Written nearly 50 years after mass riots destroyed the heart of America’s cities, this new book offers a new commitment.
After the disruptions of the 1960s, many Americans naively believed that the problems of racial inequality had been adequately dealt with. Yet today there are new riots; dissatisfied marchers angrily proclaim “Black Lives Matter.” This dissonance and the issues surrounding it prompted author/activist Shashaty to re-examine our national goals, accomplishments and failures in the matter of integrated neighborhoods. The young generation does not “buy” the somewhat complacent messages they hear from their elders, seeing their acceptance of the status quo as part of the same problem that deepened the racial divide in national urban planning. Today, ordinary blacks pay far more for housing than they did in the 1950s, up to fifty per cent of their income, have been driven out of once thriving black neighborhoods in the name of “urban renewal” and still live largely in segregated enclaves.
A new template, the author suggests, must soon evolve. He pinpoints efforts that have failed, especially the policy of locating HUD housing in neighborhoods populated by the poor, instead of integrating such housing in more prosperous, diverse areas. He lauds initiatives that have succeeded: Envision Utah, for example, has combined increased housing with increased transportation routes; and HUD programs are now insisting on building for economic diversity instead of mere economic assistance.
The author is a veteran journalist, noted proponent of fair housing and president of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. He has melded statistics with a down-to earth look at the problems of housing equality, offering this simple but scalding message: “If people think it’s never going to happen for them…it makes the promise of America — that anyone can succeed if they work hard enough — less and less credible.” He assiduously builds his argument brick by brick, making a strong link between the unhealed racial wounds in America 50 years ago, and the re-emerging discontent we see today.
MASTERS OF INEQUALITY constructs a compelling case for simple principles of housing equality in America.