Trump Supports Housing Segregation—and So Do a Lot of White Liberals

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In recent weeks, just after the umpteenth round of media reports about the president’s purported change in tone, Donald Trump resumed stoking white people’s fears of Black people. This time, his racist outbursts were directed at “all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream,” who he indicated would find themselves living in a multiracial nightmare if Joe Biden is elected.

“People have gone to the suburbs. They want the beautiful homes. They don’t have to have a low-income housing development built in their community…which has reduced the prices of their homes and also increased crime substantially,” Trump stated during a virtual rally with supporters. A day later in Texas, he picked up right where he left off. “I’ve seen conflict for years. It’s been hell for suburbia. We rescinded the rule three days ago. So enjoy your life, ladies and gentlemen. Enjoy your life.” The rule Trump rescinded was issued by the Obama administration in 2015 and required localities to track recurring issues around housing discrimination and create detailed plans for how to fix those problems. It aimed to strengthen the Fair Housing Act, the same anti-discrimination legislation the Justice Department sued Trump for violating in 1973. Almost 50 years after losing that case, he is still suggesting that whiteness should be the default measure of safety and affluence of a neighborhood while the mere presence of Blackness threatens both. The president says these kinds of overtly racist things partly because he believes them but also because—particularly when an election is on the line—they almost always work.

Even as the suburbs lean more Democratic than in the past, recent examples of white liberal NIMBYism prove that Trump knows precisely which anti-Black buttons to push. In Silver Spring, Md., as local officials consider proposals to eliminate exclusionary zoning policies that prevent more affordable housing from being built, residents have staged protests and taken to social media to register bitter complaints. (“I doubt that any of my neighbors want to stop living in their single family homes because an academic has told them it’s racist to own a house with a large yard,” one poster wrote.) Last year a group of wealthy homeowners in San Francisco launched a GoFundMe campaign to pay the costs of waging a court battle against a homeless services center slated to be built in their neighborhood. In Maplewood, N.J.—where, according to The New York Times, Black Lives Matter signs are a common lawn adornment—a group of Black parents had to file a lawsuit in 2018 to force the desegregation of district public schools. And in New York City, after learning their children would be rezoned to a majority African American school, white parents publicly worried about the danger posed by Black elementary schoolkids. The rezoning went forward as planned, but most of the white kids never made the transfer, presumably because their parents sought whiter learning environs.



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