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Sonoma County’s Legacy of Segregation – Sonoma Sun

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It’s no coincidence that Sonoma County remains geographically and racially segregated, even in its schools, which remain as segregated as the schools of the Civil Rights-era South.

Segregation today is the enduring legacy of federal, state, and local housing policies of the last century — exclusionary zoning, redlining, discriminatory federal housing programs, and more. – which directly resulted in persistent and significant segregation and disparities in property and wealth between Black and White communities that continue to this day.

Prominent black leaders in Sonoma County fought for years to improve access to housing for black residents, and housing was and still is a key issue for the NAACP. The late Willie Garrett, local chapter president of the NAACP in the 1960s, struggled to find a real estate agent in Santa Rosa who would work with him after moving here in the mid-1950s.

“It’s the story of our lives, from dilemma to dilemma,” Garrett said in 1966 of housing issues. Eventually, Garrett and his family found a landlord willing to sell them land on Los Alamos Road despite objections from some white residents. The family home they built there was so beloved that Garrett lived there for five decades before dying in 2019.

Garrett was a local civil rights pioneer who fought hard against racial discrimination to become a landlord, but statistically his story is not as common among black residents of Sonoma County and across the United States. The national black homeownership rate is 44.1%, while the white homeownership rate is 74.5%, according to 2020 data from the US Census Bureau. White households are twice as likely to own homes in Sonoma County as Black households, which have a 33% homeownership rate, according to our 2022 State of Housing Report.

Additionally, 65% of black renters in Sonoma County are rent-burdened — spending more than 30% of their income on housing — including 19% of black renters who are rent-heavy and spending more than half of their housing income.

I encourage you to learn more from our 2020 conversation with Richard Rothstein, Fellow of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Haas Institute at University of California, Berkeley. Rothstein is the author of “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America”, which chronicles how American cities came to be racially divided by de jure segregation – through government policies and the law – who have promoted discriminatory models. .

Rothstein was also interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR, where he discussed how the Federal Housing Administration justified racial discrimination in the 1930s through New Deal housing programs that subsidized and insured homeowners and tenants. white housing estates while excluding black communities. Color-coded maps drawn at this time designated “safe” areas for insuring mortgages.

Read also Roots, race and placee, a history of racial segregation in the By area published by UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute. Areas where black communities lived were colored red to indicate an area that assessors would not insure – a practice otherwise known as “redlining”, which was banned in 1968 but still impacted communities. wealth and property rates of black Americans for generations.

As a community, we have an obligation to address this structural inequity which must be corrected through systemic change, especially in inclusive housing policy. In the words of current NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, “Racial inequality manifests itself in every facet of life, and you can’t fix inequality if you don’t address housing.” . Housing is the basis of its wealth. It is the first creator of wealth in the country. And if you separate housing in such a way that it is devalued over time, that will lock people into a cycle of poverty that we should not allow any human being in this country to be locked into.

Generation Housing strives to bring a strong ethic of equity to its day-to-day work, and it is especially important during Black History Month that we recognize the history behind and current impact of gross inequalities in past housing policy.

— Jen Klose, Executive Director, Generation Housing