Commentary: Blame the Feds for a house divided

April 17, 2001
In recent days, census officials have furiously issued press releases touting figures that show the United States is more racially diverse than ever. The implication is that the nation is closer to attaining an integrated, open society. 
     A recent report from Harvard's Civil Rights Project, however, shatters this myth. According to the report, big U.S. cities are more segregated than a decade ago. Most whites still live in white enclaves, and most blacks and Latinos live in inner-city ghettos and barrios. 
     Worse, it's not racist white landlords, lenders or real-estate agents who are responsible for housing apartheid. Surveys show that whites are more tolerant than ever of nonwhite neighbors. The federal government is the real culprit.
     There are 2 million reported housing discrimination violations yearly. Yet during the Bill Clinton years, the Justice Department filed a paltry 20 housing discrimination lawsuits a year. Tell me if you think that President Bush will do any better.
     The reluctance of federal officials to crack down on housing discrimination is buried deep in decades-old federal housing policies that enshrine the belief that blacks ruin property values and wreck neighborhoods.