Historically restrictive covenants have been utilized in an attempt to prevent certain groups of people (mainly African Americans) from moving into certain communities. A look back in time will provide a better understanding of why these contractual arrangements were used and accepted as a legitimate means to justify the “preservation of market value”. Maintaining the status quo or “protection from undesirables” has always allowed wrongdoings to be perpetuated.
The following timeline illustrates how discriminatory practices based on segregation were allowed to continue undeterred in the U.S for over 150 years:
1857 In the Dred Scott case the U.S. Supreme Court ruled African Americans
were not U.S. citizens and therefore could not sue in Federal Court
1881 Railroads were segregated
1896 In the Plessy v. Ferguson case the U.S. Supreme Court decides that
separate but equal satisfies the U.S. constitution therefore sanctioning Jim Crow laws
1902 Streetcars segregated
1913 Governor sanctioned government wide segregation of workplaces,
restrooms, and lunchrooms
1916 Segregated place of worship established
1924 Segregation in housing initiated based on City Ordinance in New Orleans
1954 Integration starts to gain traction with the integration of Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas
No one wants to be called out on their bad deeds. When a wrongdoer is caught in any act of wrongdoing whether it be legal or moral one of the typical responses is to either deny the wrongdoing or to justify it. For that reason justifications and excuses for perpetrators of these acts can be as colorful as the rainbow.
During the time when “colored” people were prevented from dining, attending school, or drinking out of the same water fountains as “white” people there were laws in place that institutionalized these discriminatory practices based on ingrained and socially acceptable racially discriminatory practices. After several landmark cases made these practices illegal the ingrained beliefs that resulted in discriminatory practices did not stop they just were written into private contracts. Instead of using codes and rules to keep “colored” folks from integrating these prohibitions were written into private contracts. An example of such a provision in a contract included language such as:
“…hereafter no part of said property or any portion thereof shall be occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race, it being intended hereby to restrict the use of said property…against occupancy as owners or tenants of any portion of said property for resident or other purposes by people of the Negro or Mongolian race.”
These types of clauses or provisions made it possible for segregation not only to continue but to morph and hinder segments of society from obtaining basic human rights and dignities. In the modern age these same kinds of abuses occur when private parties enter into private contracts to perpetuate illegal activities from being spotted on the surface. Segregation is still segregation. A contract does not mean that private citizens can usurp human rights and dignities.
1. Historical Shift from Explicit to Implicit Policies Affecting Housing Segregation in Eastern
2. Timeline of Civil Rights Movement, 1850-1970