xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

Legal Scholars Prove Baltimore’s Racist Ways

Legal Scholars Prove Baltimore’s Racist Ways

Baltimoreans, especially those attuned to history, tend to have a personal sense of the city's long, sad, and ongoing obsession with race. But when it comes to understanding the mechanisms that have left Mobtown scarred by racism, matters can be hard to untangle. Thankfully, there are lawyer-historians out there to help, and a team of them—Charles Lord and Keaton Norquist—just did, with a piece recently published in

, Lewis & Clark Law School's environmental-law review.

Advertisement

The title of the concise, 47-page piece—

—may obscure its relevance to lay-readers, but, hey, it's a law review article, written by and for wonks. (Disclosure: one of the wonky authors, Lord, is an old pal of this writer.) But rest assured, its data-driven findings are a compelling read—and should be read, closely, by policymakers not just in Baltimore, but in cities everywhere, because the authors established a methodology for teasing out explanations for how unjust things happen amid the chaos of cities. Bottom line: Baltimore's zoning-appeals process from 1940 through 2000 was infected by patterns of racial segregation established in the early 20th century, resulting in race being the de facto cause for "disamenties"—such as junkyards and other polluting businesses—being sited close to where African-Americans live. The gory details were painstakingly extracted from the

, analyzed by bonafide number-crunchers, and paired with a recap of Baltimore's pre-1940 segregation practices (a particularly brutal read), in order to conclude that, at least until 2000, "somehow the facially neutral zoning process perpetuated the explicit racism of the prezoning period." In an e-mail to

City Paper

, Lord offers two possibilities for what to do about this. One is to "propose essentially reconstruction funds in areas that have been clearly under-funded on the basis of race," and another is to "simply require and fund this study in all major cities and use it to guide development dollars." In general, he writes, "you need to publicize those areas that suffer from a legacy of racially motivated disinvestments and then consider increased reinvestment in those areas."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement