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Cities crisis stems from housing policies, not policing

What's at the root of the current crisis in Baltimore and other U.S. cities? According to Richard Rothstein, senior fellow at Berkeley Law, it's governmental housing policies, laws and regulations that, over the decades, "have helped to disproportionately direct low-income black families" to segregated slums.


“Whenever young black men riot in response to police brutality or murder, …. we’re tempted to think we can address the problem by improving police quality,” says Richard Rothstein, a senior fellow at Berkeley Law’s Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy.

poster 1936

New York City Housing Administration poster, 1936 (WPA via Wikimedia Commons)

However important and necessary that may be, “such proposals ignore the obvious reality that the protests are not really (or primarily) about policing,” he contends in a recent article, “This Is One Reason Why Places Like Ferguson and Baltimore Have Become Explosive.”

As in an earlier piece, “The Making of Ferguson: Public Policies at the Root of its Troubles,” Rothstein traces today’s crisis in Baltimore (and elsewhere) to government policies. In this case he describes housing policies that, over the decades, “have helped to disproportionately direct low-income black families to segregated neighborhoods and away from middle-class suburbs.”

“Without suburban integration, something barely on today’s public policy agenda, ghetto conditions will persist, giving rise to aggressive policing and the riots that inevitably ensue,” writes Rothstein. “Like Ferguson before it, Baltimore will not be the last such conflagration the nation needlessly experiences.”

Read his essay in History News Network (originally published by the blog of the Economic Policy Institute, where Rothstein serves as a research associate).