widely played in a variety of formats.

  28. James Joyner says:

    @John Cole: It’s really weird. Even when people have pointed me to a handful of other Beasties songs from the late 1980s and I’ve YouTubed them, they’re unfamiliar to me. And I’m familiar with several rap songs from that era. You couldn’t avoid, for example, Funky Cold Medina. Not sure how Beasties evaded my radar. I found “Fight For Your Right” silly–which I now gather was the hoped for response, if not the common one–but obviously heard it a ton. Not so their other big hits.

  29. kkk says:

    The word “segregation” is used while describing the contentious changes of the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement, and the America of the past.[1] It is also a word that is now gone from the American social and political landscape. In actuality, however, the word segregation continues to characterize the present lives of many minorities in America.[2] Segregation is the link to understanding the perpetuation of urban poverty in America and is attributable to the present lack of affordable housing in safe and economically prosperous suburban communities.[3] The existence of isolated and racially segregated housing has preserved racial mistrust, furthering ignorant stereotypes that inhibit our society from attaining true racial equality. As Thomas Petigrew stated: “Residential segregation has proven to be the most resistant to change of all realms – perhaps because it is so critical to racial change in general.”[4]

    This comment discusses the history and effects of residential racial segregation in America and offers specific remedies that have already been implemented effectively in a few U.S. cities. First, the comment examines the history of residential racial segregation in America by exploring the role of federal and state governments, exclusionary zoning legislation, and private discrimination in creating and perpetuating the problems associated with segregated housing. Next, the comment addresses the harmful social and economic costs to minorities, particularly African Americans, from decades of segregationist and discriminatory housing policies. Additionally, this section analyzes the prospects of improving race relations given the existence of predominately homogenous white suburban communities and low-income minority inner-city neighborhoods. The third section elucidates policy reasons to support housing integration, and analyzes the costs of segregation on white-Americans. Further, the third section details the economic and social benefits not only to minorities, but also to our entire population. Finally, the fourth section discusses remedies to eliminate housing segregation, specifically by facilitating an increase in affordable housing prospects in suburban communities. This first part examines inclusionary zoning techniques, including the use of mandatory set-asides, affordable housing appeals legislation, and state inclusionary laws. Concrete examples of successful inclusionary zoning techniques are offered from a number of U.S. cities. The second part then analyzes the importance and effectiveness of mobility programs. Additionally, a detailed review is offered, delineating the strengths of individual mobility programs, existing obstacles, and the successes of mobility programs in creating affordable housing for minorities in previously white suburban enclaves.


    A. Development of Housing Segregation—The Urban Ghetto

    Housing segregation in the United States developed slowly and deliberately. In fact, prior to 1900, African Americans were scattered widely throughout white neighborhoods.[5] In southern cities in the United States, for example, African American servants and laborers lived side by side with their white employers, and in northern urban areas, African Americans were more likely to share a neighborhood with whites than to live in racially segregated communities.[6] Although the evils of discrimination continued after the Civil War, African Americans were generally residentially integrated with whites in the North.[7] The two racial groups regularly interacted in a common social world, sharing cultural traits and values through personal and frequent interaction.[8]

    However, as African Americans moved north into industrial communities after World War I and II, the picture of the urban ghetto began to develop. At the turn of the century, methods such as public improvement projects, redevelopment projects, public housing programs, and urban renewal policies were utilized to accomplish racial segregation.[9] Other factors also contributed to the formation of the urban ghetto. Manufacturing jobs were lured away from the inner city with cheap land and low taxes.[10] Industry moving from the city to the suburbs resulted in the creation of all-white suburban towns.[11] Segregationist zoning ordinances, which divided city streets by race, coupled with racially restrictive covenants between private individuals became the common method of legally enforcing racial segregation.[12]

    Racial segregation soon became the de facto policy of local governments and standard operating procedure for individual landowners. The emergence of the black ghetto did not happen by chance, but was the result of the deliberate housing policies of the federal, state, and local governments and the intentional actions of individual American citizens.[13] As a result, the creation of the urban ghetto has had a lasting impact on America. The consequences include: a lack of capital in inner city communities, segregated minor ity neighborhoods, and minority families unable to find affordable housing in the suburbs due to government sponsored racism.

    B. The Role of Government in Creating Housing Segregation

    The role of federal and state government in creating and maintaining residential racial segregation must be understood, without excuse, as a reality of American history. On the federal level, the United States government reinforced discriminatory norms through various public policies. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) adopted the practice of “red-lining,” a discriminatory rating system used by FHA to evaluate the risks associated with loans made to borrowers in specific urban neighborhoods.[14] The vast majority of the loans went to the two top categories of the rating system, the highest of which included areas that were “new, homogenous, and in demand in good times and bad.”[15] The second highest category was comprised of mostly stable areas that were still desirable. The third category, and the level at which discriminatory “red-lining” began, consisted of working class neighborhoods near black residences that were “within such a low price or rent range as to attract an undesirable element.”[16] Black areas were placed in the fourth cate gory. Mortgage funds were channeled away from fourth category African American neighborhoods and were typically redirected from communities that were located near a black settlement or an area expected to contain black residences in the future.[17] As a result of these policies, the vast majority of FHA mortgage loans went to borrowers in white middle-class neighborhoods, and very few were awarded to black neighborhoods in central cities.[18] Between 1930 and 1950, three out of five homes purchased in the United States were financed by FHA, yet less than two percent of the FHA loans were made to non-white home buyers.[19] The FHA thus became the first federal agency to openly counsel and support segregation.[20]

    The FHA was operated in a racially discriminatory manner since its inception in 1937 and set itself up as the “protector of all white neighborhoods,” using its field agents to “keep Negroes and other minorities from buying houses in white neighborhoods.”[21] Evidence also indicates that the federal government used interstate highway and urban renewal programs to segregate those blacks that had previously lived in more racially diverse communities.[22] Conse quently, these schemes increased the concentration of poverty where it has festered ever since and has caused the federal government to be labeled as “most influential in creating and maintaining residential segregation.”[23]

    Examples of discrimination in federal housing policy persist today, and they are as numerous as they are disturbing. For instance, most minorities in public housing live in communities largely popu lated by poor minorities; in contrast, public housing for elderly whites is typically situated in areas with large numbers of whites who are not poor.[24] The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has played a significant role in reinforcing the problems of housing segregation by allowing intentional discrimination and courts have found HUD liable on many occasions for their overt racist policies in site selection and tenant housing procedures.[25]

    The combined efforts of the federal and state agencies have had disastrous effects on the creation and maintenance of housing segregation. The policies and practices of the agencies have led to the notable isolation of minority communities. On both national and local levels, HUD has been found liable for the discriminatory implementation of the Section Eight[26] Housing Assistance Program.[27] For instance, Section Eight subsidy holders living in Yonkers, New York brought a class action lawsuit against a local Section Eight program and the state and federal programs.[28] The tenants alleged that the Section Eight office had steered minority Section Eight holders into apartments in segregated and crumbling neighborhoods. The tenants also contended that they were improperly informed that they could use their subsidies in other neighborhoods and never told about the availability of rent exceptions.[29] Consequently, the court held that the plaintiff-tenants were limited in their ability to move into integrated neighborhoods.[30] Under a consent decree issued in 1993, the defendants agreed to fund the Enhanced Section Eight Outreach Office to redress the grievances of the plaintiff tenants.[31] Unquestionably, the federal government, including HUD, has historically supported and sustained housing discrimination, a fact acknowledged even by the White House.[32] Past and present racially discriminatory policies obligate federal, state, and local governments to address their prejudicial tactics with meaningful legislative initiatives to promote racial integration in housing.

    C. Exclusionary Zoning and the Perpetuation of Housing Segregation

    As African Americans poured into America’s cities, the white community fled to the suburbs, using judicial means to exclude the “undesirables.”[33] In 1926, the Supreme Court approved the use of municipal zoning in Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company,[34] and the use of distinct zoning districts in all areas of land use planning—residential, commercial, and industrial—and subcategorizes within each.[35] The Court’s holding in Euclid sought to preserve the quality of residential environments, but in doing so, caused hardship to those black or poor families who may have wanted to live in suburbia. Although the Supreme Court has since held that race-based zoning violates the Equal Protection Clause, non-exclusionary zoning restrictions still create de facto residential segregation.[36] Moreover, such facially neutral non-exclusionary zoning regulations, based on economic considerations of property devaluation, have still resulted in perpetuating the existence of segregated neighborhoods. The reality of such “neutral” zoning ordinances is the exclusion of American society’s most vulnerable population, poor minorities.[37]

    Exclusionary zoning practices were explained in the famous New Jersey Mount Laurel decision where local zoning regulations were used to maintain “enclaves of affluence or of social homogeneity.”[38] Not surprisingly, exclusionary zoning has been attractive to local governments because a town could zone out whatever housing it did not want without having to pay a price.[39] While no single factor can fully explain racial segregation, many legal scholars, as well as Justice Hall and Chief Justice Wilentz of the New Jersey Supreme Court, have agreed that exclusionary zoning is the most pervasive legal structure perpetuating racial segregation.[40]

    The growth of suburban communities expanded the growth of local governments who used their power to regulate and control neighborhood land use. Zoning ordinances, including restrictions for single families, the exclusion of apartment buildings from residential classification, minimum lot and floor space requirements, maximum density limitations, and other land use controls have functioned as gates of homogeneity.[41] Even considering proponents’ contentions that zoning regulations create and sustain economically and socially viable communities, the fact remains that because of these restrictions, the poor and minorities are de facto excluded and their needs sacrificed to nurture the growth of suburbia.[42] While zoning ordinances may be facially neutral, the effect of many of these regulations is to keep out minorities and low-income persons even when the intent is obscured.

    Zoning regulations have resulted in the dramatic increase in housing prices, exacerbating the problem of housing segregation. Land costs represent a notable portion of housing costs, and zoning practices that affect the price of land increase the cost of housing built on that land.[43] The construction of affordable housing thereby becomes costly and more limited, effectively excluding many low-income minorities. These minorities, in turn, are excluded from the educational and employment opportunities of suburban areas.[44] Hence, the cycle of oppression is perpetuated.

    In May 1991, the Census Bureau reported that 57% of American families could not afford a median-priced home in the area in which they lived.[45] This percentage disproportionately affects both African Americans and Hispanics who make-up 75% of these families.[46] The discriminatory housing practices of federal and state governments, coupled with the tremendous rise in housing costs, have resulted in whites, blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities being increasingly isolated from each other.[47] The 1990 census shows that 30% of African Americans live in neighborhoods which are 90% or more black, while the remaining percentage of African Americans still live in predominantly black areas.[48] In fact, 62% of African Americans live in areas that are at least 60% black. As for the Hispanic population, 40% live in communities that are 60% or more Hispanic. While 86% of suburban whites, on the other hand, live in communities that are less than 1% black.[49]

    Finally, even though the 1980s witnessed an economic gap between the black poor and the black middle-class, the relocation of middle-class blacks from the urban ghetto was not into integrated communities, but rather into the segregated areas within middle-class neighborhoods.[50] A study of New York City suburbs identifies the reality of American segregation, concluding that blacks and Hispanics of the same socioeconomic class as whites typically live in communities with less tax wealth, lower ownership rates, and higher poverty crime rates.[51] Thus, increased housing costs generated by the practices of exclusionary zoning disproportionately affect African Americans and other minorities, virtually ensuring the continued patterns of racial segregation in American cities and suburbs.[52] Despite the legal ban against discrimination in housing, an increasing black middle-class with the means to integrate, and a series of court decisions prohibiting racially motivated ordinances,[53] our neighborhoods persist in remaining racially separate and unequal.

    D. Private Discrimination

    Racially segregated housing patterns in the United States exist to a large degree as a result of intentional discrimination against minorities.[54] Opponents argue that patterns of housing segregation exist because of personal choice and economic disparity, yet income differences alone account for only 10% to 35% of the racial segregation actually observed.[55] Moreover, the myth that African Americans want to live amongst other African Americans is unfounded. In a sociological study of the underlying attitudes of whites and blacks toward integrated housing, for example, blacks overwhelmingly chose to live in integrated neighborhoods.[56] Among the blacks surveyed, only 17% indicated that they would like to live in a complete ly black community as their first or second choice.[57] Only a small number of blacks indicated that their unwillingness to move to an all-white neighborhood was based on a desire to live with other blacks.[58] Approximately 82% of the black respondents chose a racially mixed community, described as being comprised of 45% African Americans.[59]

    Of African Americans willing to move into predominantly white areas, however, about 90% feared that they would be unwelcome by whites.[60] Additionally, 17% of the African American respondents were concerned about physical retaliation from white residents if they moved into a white community.[61] The evidence of pervasive intentional housing discrimination illustrates that the fears of African Americans have not been unfounded.

    One common method of discrimination is “steering,” a practice whereby minority home purchasers are systematically offered houses in different neighborhoods than interested white homebuyers.[62] A 1991 Housing Discrimination Study reported that when houses are shown or recommended to black and Hispanic homebuyers, the probability of steering by realtors is 21%.[63] Typically, landlords who do not want to rent to minority tenants may tell prospective minority renters that the apartment has been taken off the market; demand an unreasonably large deposit; or promise to put their name on a waiting list that never ends.[64] Local banks also play a role by refusing to approve mortgages for minorities. Un favorable treatment regarding credit assistance measured at 39% for black homebuyers and 37% for Hispanics.[65] Thus, private housing discrimination takes various forms: from realtors discouraging minority home buyers from seeking out white communities, to landlords unfairly levying additional costs upon minorities when renting property, to the absolute denial of housing for racially motivated reasons in all housing markets.[66]

    Discrimination in the private housing market is an unfortunate reality that continues to burden society, and contradicts the American cultural ideals of fairness and justice for all. An analysis of the data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (1990) shows that African Americans and Hispanics applying for home mortgage loans are more likely than whites to be denied credit.[67] A 1989 Housing Discrimination Study for HUD showed pervasive, continual housing discrimination based on minority status.[68] This study showed that African Americans and Hispanics who responded to newspaper advertisements to either rent or purchase a home experienced discrimination roughly 50% of the time.[69] Consequently, African American and Hispanic households pay what is commonly referred to as a “discrimination tax” of about $3,000 every time they search for a house to buy.[70] The total cost of such prejudicial tactics to these minorities totals $4.1 billion per year.[71] The Housing Discrimination Study concludes that such discriminatory practices seriously limit housing choices for minority homebuyers, and continue to be a major obstacle confronting blacks and Hispanics in search of housing.[72]

    Regional examples of housing discrimination emphasize the scope and severity of the problem. In Los Angeles alone, HUD received nearly 800 complaints of housing discrimination in 1987.[73] The Fair Housing Congress reported an additional 700 cases of al leged racial discrimination.[74] The problem is a persistent one, as more recent examples indicate. In a suburb south of Chicago, the owners and managers of Town and Country Villas Apartments were ordered to pay $308,200 in damages for refusing to rent apartments to blacks.[75] In Toledo, Ohio a married couple sought to finalize a lease arrangement when the homeowners became flustered by the fact the couple was interracial. The homeowners would not relinquish the property as agreed and a subsequent Fair Housing complaint resulted in the couple receiving $11,500 in compensatory damages and $23,500 in punitive damages.[76] In Georgia, a real estate broker was ordered to pay almost $75,000 in damages and fines for violating the Federal Fair Housing Act because the broker backed out of a property sales contract after learning the prospective buyers were a black couple.[77] Finally, in New York City, a white couple was denied the opportunity to sublet their apartment to an interested black couple. The owners were required to pay the white renters $35,000 for loss of income when the deposit was returned to the black couple and the original renters were left without a sublessee.[78]

    Non-intentional or societal discrimination is an equally serious problem contributing to the racial imbalance in housing patterns. Even though non-intentional discrimination is not based on evil motives, minorities are still harmed, both economically and socially.[79] A prime example of societal discrimination and its injurious effect on minorities is the phenomenon of “white flight.”[80] White flight specifically refers to the migration of white residents out of a community in response to blacks moving into the community.[81] Whites will tolerate black entry up to a certain level, known as the “tipping point,” at which time whites begin to move out of the neighborhood, leaving an all-black community behind.[82]

    In a sociological study done in Detroit, Michigan, a large percentage of whites surveyed indicated they would feel uncomfortable living in communities populated by equal numbers of blacks and whites.[83] More specifically, 84% of white respondents stated they would not move into a community composed of 60% black residents, and 64% of whites indicated they would definitely move to another neighborhood.[84] Perhaps more disturbing is that greater than 50% of whites said that they would not move into a community consisting of only 20% black residents.[85] It is also disconcerting that 40% of the whites surveyed indicated that they would move out of an area that became integrated, fearing a decline in property value.[86]

    Some argue, as many of the respondents suggest, that residents who leave integrated neighborhoods do so only for economic considerations, such as a decline in property values, as opposed to dislike of minorities.[87] Such non-intentional discrimination still assumes that African Americans are somehow inferior, as numbers of whites view interracial neighborhoods as less desirable communities to live in.[88] Property purchased by incoming blacks eventually decreases in value as the whites move out and the tipping point is reached, leaving deteriorating community services and inferior schools as the lasting consequences.[89] Consequently, white flight perpetuates existing racial stereotypes as whites and blacks become more isolated, rendering the task of eradicating housing segregation and societal racism nearly insurmountable.


    A. Freedom of Choice in Housing—Minorities Need Not Apply

    The right to choose where one wants to live is an historical American concept that is entrenched in our history of early westward expansion and modern suburbanization. Throughout the major part of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of white families made the move from city life to suburban sprawlings.[90] The mass exodus to the suburbs left minority families behind. As discussed earlier, this homogeneous suburban picture was not adventitious but was an outgrowth of direct and intentional government policies and private discrimination.[91] Moreover, with the assistance of exclusionary zoning practices, minorities have been prevented from moving into suburban municipalities through the establishment of economic and racial barriers designed to keep suburbs homogeneous and affluent.[92] Therefore, the freedom to choose where one wishes to live is not a concept which has resonated for a significant portion of non-white Americans.

    The lack of housing choices for minorities, particularly African Americans, has meant that the quality of suburbanization that they have achieved is distinctly different than that achieved by white Americans.[93] For African Americans, and to a lesser degree for His panics and Asians, the freedom to choose where they wish to live is simply not a reality.[94] Typically, black suburbanization is characterized by expansion of the urban ghetto population to areas just outside city limits.[95] African Americans are the most residentially segregated racial or ethnic group in America.[96] Regardless of their socioeconomic status, they are forced to persevere without the same equal housing opportunities as white Americans.

    The inability of middle-class African Americans to move into suburban neighborhoods has resulted in a disproportionate number of middle-income blacks now living in poor neighborhoods.[97] While 23% of black families earn a middle-class income, only 4% of these blacks live in a predominantly white or racially mixed neighborhood.[98] Hence, these middle income blacks endure living conditions below those of whites at comparable income levels.[99] Racial prejudice contributes to the inability of African Americans to translate their economic earnings into middle-class housing,[100] particularly considering that, as discussed in the previous section, statistics show that African Americans prefer to live in neighborhoods that are racially integrated.[101] In fact, more than one-third of all blacks live under conditions of profound racial segregation.[102] As two prominent sociologists noted, African Americans are “unambiguously among the nation’s most spatially isolated and geographically se cluded people, suffering extreme segregation across multiple dimensions simultaneously.”[103] Consequently, many African Americans live in densely populated areas in common urban centers; in plain terms, many African Americans live in ghettos.[104]

    B. The Economic and Social Costs of Racial Segregation on Minorities

    The concentration of poverty in urban ghettos is a direct consequence of residential racial segregation. Problems associated with urban poverty become exacerbated by the isolating effect of residential segregation. Educational and employment disadvantages, housing dilapidation, loss of commercial facilities and businesses, crime and social disorder, welfare dependency, and unwed parenthood are only some of the social problems found in the urban ghetto.[105]

    Ghetto poverty imposes costs on all residents of an urban region. The social ills of gang life, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and school dropout have left minority families with a sense of powerlessness, as they are stranded without considerable opportunity for change. In terms of housing facilities, low-income blacks face poor or non-existent security measures, roach and rat infestation, high incidence of lead-paint poisoning, crumbling stairwells and leaking ceilings, structural deficiencies, and no heat or hot water.[106]

    The isolation of the urban ghetto also inflicts severe hardship on poor minority children. Removing young people from concentrated ghettos and its ill social effects has proven beneficial and underscores the existent inadequacies in racially segregated areas. A research team from Northwestern University, for example, compared low-income black students from families assigned to live in scattered site housing in white suburbs with students from families assigned to public housing in Chicago’s ghetto.[107] Although the two groups were initially statistically identical, once removed from ghetto high schools, black students achieved higher grades and better academic preparation, sustained lower dropout rates, and maintained higher rates of college attendance compared with those who remained in ghetto institutions.[108]

    Similarly, in a nationwide study, northern blacks who attended racially mixed schools were more likely to attend college than those who went to all-black high schools.[109] Another investigative study revealed that black and white students who went to high schools in affluent neighborhoods were considerably less likely to drop out than those who attended schools in poor neighborhoods, and that girls in affluent schools were much less likely to become teen mothers.[110] Notably, the most important factor bearing on student success rates was school affluence and not the race of the student body. On the California Achievement Test, 17% of Philadelphia students enrolled in racially mixed schools scored above the eighty-fifth percentile, while only 4% of the students enrolled in all-black schools achieved such a score.[111] Comparably, while only 19% of the students enrolled in racially mixed schools scored below the fifteenth percentile on that exam, 39% of the students in all-black schools had such low scores.[112] Finally, the disparities in school quality between racially mixed schools and all-black schools were shown to increase at higher levels of education.[113] Thus, it is argued that without the spatial isolation of minorities, many of the social ills, characteristic of urban poverty in America today, would not exist.[114]

    Minorities who live in racially segregated neighborhoods typically are exposed to greater health risks. In a study comparing the health care, mortality rates, and general well-being of people living in communities of various racial compositions, African Americans living in established black communities were found to face a far higher mortality rate than those in integrated or white areas.[115] Disadvantages in health care were found to increase for African Americans living in predominantly black neighborhoods, partially attributable to unequal access to medical care.[116] Moreover, African Americans, with a shorter life expectancy, are statistically underrepresented in clinical trials for new drugs in treating diseases that disproportionately afflict them.[117]

    Community safety is also a significant problem in racially segregated neighborhoods. In 1988, the Los Angeles Police Department conducted a study researching 911 response times. The study revealed that police procedures appeared biased against minorities as response times to emergency calls were substantially slower in predominantly minority neighborhoods.[118] Although the police department argued that bias was unintended, critics accused the police department of practicing “systematic and unconscionable racial dis crimination in the assignment of . . . police officers.”[119] This study, examining the practices of a law enforcement agency in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, suggests that discriminatory practices exist throughout the country and serve as evidence of one of the deleterious consequences of residential segregation.

    C. Racial Segregation—Maintaining Racial Divisions

    As residential racial segregation further permeates our society, the prospects of improving race relations in America continue to dwindle, thus preserving the existence of negative racial stereotypes. It is also logical to conclude that physical distance between different racial communities perpetuates social distance.[120] The segregated ghetto sustains and nourishes the racial identifications, fears, and attitudes of blacks and whites.[121] As the media perpetuates stereotypes, whites learn to avoid black neighborhoods and middle-class blacks learn that they are “safer from white suspicion and hostility if they stay in black neighborhoods.”[122] Residential segregation, in turn, becomes both the point of origin of discrimination and the perpetuating cause of racial distrust and ignorance.

    Integration has proven an effective tool to combat historical racial prejudice. One study found that residents in a white suburban community became more tolerant of black neighbors over time, even without any significant interaction with their minority neighbors.[123] Whites found that their fears about black entry into their community were not realized.[124] However, it remains undisputed that the majority of America still remains physically divided along racial lines. Thus, Spike Lee’s classic 1989 film Do The Right Thing, which depicted a scene where a number of racial and ethnic groups flailed derogatory epithets, continues to symbolize the reality of many residential neighborhoods in America, beleaguered by false stereotypes and plagued by ethnic and racial mistrust.[125] Social consequences of racial isolation intertwine with grim economic realities for minorities. Due to the lack of interaction between racial groups, African Americans are unprepared to work and socialize in a white majority society, while conversely, whites are not relating to, working with, or living with blacks.[126] Prospects for African-American children raised in such communities are greatly diminished because of the lack of interaction between blacks and whites. Moreover, minority possibilities for advancement consequently decline from the lower quality of education afforded to them in ghetto schools, precluding them from competing for high-income employment.[127] Although these inequalities are not always directly caused by intentional discrimination, residential racial segregation perpetuates these inequalities.[128] Thus, minorities who live in racially homogeneous communities are faced with disadvantages beyond the present economic and social inequalities associated with minority neighborhoods.


    Undoubtedly, deliberate state and local government policies helped create residential racial segregation. Therefore, municipal policy-makers, politicians, and judges should work towards dismantling the still existing barriers of housing segregation through a policy of integration. This “integrationist” ideology is not new; it was advocated by leaders such as W.E.B. Dubois, Paul Robeson, and Martin Luther King Jr., who all sought to integrate African Americans into the white socioeconomic and political social order to correct the harmful effects of discrimination.[129] Since the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, housing programs have been developed seek ing to integrate affordable housing projects into suburban neighborhoods. Yet many of these policies to create integrated and lower-income housing have met resistance with the “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) syndrome.[130]

    Today, the struggle for fair housing continues. However, effective integrationist policies being implemented nationwide have begun to help African Americans and other minorities obtain more affordable and quality housing characteristic of housing traditionally found in white communities. The problems caused by the perpetuation of residential racial segregation, and the benefits achieved by integration reinforce the significance of implementing and enforcing a practical and successful integrationist policy.

    A. The Benefits of Integration on Minorities

    The classical advantages of integration were illuminated by sociologist Kenneth Clark who stated: “Housing is no abstract social and political problem, but an extension of man’s personality. If the Negro has to identify with a rat-infested tenement, his sense of personal inadequacy and inferiority, already aggravated by job discrimination and other forms of humiliations, is reinforced by the physical reality around him.”[131] It appears that Kenneth Clark’s assessment was not an aberration, since sociological studies have indicated that when integrated into middle-class suburban com munities, poor minority families experience a dramatic improvement in their quality of life.[132] Accessible affordable housing in mixed-income communities gives lower economic classes better educational opportunities, discourages economic segregation, and avoids the concentration of affordable housing in already dilapidated sections of cities and counties.[133]

    In the well-publicized Gautreaux housing mobility experiment, a few thousand low-income, female-headed, African-American public assistance families in Chicago moved out of segregated, financially constrained neighborhoods.[134] These families used Section Eight vouchers to move into economically prosperous settings in middle-class white areas, while others remained in cities.[135] The evidence concluded that the lives of the mothers and their children who moved to the wealthier suburban communities improved, especially with respect to employment and education.[136] Among the study’s families, many of the participating adults had jobs for the first time ever.[137] In contrast to the study control group who remained in the city, the children who moved into the suburbs were more likely to remain in school, take college-track classes, to attend four-year colleges, and to work in jobs with higher pay and benefits.[138] Although more than half of the study participants experienced some discrimination when they first entered the suburban neighborhoods, most adapted well to their new communities and experienced a desire to never return to the projects.[139] Quite simply, the benefits afforded to low-income minorities were both considerable and tangible, suggesting that employment and educational opportunities are determined by a community’s financial health rather than by its racial composition.

    A recent study of another inclusionary program in Hartford, Connecticut indicates that the evidence from the Gautreaux study is convincing, as their research found that the “differences are not only statistically significant but of such magnitude as to show important practical effects on youths’ lives.”[140] Other studies have found similar advantages for African Americans families who moved from impoverished areas into racially integrated suburban communities.[141]

    Inclusionary housing increases chances for minorities to gain and sustain employment, in that employment is nearer to housing, decreasing travel time and transportation problems.[142] Without such inclusionary policies, many suburban communities would continue to offer little opportunity for their low-income employees to find affordable housing.

    Inclusionary techniques not only provide housing for employees close to where jobs are located, but also save employees valuable time and energy, thereby reducing absenteeism and travel costs.[143] Other benefits that have been cited include improved air quality, less traffic congestion, an increased labor market, and shorter commutes.[144] The significant advantages of integration for minorities from economically deprived areas are meaningful, and attest to the importance of demanding fair and pragmatic inclusionary policies.

    B. The Hidden Costs of Segregation

    The toll society has paid for years of residential racial segregation is less clear, but no less relevant to why inclusionary housing is necessary. The abandonment of the inner city by commerce and industry has devastated more than the segregated areas they left behind. Safety and educational concerns caused white workers to move from the city years ago. Consequently, workers then had to commute daily, paying the high price of increased transportation costs (carfare, tolls and multiple car ownership), housing in suburbia, and restricted access to the cultural and recreational opportunities in the city.[145] The concentration of poverty in the inner city does not isolate its resultant crime, disease, and gang activity there, but increases its presence in all communities.[146] These problems have become societal, particularly in the past decade, no longer trapped within the confines of the inner cities.

    Inclusionary housing programs are necessary to remedy the socioeconomic ills that have befallen society due to decades of residential racial segregation. Recently, a study showed unemployment problems existed mainly in cities where a great disparity existed between wages paid to city workers as opposed to suburban employees.[147] The per capita income ratio between the city and its sur rounding suburbs is the most important indicator of an urban area’s social well being. Research indicates that tolerating racial discrimination has cost Americans a higher price for their prejudices than ever imagined.[148]

    C. Advantages of Integration for America

    The principle of equal opportunity is a symbol enshrined in American history and in the politics of a nation that espouses its democratic principles throughout the world. As a nation, accepting our racial diversity and embracing cultural differences is merely an extension of the past opportunities that America ultimately provided for white minorities and European immigrants. Embracing inclusionary housing practices expounds the ideals of what America should represent to all citizens – fairness, opportunity, and justice.

    In Gladstone, Realtors v. Village of Bellwood,[149] the Supreme Court articulated the benefits of a racially diverse community.[150] Justice Powell reasoned “[t]here can be no question about the importance to a community of promoting stable, racially integrated housing.”[151] The Court’s historical view underscored the critical message for the new American century, the importance of racial diversity to create better communities and more tolerant and educated citizens. Therefore, the benefits of eliminating residential racial segregation through inclusionary measures move beyond only those households living in economically deprived communities.

    Increasing racial diversity is clearly not the sole answer to eliminating housing or societal discrimination against racial minorities. However, when a community is racially diverse, the people who live there have an opportunity to learn tolerance, which in turn may lessen the extent to which minorities are subject to all forms of prejudice. Residential segregation and the resulting historical and cultural ignorance foster racial stereotypes and myths that minorities are less intelligent, lazy, and inferior.[152] Moreover, such social separation reinforces perceptions among whites associating minorities with crime, drugs, gangs, and poverty.[153] The only way to combat these misconceptions, fears, and stereotypes is through increased association between blacks, whites, and other minorities, leading to a better understanding between racial groups and greater racial equality.

    In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke,[154] where the court faced the issue of race-conscious admissions policies, Justice Powell remarked that a qualified, diverse student population may enliven the university community by bringing to it “experiences, outlooks, and ideas that enrich the training of its student body.”[155] Racial integration is not only a valuable component of a quality education; it is also a priceless component of community housing for the same reasons Justice Powell described. Just as diversity in academia promotes cooperation, communication and understanding among different cultures, integrated residential communities likewise benefit from greater understanding among its residents.[156] The importance of racial integration through inclusionary housing practices will help foster tolerance and understanding in our diverse and growing multicultural population. Thus, racial integration will benefit all people, and if applied democratically, will inevitably be embraced by all people. It is believed that once the fear of the unknown is conquered and citizens in recently integrated communities adjust to the changes in their lives brought on by participating in inclusionary housing programs, they will begin to see society emerge as they have always wished society to be.[157]


    The scope and seriousness of the problem of residential racial segregation requires practical and effective inclusionary techniques. Federal policy laws and the courts support integrated housing, yet the dilemma of successfully implementing inclusionary housing programs on local levels nationwide remains.[158] Several state and local governments have recognized that by ensuring that all racial and economic groups have adequate housing, the entire community will benefit. These governments have adopted inclusionary zoning techniques, which, together with the application of land use regulations, secure the development of low and moderate-income residences. This section analyzes various inclusionary methods that have been utilized by state and local governments, with an emphasis on those most effective in promoting long-term residential racial integration.[159]

    A. Inclusionary Zoning Techniques

    1. Montgomery County Initiative—Mandatory Set-Asides

    A viable way of achieving racial and economic integration has been pioneered in Montgomery County, Maryland, one of the nation’s most affluent counties. The County Council enacted the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (“MPDU”) Ordinance to combat the severe housing problem that existed within the county for low and moderate-income residents.[160] The basis of the ordinance requires that all new housing developments of fifty or more units consist of 12.5% to 15% MDPUs.[161] The ordinance specifies maximum income levels for the occupants of MPDUs, which are subject to periodic adjustment. Further, the inclusionary regulation guarantees affordability since rent and price controls remain in place for ten years.[162] Consistent with the demographics of the county, the majority of the people who move into these units are low-income African American families.[163]

    The Montgomery County ordinance offers developers density bonus awards to have a reasonable prospect of realizing a profit on these units. The ordinance also permits the developers to build an additional market rate unit for every two MPDUs, up to a 20% total increase in density.[164] These bonuses maintain the economic viability of the land affected by the ordinance, protecting these mandatory set-asides from potential takings challenges by disgruntled developers.[165] More importantly, the concessions in relaxed zoning requirements encourage the production of housing developments, which in turn, benefit low-income residents who are apportioned a percentage of the constructed units. As of 1992, the Montgomery County MPDU ordinance has produced 8,442 MPDUs. As a result, mandatory set-asides have proven to be an efficient method of increasing the availability of affordable housing, an important step towards integration.[166]

    2. Affordable Housing Appeals Laws

    Zoning appeals legislation provides the courts or state agencies with the opportunity to override the exclusionary effect of local zoning ordinances. If affordable housing is rejected or limited with varying restrictions that have a substantial adverse impact on its viability, the traditional deference given to the local board’s decision is eliminated.[167] Consequently, the municipality has the burden to justify its decision in favor of public interests in health, safety, and other legal matters. This justification must substantially outweigh the affordable housing needs of the community.

    The Connecticut Affordable Appeals Act created an appeals process to be used when local planning authorities reject affordable housing projects.[168] In its first appeal, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision, which reversed a denial of an affordable housing development application, and concluded that the law applies to legislative zoning changes.[169] This judgment paved the way for later decisions that have held that a court can approve an affordable housing application even though it does not comply with local zoning,[170] and that traffic and environmental problems do not justify denial of an affordable housing application.[171]

    Massachusetts has similar zoning appeals legislation, but it is limited to federal or state subsidized low or moderate-income housing projects. The legislation allows a housing agency or organization proposing to construct affordable housing to forego the separate and arduous application process and apply for a comprehensive zoning permit.[172] If a local zoning board denies a comprehensive permit or substantially restricts a housing project, a state housing appeals committee reviews the denial to determine whether it was reasonable and “consistent with local needs.”[173] A balancing test weighs the regional need for low and moderate-income housing with the muni cipalities’ need for health, safety, design, and open space regulations. If the committee reverses a denial, it directs the local board to issue a permit to the applicant.[174]

    Although the Massachusetts legislation has been criticized because it only applies to government subsidized housing developed by specified agencies and organizations,[175] over 20,000 affordable housing units have been developed under its auspices.[176] Therefore, it is clear from these examples that zoning appeals legislation on the local level is a critical element towards integration as it seeks to eliminate discriminatory municipal zoning decisions and remedies the exclusionary effects of local land use ordinances.

    3. State Inclusionary Legislation

    Several states have adopted extensive legislation to implement inclusionary housing objectives. The typical comprehensive planning statute requires that local communities develop policies, standards, or goals that will assist in the development of low and moderate-income housing.[177] The intent of this type of legislation is to ensure affordable housing opportunities in localities across the state. The statutes require state agencies to review local plans in order to comply with statutory goals, but the effectiveness of these statutes is dependent upon the agency’s enforcement powers.[178] These statutes on their face, coupled with pragmatic local comprehensive plans, are effective tools in the development of affordable housing.

    In Oregon, the state housing goals require local plans to encourage the availability of adequate housing at affordable prices and rents. State legislation employs stringent enforcement mechanisms, which ensures that the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) reviews all local planning decisions to determine if they are consistent with the state’s housing goals.[179] The LCDC is further authorized to require local government approval of land use or development applications.[180] The LCDC may force a local board to comply with the housing goals of the state, although the decision of the LCDC is subject to judicial review.[181] The review of the local board’s plans must be clear and objective and most importantly, it must prevent discouragement of necessary housing through unreasonable delay or cost.

    In the state of Washington, legislation requires that a local municipality notify the State Department of Community Develop ment when it intends to adopt a comprehensive housing plan.[182] Several growth planning boards may hear challenges to the local plan and determine if it is in compliance with the statutory requirements; however, the locality may still adopt its proposed plan.[183] The legislation presumes the comprehensive plans to be valid and will be accepted unless the planning board determines that the action taken by the state agency, county, or city is clearly erroneous.[184] Additionally, the state may withhold certain local tax revenues from the municipality or locality if the board finds that the local housing strategy does not comply with the statute.[185]

    In California, legislation has been enacted with the specific goal of developing affordable housing.[186] The goal of the legislation is to reduce the concentration of lower-income households in areas where the number of lower income households are disproportionately high.[187] Each locality submits its housing proposals to the State Department of Housing and Community Development, which determines if the assessment of housing needs complies with statutory requirements.[188] Further, any interested party may bring a judicial action to review the conformity of the housing element with the state’s statute.[189] However, the department is not empowered to require a town to incorporate changes, much less construct new units.[190]

    The department’s lack of authority to compel municipal compliance with affordable housing obligations has weakened the effectiveness of the California legislation. For example, in the town of San Marino, a wealthy suburban community in California, eighteen affordable housing units were to be provided by 1994 pursuant to the state’s fair housing law.[191] San Marino was to design a plan specifying how they planned to provide the housing, but did not go so far as to require the town to build the housing.[192] Despite the legislation, San Marino officials indicated that they did not plan to permit the construction of the low-income units.[193] This example demonstrates that without effective methods of enforcement, low-income families will continue to be closed out of affordable suburban housing opportunities, perpetuating the existence of housing segregation in American cities and suburbs.

    Each of the states’ statutory schemes contains specific provisions to promote integrated and affordable housing in areas with sparse low and middle-income residences. These legislative initiatives help provide mostly minority families with an opportunity for better housing and consequently, improved economic opportunities. The most critical statutory elements necessary to encourage the fruition of affordable housing in integrated neighborhoods are: the presump tion of validity of municipal low- and moderate-income housing plans, the establishment of non-municipal oversight of the allocation of affordable housing, and strict enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance with the housing goals of the state. Consequently, state regulations that are enforceable and efficient provide a crucial step towards breaking the barriers of exclusionary housing policies and opening the doors of affordable housing in the suburbs.

    4. The Effects and Importance of Inclusionary Zoning Ordinances

    The various inclusionary methods discussed above represent some of the options for state and local governments. The effective use of mandatory set-asides, affordable housing appeals laws, and inclusionary legislation are proven mechanisms to combat the perpetuation of residential segregation and to ensure the construction of affordable housing in racially and economically diverse communi ties. Therefore, each state must follow their own constitutional framework in implementing these policies. Some inclusionary techniques may not work with an individual state’s legislative agenda.[194] However, it is the role of state and local governments to create both incentives for residential integration through these or similar inclu sionary policies, and disincentives for non-compliance.[195] Exclusionary zoning practices have played a significant role in causing deleterious effects upon minorities. Thus, the involvement and participation of each branch of government is essential to work towards implementing inclusionary methods to create affordable housing opportunities.

    Judicial intervention in eliminating exclusionary housing practices and enforcing inclusionary ordinances is one of enormous importance, particularly given the reluctance of many state and local authorities to enact and implement affordable housing measures. The effect of the “not in my back yard” syndrome, as expressed by local municipal boards and community residents, poses the greatest threat to affordable housing.[196] While courts are regarded as a last resort for articulating public policy, judges must promote the goals of a democratic society amongst the persistent discriminatory boundaries put up by state and local authorities.[197] Beyond this comment’s proscribed inclusionary tactics and detailed remedies, lies the concept of “fundamental fairness,” wherein the courts must restore the goal of equality in dealing with the rights of minorities to access the American dream of a suburban home.[198]

    B. Mobility Programs

    One of the most important components of a successful integration strategy is the use of mobility programs. Mobility relief refers to programs to provide housing available for minority individuals and families who have faced discrimination in their search for affordable housing.[199] Mobility programs have two forms:

    (1) interdevelopment or interproject transfers, which provide a tenant with the opportunity to move into a new or vacant unit in a development, in which the tenant’s race does not predominate; and

    (2) provision of Section Eight certificates or vouchers, which provide a tenant with an opportunity to secure federally assisted housing in nonracially impacted areas.[200]

    Mobility relief serves as a remedy to historical and modern housing segregation, and through the program’s efforts, seeks to move minority victims of discrimination closer to better schools, better jobs, increased economic opportunities, and safer neighborhoods.

    The following sections discuss the most effective mobility programs throughout America by examining their plans for integration and their success rate in creating affordable housing.

    1. Chicago, Illinois

    As a result of the Court’s decision in Hills v. Gautreaux,[201] which initiated Chicago’s mobility program, approximately 5,000 families had relocated as of 1993, slightly more than half to the suburbs.[202] HUD statistics show that 84% of those who moved to non-concentrated areas felt that their quality of life had improved.[203] In terms of limitations, the mobility plan is restricted to plaintiff class members and contains certain constraints on housing choices. The housing subsidies provided were limited to areas of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs with an African American population of 30 percent or less.[204]

    In addition, the Chicago Housing Authority is under mandate to construct public housing in predominantly white neighborhoods. As of 1993, 591 units had been built or rehabilitated, 357 of which were new units.[205] Half of the families in these new units are minorities. The other half are required to come from the neighborhood in which the buildings are located.[206]

    However, reluctant landlords, who do not want to participate in the program, and the limited quantity of affordable housing has curbed the effectiveness of the program. Despite the fact that 40,000 plaintiff-class families were entitled to relief after Gautreaux, only 4500 were placed in improved affordable housing.[207] Nevertheless, for the families who have integrated into more economically viable communities, it is abundantly clear that their quality of life is greatly improved.

    2. Cincinnati, Ohio

    In 1984, a consent decree required the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority to set aside forty Section eight certificates each year for any family that desired to move to an area where their race was represented by less than forty percent of the population.[208] Housing Opportunities Made Equal, a fair housing organization operates the mobility program, and provides transportation and counseling to tenants, marketing to prospective tenants, and recruitment of landlords.[209] The decree has also created additional residential opportunities for minorities in integrated neighborhoods through scattered-site housing.[210]

    The success of the Cincinnati mobility program has been significant and a prime example of an effective integration program. Between 1984 and 1993, over 600 families used mobility vouchers.[211] As a result, black suburban residents reported a 57% employment rate, compared with a 24% rate from those still living in public housing. Of the employed residents, 71% received medical benefits, compared with 36% of those in public housing.[212] The general reaction of these minority families has been overwhelmingly positive. Families reported that they did not experience racist behavior from their new neighbors, liked the schools in their new neighborhoods better than those in the city, and worked at more prestigious jobs with higher pay and increased benefits.[213]

    3. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    The Milwaukee mobility program, created as a result of a school desegregation lawsuit settlement in 1987, was funded by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) and operated by the Center for Integrated Living (CIL).[214] Between 1989 and 1991, CIL helped clients find apartments, created community profiles, and distributed information to potential residents regarding available suburban housing.[215] WHEDA also worked to promote integration by agreeing to provide $5 million for home mortgages, with low interest rates and reduced down payments for those families desiring to move into integrated communities.[216]

    As a result of these policies, 812 households participated in the mobility program, of which 91% were minority families.[217] Before the mobility program was implemented, 67% of all minority families lived in areas where the minority concentration was 85% or more.[218] Sixty-one percent of the families moving within the city under the program chose housing within more racially diverse neighborhoods.[219] Although a significant number of minorities have benefited from this program, it has unfortunately been drastically limited due to funding cuts.[220]

    4. Hartford, Connecticut

    Contrary to federal law, Hartford housing authorities were not allowing eligible families to use their Section Eight certificates outside city limits.[221] The Hartford Section Eight Mobility Program was created after housing advocates challenged the city’s administration of its Section Eight voucher program.[222] Consequently, the City of Hartford, through its own department of housing, began assisting Section Eight voucher holders in moving to the suburbs. This program requires that the city notify Section Eight voucher recipients, participating landlords, and area public housing authorities of the mobility program.[223] Moreover, the Hartford Plan requires its administrators to conduct outreach to encourage suburban landlords to accept certificate holders as residents.[224]

    Overall, the most significant effect on minority families who moved to these suburban communities was their renewed sense of safety.[225] In fact, after employment opportunities, safety was the next most motivating factor in making a move away from the city.[226] As such, mobility participants find that suburban neighborhoods improve the quality of life for parents and their children. These neighborhoods are typically associated with less crime and a greater sense of overall security.[227] Thus, it is this core safety element that is the foundation of the improvement in the lives of minority families who choose to move to integrated communities.

    5. The Effects and Importance of Mobility Programs

    The success of these mobility programs represents the potential for American communities to implement effective integrated affordable housing policies. However, there are significant obstacles to any successful mobility program. Communication between landlords, community leaders and developers may often break down, due to reluctance on the part of developers to create low- and moderate-income residences.[228] Moreover, the problem is exacerbated by the failure of some legislatures to outlaw specific discriminatory housing practices of landlords who refuse to rent to Section Eight subsidy holders.[229] Also, the number of eligible participants for these programs far outweigh the percentage of those families actually placed in suburban integrated communities.[230] In fact, due to recent budget cuts at HUD, the total number of certificates available to eligible families may likely decline in the near future.[231]

    The significant resistance to the numbers of black residents in white neighborhoods is still widespread, hampering the potential of mobility programs. Opposition efforts to integrative development plans argue that “[i]ntegration and increased heterogeneity . . . would spoil the hard-won ‘sanctuary’ of the middle class.”[232] Thus, white residents’ reluctance to live with blacks is connected with their belief that to do so would endanger their lifestyles, communities, and standards of living. Nevertheless, studies suggest that there is an increase in white support[233] for residential integration, exemplifying not only a change in racial perceptions, but also the important role of mobility programs in remedying housing segregation and diminishing racial intolerance. Individual racism and discriminatory rhetoric is entrenched in American history, yet that alone should not hinder America’s progress towards integration.

    Mobility programs are pragmatic and fair solutions that provide minority participants with better employment opportunities, better schools, safer neighborhoods, and increased civil services. Mobility programs should assist clients, work with community members, and utilize mobility specialists througho

  30. kkk says:

    KKK KILL ALL…….blacks