I know it’s hard to believe, but America used to be a fucked up place.
America used to be so racist that communities throughout the U.S. during the Great Migration—you know, the movement of Blacks from the South to other parts of the country—would prohibit Blacks from living there by deeming those places “Whites Only.”
Well, now that America is working on a rebrand and a collective push by white people who are tired of hearing about how racist America was and still is, lawmakers are finally looking to remove restrictive covenants–”a tool used by developers, builders and white homeowners to bar residency by Blacks, Asians and other racial and ethnic minorities.”
According to the Associated Press, the covenants reportedly became unenforceable, but any Black person will tell you that there are still places where Black people can’t live. But we aren’t ready for that conversation.
David Ware, a corporate attorney, was working on a Master of Laws degree in human rights and social justice in 2019 when he first learned about such covenants. That prompted him and his father Fred, a genealogy buff who is now 95, to go through a deed for the family home from 1942, the year it was built. Both men are white.
“Sure enough, there was this blatant race-based covenant — only white people can use or occupy the property,” said David Ware, who dug further and found 248 properties in the same Connecticut town of Manchester with racially restrictive covenants. The list includes many homes in his father’s neighborhood, which, unlike some historically restricted communities in the U.S., has become racially and ethnically diverse over the years.
Under Connecticut’s new law, which passed both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously, the unlawfulness of such covenants is codified in state statute and homeowners are allowed to file an affidavit with local clerks identifying any racially restrictive covenant on the property as unenforceable. The clerks must then record it in the land records.
“Obviously, most homeowners have no idea that these covenants ... actually exist and they’re in their deeds,” Washington state Rep. Javier Valdez, a Democrat from Seattle, said during a floor speech in March, AP reports. “I think if they knew that these restrictions existed in their documents, even though they’re not enforceable, they would want to do something about it.”
On July 25, a law took effect in Washington that tasks the University of Washington and Eastern Washington University “with reviewing existing deeds and covenants for unlawful racial or other discriminatory restrictions and then notifying property owners and county auditors. The law also includes a process for striking and removing unlawful provisions from the record.”
AP notes that several states have introduced bills that would allow property owners to address the restrictive covenants. One bill in California would redact “any illegal and offensive exclusionary covenants in the property records” as part of each sale before they reach the buyer.”
In Minnesota, a law signed in 2019 “allows residents to fill out a form seeking to clarify that the restrictive covenant is ineffective, and subsequently discharge it from the property.”
Rep. Jim Davnie, a Democrat from Minneapolis, told AP that while the language is not enforceable, new homeowners don’t want “dated racist stains” on their homes’ titles.
Which is fine for the detractors of Critical Race Theory. Just don’t talk about it, because apparently America’s racist history doesn’t bother them; it’s the conversation about it that’s just too much to handle.