Dr. King and the Fair Housing Act
AB 686 would strengthen California's civil rights law on the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1968 Federal Fair Housing Act. Congress passed the Act just days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King had fought hard for fair housing in his final years - leading the Chicago Freedom Movement to break down barriers to segregation in white suburbs and to bring better living conditions to black inner-city neighborhoods. Many consider the Act to be the final legislative victory of the civil rights era.
The battle to end housing discrimination and segregation was one of the hardest fought of the civil rights movement. Many believe that it took the national outrage over Dr. King's assassination to get the law enacted.
It may be true that you can't legislate integration, but you can certainly legislate desegregation. And I think that desegregation is a necessary first step to bring about an integrated society. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1964
The architects of the Fair Housing Act were truly visionary. They recognized that government policies had created and enabled segregation for generations, and simply prohibiting future discrimination would be inadequate to undo this legacy. So they included in the Act an unusual and powerful mandate to “affirmatively further fair housing” (AFFH) - that is, that government must work actively to dismantle the segregation and housing inequality that it helped to create.
While the FHA dealt a blow to discriminatory policies like racially-exclusive zoning and redlining, the struggle for racial justice in housing is far from won. In California, historic segregation persists and communities of color are still disproportionately impacted by environmental burdens, disinvestment, and displacement.