Hugh Bailey: The inescapable question of race in affordable housing proposals

The ongoing drive to reform land use in Connecticut may not succeed. Bringing the issue to the forefront has energized opponents as well as supporters, and since the Connecticut suburbs typically get what they want, the chances of nothing happening are significant.

But it’s been useful nonetheless in illuminating one of the state’s most deeply rooted problems and exposing attitudes that seem stuck in amber from an earlier age.

Regardless of what happens with specific bills, the state has a long way to go to achieve equity. But at least we can more clearly see where the stumbling blocks lie. And we can maybe talk more honestly about the disparities between communities that are clear to anyone who looks, even as we seem unable to solve them, or unwilling.

For instance, it’s inescapable to anyone paying attention that Connecticut is racially segregated. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s been easy for too many people to pretend segregation is something that happened a long time ago and in far-off places. By focusing attention on housing patterns and, just as importantly, public school populations, it becomes impossible to ignore just how separated, and how far from equal, we are in this state.

And when you look at where people live, what populations are most prevalent in what are considered “good” neighborhoods with “good” schools, it becomes necessary to explain why. Why are so many suburbs so white? As opponents of housing reform have repeatedly pointed out, there are no statutes dictating what races are allowed or prohibited from moving anywhere. So how do we explain these discrepancies?

It would be wrong to pretend outright racists aren’t a part of these discussions. They’re quieter now than they were a generation or two ago, but they haven’t gone away, and can be found in any comment section arguing it’s nothing but personal failures keeping people living where they are.

Most opponents to integration policies, though, aren’t explicitly racist. But they seem to have a hard time understanding the concept of institutional racism, or how they might benefit from it.

The inescapable question of race in affordable housing proposals, Hugh Bailey, CT Post, Mar. 19, 2021, available here

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