Welcome to Just Action!
by Richard Rothstein and Leah Rothstein
The racial segregation of our communities is entrenched, resulting from decades of unconstitutional government policy that ensured that blacks and whites live apart from each other. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do now to challenge the racial landscape of our neighborhoods. Not only is there much we can do together, it is our obligation to do something to remedy the harmful and illegal past actions of our government.
To help readers understand the many opportunities they have to effect change in the racial segregation of their cities and towns, we, Richard and Leah, co-authored a book, Just Action, that focuses on what residents can do locally to challenge residential segregation. As explained in our (linked) introductory post, we are using this “Just Action” newsletter to add to and expand on the ideas and topics described in our book.
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Our writing will explore strategies for redressing racial segregation, by challenging policies and practices that maintain and perpetuate segregation and by pursuing remedies for the ongoing impacts of the country’s racial separation. We will describe local groups that are working on these issues, helping all of us to learn from their successes and challenges. We will invite guest authors, review books, and point our readers to information, studies, and commentary we think is worth attention.
By subscribing to this newsletter you’ll receive our commentary and observations delivered directly to your email as we write them. You won’t need to scroll through anything to find our articles or rely on algorithms to know when new content is posted.
We also hope to use this platform to create a community of those interested in learning more about the ongoing impacts of racial segregation, the opportunities that exist to undo some of these harms, and the ways local groups around the country are working on these issues. Subscribers can leave comments on our writing and we hope to hear about what you’re doing in your neighborhoods to challenge segregation.
We’re grateful for the opportunity to continue this conversation and to join you in this campaign of Just Action.
Order Just Action and find out about our speaking events at www.justactionbook.org
Richard Rothstein, father of co-author Leah Rothstein, is now mostly retired. He was introduced to civil rights activity when, as college student in 1960, a friend pulled him onto a picket line of the Northern Student Movement at a Woolworth’s store in support of the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins. As a young man, he was a research assistant at the Chicago Urban League where he aided the plaintiff team in the “Gautreaux” litigation; it proved that racially explicit government policy had segregated public housing. The lesson stuck with him and helped to inspire his authorship, more than half a century later, of The Color of Law. He then worked as a union organizer in the Southern textile industry where he mobilized both white and black workers, but where the black mill hands had the dirtiest and lowest paid jobs. This experience, too, stayed with him and influenced his subsequent research and writing. He was later a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute, senior fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and onetime weekly education columnist of the New York Times. His previous books include Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right; Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap; and The Way We Were?: The Myths and Realities of America’s Student Achievement.[RR1] He and his wife Judith moved from Cape Cod to the San Francisco Bay Area to be near their children and respective spouses, and four grandchildren.
Leah Rothstein was raised going with her parents to protests and picket lines and doing homework in the back of community and city council meetings. During college, she ventured into political organizing on her own, getting involved in student activism and eventually taking a leave from her studies to work full-time on an election campaign to defend affirmative action in California. This led her to work as a community and labor organizer in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout California, focusing on housing, police accountability, education, environmental justice, and worker health and safety issues. Driven by a desire to be a more effective advocate, she earned a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and became more interested in how housing and community development policy impacts how we relate to our communities and each other. She then worked as a financial and policy consultant to affordable housing developers, cities, counties, and redevelopment agencies. She helped assemble financing and development teams for affordable housing construction and assisted writing local housing policy and analyzing its impacts. Leah also directed research for two Bay Area counties on their community corrections policies, practices, and populations, to help promote a rehabilitative approach. Leah lives in Oakland, California, with her partner, Skye. To counter the isolation inherent in single-family housing, they have created an unofficial co-housing compound with friends, where they share yards, meals, and a dog, Chula.