From ACLU of Northern California <[email protected]>
Subject Dispossession and Denial in California Housing
Date July 14, 2021 5:30 PM
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The fight against housing discrimination in the “golden state” is a story of progress and backlash.

Friend –

In 1945, Ms. W. Whitby, a Black woman working in the Richmond shipyards as part of the war effort, came back from a trip to her mother’s to find the door to her war housing dormitory apartment padlocked shut. She had just separated from her husband and was planning to have her three children and mother come live with her.

Ms. Whitby was new to the dormitory. Not long before she moved in, the Richmond Housing Authority, who managed the apartments, had finally been forced by civil rights advocates to open its doors to Black women. Despite the order, the housing authority was intent on limiting the number of Black tenants, and where that failed, segregating and harassing them, with the hopes of driving them out. As one of the first Black women to move into the dormitories, Ms. Whitby was a prime target.

Learn how the fight against housing discrimination is still with us today. <[link removed]>

Read Ms. Whitby's story <[link removed]>

The racism directed at Black residents in the Richmond war housing dormitory didn’t stop with those who managed the apartments. Black families also had reason to fear their white neighbors. Earlier that month, a white man had shot a Black child on dormitory grounds, allegedly because they had a disagreement over hot water.

For Black people like Ms. Whitby, there were few safe places to turn. The real estate market was filled with racial housing covenants: contracts written into deeds forbidding future owners from selling to, renting to, or at times even letting Black people onto their property. Public housing wasn’t much better. The San Francisco Housing Authority, for instance, kept tightly segregated facilities and only allowed Black people to live in one low-income building.

The ACLU News archive, dating back to 1945, provides a snapshot of the ways that businesses, the state, and individuals partnered to exclude Black people from the accumulation of wealth through dispossession and the denial of their means to secure a home.

It also illustrates how policies of racial discrimination in housing were systematically challenged in California, and eventually struck down. But just as was the case with the Richmond Housing Authority, no sooner had a practice been outlawed than the offending parties would concoct schemes to continue their methods of racial exclusion.

And in one particularly notorious battle, advocates like the ACLU had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to stop California from creating a constitutional right to discriminate.

Keep reading at our website <[link removed]>

Thank you for reading,

Abdi Soltani

Executive Director, ACLU of Northern California
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