Can We Desegregate Public Schools and Subsidized Housing? Lessons from the Sorry History of Yonkers, New York


Hochschild JL, Danielson M. Can We Desegregate Public Schools and Subsidized Housing? Lessons from the Sorry History of Yonkers, New York. In: Changing Urban Education. edited by Clarence Stone. Lawrence KS: University Press of Kansas ; 1998. pp. 23-44.

Full Text

 Can We Desegregate Public Schools and Subsidized Housing?

Lessons from the Sorry History of Yonkers, NY

 Jennifer Hochschild and

Michael N. Danielson

 Princeton University 

Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

 August 5, 1997

 Prepared for Changing Urban Education, ed. Clarence Stone (University Press of Kansas, 1998).

 NOTE: not quite final version.


The history of efforts to desegregate public schools and public housing in Yonkers, New York, is full of ironies that tell us much about the role of race in American politics and policy-making, and that bode ill for the future of racial equality in our schools.  First, although Americans generally endorse the principles of equal opportunity and racial integration, most white Americans resist making the changes in their lives and communities that would be necessary for those principles to be implemented.  Even African and Latino Americans are sufficiently ambivalent about those changes that they too do not insist upon the implementation of principles to which most are committed.  Second, although the state government of New York was powerful, determined upon racial desegregation, and active on its behalf for more than two decades, it was unable to overcome the obstacles of local opposition, electoral politics, agency priorities, and structural complexity in order to achieve meaningful amounts or forms of desegregation.  Racial hostility was neither unimportant nor all-important in explaining the failure to desegregate Yonkers.  Instead, it worked as a catalyst to change the nature of conventional political obstacles to substantial change so that desegregation became almost impossible to achieve.

Yonkers is a microcosm of the United States on these issues.  Its history demonstrates that, even with the best intentions and a lot of power, political actors as currently constituted cannot or will not face down public opposition to desegregated public schools and subsidized housing.  If Americans are serious about implementing the principles of equal opportunity and racial integration, they must find other means than the forms of desegregation with which our nation has been preoccupied since the 1960s.   This paper begins the search for those other means, first by drawing lessons from the history of school and housing desegregation in Yonkers and then by suggesting general principles for policy change that emerge from these lessons. 


Why Yonkers?

Yonkers provides an excellent case for examining the politics of school and housing desegregation for several reasons.  First, it is the site of an important series of judicial decisions, which may end up setting precedents for other school districts, cities, and states. In 1985, a federal district court found the Yonkers school board and city officials guilty of de jure segregation in public schools and subsidized housing.[1]  This was one of the first cases to draw an explicit causal link between the two arenas of public activity -- and the first case connecting schools and housing to be upheld by the U. S. Supreme Court.  It was also the first sustained case to require a remedy to ameliorate segregation in both schools and housing.   In September 1996, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found the state of New York liable, along with the Yonkers school district, for that de jure segregation.  It required the state to enter into negotiations with the district over funding the remedies needed to eliminate vestiges of segregation -- negotiations that are just now beginning.[2]  The New York Times called the decision “groundbreaking;” since “the ruling means that a state government can be held responsible for the acts of cities that have historically maintained segregated systems.”[3]

Yonkers is also an important case for reasons that have more to do with academic analysis than public importance.  In many ways Yonkers is a typical -- and thus potentially generalizeable -- community.  It includes both a poor urban center whose residents are disproportionately people of color and relatively wealthy surrounding suburban neighborhoods whose residents are disproportionately white.  Yonkers developed around the Hudson River and the New York Central Railroad, with a classic downtown, adjacent industrial areas, and a mix of residential neighborhoods fanning out from the center.  In 1990, Yonkers was the fourth largest city in the state, with a population of 188,000 within its eighteen square miles.  Physical separation of the old and new is particularly sharp in Yonkers, with older commercial, industrial, and residential sections concentrated along the river in the southwestern part of the city, and separated from the newer and more attractive areas in the east by natural features and transportation corridors. Sectional interests have been vigorously represented in the Yonkers political system, with a ward-based city council that is highly responsive to neighborhood and local constituent interests.

In other ways Yonkers is not a typical community, but its very dissimilarity to other cities offers additional grounds for thinking it a good test case for studying school and housing desegregation policy.  Because a mix of racial and economic groups are contained within one school district, the possibility of desegregation is not confounded by the problem of having to cross school district and jurisdictional boundaries, as was the case in Milliken v. Bradley, and  as remains the case in most major urban centers.  Yonkers, however, is not a free-standing small city, but part of the huge New York metropolitan area.  Yonkers is bordered by New York City on the south and suburban communities of Westchester County on the east and north.  With its diverse population and neighborhoods, auto-oriented commercial and office development, and location in a sea of largely residential suburbs, Yonkers provides an early version of what we are now coming to call “edge cities” – diverse “suburbs” that contain within their boundaries a microcosm of the sprawling metropolis.[4]

The Yonkers case is also distinctive because, during the period of our study, the state of New York was unusually powerful, activist, wealthy and seemingly committed to school and housing desegregation.  Thus Yonkers offers a “best case scenario” for the possibility of state-mandated racial change, and for change that features extensive state intervention in both school and housing policies.  State capabilities and prospects in the area of racial policies need more attention than they have been given in the literature, especially as more and more responsibilities for social policies are being devolved from Washington to the state capitals.

Finally, Yonkers is an excellent case to analyze because the combined histories of efforts at school and housing desegregation make it clear that the desegregative failure was not a result of bad strategy,  poor timing, insufficient attention, inept leadership, institutional weakness, lack of resources, or most other typical explanations for implementation failure.   To put the point most aphoristically, the State Education Department (SED) followed a path of persuasion, incentives, and efforts to increase pressure on local districts to devise their own desegregation plans -- and failed, not only in Yonkers but also across the state of New York.  The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) followed the opposite path; the state created an extraordinarily powerful agency that proposed top-down, authoritative imposition of desegregated and dispersed housing projects along with financial incentives and the promise of economic benefits.  It too failed to advance its racial goals, most spectacularly in Yonkers but more generally across the state.  Both bottom-up inducement and top-down requirements were foiled by intransigence -- even though it was amateurish and parochial -- of local officials and their supporters, by the responsiveness of state legislators to their constituents, and by the inability of SED and the unwillingness of UDC to pursue racially inclusionary goals in the face of unremitting political hostility to desegregated schools and dispersed housing projects.

Putting these trajectories together yields a more powerful conclusion than is possible from examining either one alone.  Each in isolation suggests that the opposite strategy could have worked -- the case of SED allows the claim that failure resulted from too much passivity and deference to local concerns, whereas the case of UDC allows the claim that failure resulted from too much rapid and heavy-handed intervention from above.  But if both strategies failed, as they did, albeit in different policy areas, then we are left with the conclusion that poor strategic choices probably do not explain the failure to desegregate schools or housing. Something else is to blame, and some other policy lever than “better strategy” is necessary.  Let us turn, then, to our explanations for the failure and to the policy levers that grow out of those explanations.


New York State and School Desegregation

The State Education Department of New York was established over a century ago in order to foster the image and practice of public education as a professional, rather than political, activity.  When our story started, the Board of Regents had staggered fifteen year terms.  Regents were appointed by the governor, often on the advice of a legislator from the district from which the appointee was to come, but without explicit (or usually implicit) political considerations.  The Commissioner of Education was appointed by the Regents, and was responsible only to them.  He had the responsibility of carrying out the Regents’ broad policy mandates, and had investigatory and quasi-judicial powers as well as standard administrative ones.  SED dealt with all aspects of education, ranging from universities to museums to local school districts.

Following the findings in Brown v. Board of Education, the Regents concluded in 1960 that segregated schools "damage the personality of minority group children" and "decrease their motivation and thus impair their ability to learn."[5]  Such schools therefore must be eliminated in the name of good educational practice.  In response, Commissioner James Allen Jr. asked each district to begin eliminating segregation in its schools, and over the next few years put pressure on schools to collect racial data and develop desegregation plans. He also responded to a “310 petition”[6] by requiring the Malverne School District to desegregate a predominantly black elementa­ry school.[7]

(Mainly white) citizens and school boards were appalled with both the 310 order and the Commissioner's directives on racially imbalanced schools.   Parents formed protest groups; school boards refused to implement Allen's orders; lawsuits were filed.  The press covered extensively the politics of desegregation and resistance to it.  State legislators began to react by introducing dozens of  bills in opposition to busing and any other compulsory measure to effect racial balance. One such bill  passed in 1969 (a federal court later found the law unconstitutional).[8]  Legislators also sponsored bills to limit the scope of, or even abolish, the Commissioner's powers, to create an office of Inspector General to review the Commissioner's 310 decisions, to cut the terms of members of the Board of Regents, to eliminate funding for the desegregative units and activities of SED, and so on.[9]             

Lacking sufficient funds and the capacity to claim that "the State" was behind his policies, Allen’s successor, ­Ewald Nyquist, could by 1970 no longer battle effectively for state-wide desegrega­tion. He instead pursued integration in a few districts through his 310 power, and even limited its use to responses to official complaints. Legislators and local officials and citizens, however, kept up the pressure. Some legislators sought to intervene in rulings for particular districts.  Others called on the Regents to fire Nyquist.  Legislators began to use an anti-busing "litmus test" in the appointment of Regents, thereby politicizing a process that had previously been prized as nonpartisan and professionally-oriented.[10]

Throughout all of this activity, SED continued to try to encourage or even mandate desegregation in local districts.  Its efforts included setting up new divisions within SED, developing several “master plans,” producing numerous research reports, working closely with a gubernatorial commission on public schooling, writing a handbook on desegregation for local districts, and meeting with local educators and parents.[11] Similarly, the Board of Regents stood firm behind its commitment to desegregation for a while.  Starting in 1960, and four times thereafter through 1972 (an unprecedented repetition), the Regents issued policy statements mandating desegregation as essential to good education for all of New York’s students.  The 1968 statement called for “more determined, more powerful, more energetic pursuit of the objectives set forth therein” by local districts and the state, and claimed that “where the solution to the problem [of racial integration of the schools] is beyond the capability of the local school districts, or where a district fails or refuses to act, then the responsibility for corrective action is clearly and inescapably that of the state.”[12]

By the 1970s, however, the legislature’s efforts succeeded in checking SED’s initiatives.  Regents who supported active policies to mandate desegregation were replaced with strong opponents of busing and other mandatory measures.[13]  The legislature halved the terms of office of the Regents and passed a law to provide for stricter judicial review of the Commissioner’s 310 orders.  The Regents themselves eventually revised their strong policy statements on school desegregation, starting in 1974 and culminating in 1976 with inclusion of the dictum that desegregation did not necessarily include any arithmetic count of students by race.  After all, as one Regent observed, “Education thinking is one thing and political thinking is another.”[14]  After Nyquist persisted in issuing desegregative 310 orders throughout the first half of 1976, a majority of the Regents voted to fire him.  ­The next Commissioner, Gordon Ambach, no longer pursued the goal of integrated schools and issued no 310 rulings ordering schools to desegre­gate.[15] 

At the time the State was becoming less willing and able to help or require local districts to achieve racial balance, Yonkers was becoming more segregated.  Although some Yonkers schools were racially distinct by 1961, racial balance was not much of an issue until the late 1960s when whites began to move out of the city, and were replaced by growing numbers of African Americans and Latinos.  Because the new residents settled in racially secluded neighborhoods (partly because of the location of subsidized housing -- see below), these demographic changes reinforced the racial separation already present in Yonkers' schools.

By the late 1960s, SED officials had targeted Yonkers as one of the school districts most in need of prodding, or even of a plan written by the state, to deal with increasingly severe racial imbalance.  And at two points local educa­tional leaders were demonstrably willing to cooperate with the state to desegregate Yonkers' schools.  In the late 1960s, Superintendent Paul Mitchell took steps toward improving the racial balance among students and faculty, and changing the racial atmosphere in the schools.  He sought technical aid from SED and money from the Racial Balance Fund (some of which he received).  A state education official came to Yonkers and spoke to the PTA about the need for the district to desegregate its schools, but he returned to Albany, wrote a memo about “rather heated” mothers with the “express intention of ‘not letting my child be bussed for 45 minutes... all the way across town,’ ” and did nothing more.[16]

At this point Superintendent Mitchell died suddenly.  Lacking both his dedication to integration and any commitment from the state for supplemental funding, aid, or regulation, local school officials’ efforts to desegregate Yonkers ceased.  Almost a decade later, Superintendent Joseph Robitaille made the next major effort to desegregate Yonkers' schools in conjunction with school closings forced by severe budget cuts.  Despite opposition from the mayor and many white citizens, the Superintendent issued his "Phase II" reorganization plan in August 1977.

Yonkers, however, was in the midst of a city-wide financial crisis, and could not pay for desegregation on its own.  SED officials promised technical assistance and came close to promising state funds to help develop and implement Phase II.  But the now deeply-weakened SED provided no aid, and opponents to desegregation became increasingly well organized and energetic.  Mayor Angelo Martinelli replaced liberal, activist school board members with conservatives who rejected programs that would destroy "the tradition of neighborhood schools."[17]  No one in Yonkers perceived any state pressure to behave otherwise; as one neighborhood organization observed, “It is clear that busing for integration purposes is out of favor even at the state level, and that there is very little likelihood that the commissioner [Ambach] would mandate a forced busing program on the city of Yonkers.... [We] therefore again recommend... that the Board of Education reject Robitaille’s plan without being intimidate[d] by fear of federal or state agency sanctions."[18]  When the state did not provide the money or technical assistance it had offered, it felt as though SED had "literally abandoned us and we found ourselves in the soup," according to one former school board member.[19] Desegregative efforts were abandoned, and Superintendent Robitaille soon resigned.

In 1980, DOJ  and the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) filed charges of racial discrimination against the  Board of Education.  Although, for example, SED had a year earlier found that Yonkers had made “considerable progress” in resolving problems in the special education program and was almost within compliance of state regulations, OCR found that Yonkers had overincluded minorities in special education and was thus in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.  SED officials offered to help Yonkers develop a voluntary desegregation plan  and provided funds for consultants for this purpose, but it withdrew when Yonkers decided to fight the DOJ order to develop such a plan.  The federal government, joined by the NAACP, took the school board and city to court. Five years later, Judge Leonard B. Sand found intentional segregation by the city and school board of Yonkers in the location of school boundaries, the siting of new schools, and the running of vocational and special education programs, in an extensive opinion which provided exquisite detail about the development of separate and unequal schools in the city.

Since 1985, Yonkers’ schools have embarked on an ambitious, but only partly successful, effort to desegregate the schools through voluntary means.  The district built several magnet schools on the west side of town, both to lure affluent and/or white students away from east-side schools and to provide better facilities and more innovative curricula to poor students of color who predominate on the west side.  Simultaneously, the schools began a concerted effort to attract minority students to east-side schools. The schools became much more attentive to the racial implications of placement in special education classes, upper and lower tracks, and vocational educational classes.  All of these efforts, in combination with the new administration’s clear desire to overcome the past, sufficed to persuade Judge Sand that no mandatory desegregative measures were needed.

However, the educational consequences of the physical desegregation have not met the hopes of the judge or the educators.  Black and Latino children still achieve at substantially lower levels than do white children, and the racial gap in achievement continues to grow as students move through the grade structure.  African American and Latino children still disproportionately drop out of high school, experience more disciplinary measures, and are absent in the highest tracks.  Both white and black families are increasingly discouraged about the benefits of desegregation, and school officials worry that the district will slip back into separate schools as whites leave the magnets and blacks return to schools within the city proper.  At this writing, the school district is engaged in court-ordered negotiations with the state of New York, with the goal of attaining up to $300 million of state funds to enable the district to overcome the vestiges of the previously segregated system. 

The story of school desegregation before the involvement of the federal judiciary, in short, is one of slow but steady growth in commitment and effort by one part of the state, combined with correspondingly increasing effort to reject that commitment by another part of the state.  The legislature’s control over budgets, lawmaking, and appointments eventually intimidated, hampered, and halted the cautious efforts of SED to desegregate Yonkers’ schools.  SED moved from a Master Plan to encourage or even require desegregation to a position on the opposite side of the table from the NAACP and the Justice Department in the eventual desegregation suit.

New York State and Subsidized Housing

The story of subsidized housing desegregation has the same outcome but follows a different path.  New York was a leader among the states in housing as well as education, with pioneering efforts in public housing, middle-income projects, and fair housing laws.  By the late 1960s, the state had financed, built directly, or authorized through local agencies a number of housing projects in Yonkers.  All but one for senior citizens had been located in increasingly or predominantly black areas of the city, as had similar projects in other cities in New York and the vast majority of federal public housing across the nation. 

A dramatic change in state policy occurred in 1968 when Governor Nelson Rockefeller forged an instrument to provide stronger state leadership in housing development, economic revitalization of cities, and reduction of  racial separation.  Capitalizing on the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rockefeller induced the legislature to approve creation of the New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC), “perhaps the most powerful state housing and development agency ever created.”[20]  UDC combined the functions of several agencies in its marriage of housing finance and project development and management.  It was also given unprecedented authority to override local building and land use controls and to exercise powers of eminent domain.  In defense of UDC’s powers, Rockefeller argued that “sovereignty or home rule rights are a privilege” and that the state was responsible for intervening in any arena in which local governments were doing a poor job.[21]  UDC’s designer and first president, Edward Logue, specifically insisted on these sweeping powers in order to achieve effectiveness, bargaining leverage with local officials, an ability to avoid local vetoes, and the capacity to override race-based opposition.  

Rockefeller and Logue explicitly intended to empower the state’s new agency to mandate racial desegregation.  Rockefeller presented the UDC bill to the legislature with the words, “We cannot live as a segregated people.  The American dream is not divisible.”[22]  Logue concurred, claiming that “the noble tool of zoning has been perverted to maintain the character of affluent lily-white suburbs.”[23]  The legislature initially agreed with these goals; the mandate of UDC, according to the law that created it, was to “enable the State, in cooperation with private enterprise, to attack the root causes of poverty and slums.”[24]

Once UDC began its work, however, opposition within the legislature grew.  Resistance centered around the desire to strip UDC’s power to override local authorities, and was fueled by UDC plans to build subsidized housing in the suburbs of Westchester.  In 1973, after the legislature threatened to deny UDC additional borrowing authority, Rockefeller reluctantly signed a bill giving villages and towns the right to veto proposed UDC projects.  Legislation to extend the override ban to cities followed, but did not pass.  UDC then withdrew from projects in Westchester County and Long Island.  By 1975 UDC was bankrupt, and its role as an instrument for reducing racial separation was abandoned in its reincarnation as an economic development agency.

Shortly before UDC was created, the director of urban renewal in Yonkers notified the governor that a new agency with considerable power might aid in overcoming local “political and social prejudices” that produced “the inability of local and other agencies to execute urban renewal.”[25]  Because of these “prejudices,” Yonkers had been unable to devise a relocation plan for displaced minority families that was acceptable to the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which had halted urban renewal in the city.  As soon as UDC was in place, Yonkers’ officials urgently requested its help in relocating residents in response to demands for space from a major employer.  UDC responded to Yonkers in part because one of the state agency’s missions was to rescue stalled urban renewal programs in the state’s cities.            UDC’s initial plan called for scattered-site housing for 1,000 mostly-black families, targeted for locations throughout the city selected in consultation with local officials.  Logue’s hope, expressed to Yonkers’ mayor, that the recommended sites “would have some hope of not meeting overwhelming opposition in your city” were quickly dashed.[26]  Publication of the list of proposed housing sites in the local press produced a tumultuous reaction against UDC and its supporters in Yonkers.  White residents protested vociferously; the City Council held raucous public meetings; the Westchester County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution condemning UDC for proposing subsidized housing that would “completely destroy the residential character of the adjacent neighborhoods;”[27] and the UDC-friendly mayor and a supportive council member lost their next elections.

Despite UDC’s formidable powers and its control over access to federal urban renewal money which Yonkers desperately needed, Logue chose not to bargain or maintain pressure on the city.  Of 98 original proposed sites, 76 of which were outside Yonkers’ urban core, UDC accepted the four sites chosen by the City Council -- all within the inner city -- for its first housing projects.  UDC was more interested in getting on with its primary goals in Yonkers – rescuing urban renewal and building projects – than in taking on the impassioned foes of scattered-site housing in Yonkers and throughout the state.  UDC largely dropped its concern for spatial desegregation in Yonkers and focused only on its concern for “rapid development [of housing]... in sufficient quantity to meet the needs of both the state arterial program [and] the city’s... redevelopment program” with “minimal disruption of community life.”[28]  That shift implied building projects where there would be least political opposition -- that is, in the urban core.  UDC wanted to show results, it wanted to develop a constituency, and it wanted to house people in better conditions, and to these goals desegregation gave way.

As came close to happening with SED, UDC ended up supporting the city of Yonkers against efforts by the federal government to insist on greater desegregative effort in policy choices.  As noted above, HUD had conditioned urban renewal funding on the building of scattered-site housing for families displaced from the inner neighborhoods of Yonkers.  Once UDC agreed to the City Council’s choice of sites, its very powerfulness, ironically, relieved Yonkers of concern about HUD pressure.  Because of the broad leeway HUD accorded UDC, Yonkers was able to proceed with a racially segregative program of UDC relocation housing in Southwest Yonkers larger than the relocation housing plans HUD previously had forbidden the city to undertake on its own because of their likely segregative impact.  By 1972, UDC was successfully lobbying HUD to relax its rules conditioning further urban renewal funds on dispersal of new subsidized housing.

In the end, UDC sponsored 1,800 out of a total of 2,600 units of family-oriented public housing built in Yonkers from 1968 to 1972.  All of its projects were located in Southwest Yonkers, the section of the city that is overwhelmingly poor, crowded, and peopled by African Americans and Latinos. As Judge Sand wrote in 1985, “it is difficult to discern any plan at work in the ... site selection process during these years, except for an apparent determination to avoid, at virtually any cost, a confrontation with community opponents of public housing.”[29]  Mayor Alfred DelBello, elected in the wake of the initial uproar over UDC’s scattered-site plan, was more partisan, but did not disagree:  “The big threat had been... adequately controlled.  The methods that the city administration used to produce housing... reflected a consideration for neighborhoods, induced public participation in the process. I believe the public in Yonkers was no longer offended, as they were in prior years, by illogical approaches as to where housing should be built and where housing should not be built.”[30]

Explaining the Failure of Desegregation in Yonkers

In explaining the failure of both SED and UDC to desegregate public agencies in Yonkers despite their commitment, ostensible power, strong leaders, and considerable resources, we emphasize three phenomena that deserve more attention in discussions of school and housing desegregation.

First is the fact that these agencies were operating in a system of separated and shared powers.  The American political system does not create hierarchies of power; instead it delegates and interweaves authority among levels of government, executive and legislative branches, and elected and appointed officials.  Players at different levels and in different branches of government have distinctive roles, perspectives, agendas, and resources; they respond to particular stimuli and constituencies; and they must cope with particular constraints that are shaped by their place in the system.[31]

Consider the difference between the form and reality of the power of state government over its local subdivisions.  New York’s formal authority and legal supremacy meant that the state could in principle order the desegregation of public schools and subsidized housing, in Yonkers and anywhere else in the state.  But in reality the state was severely constrained by the diffusion of political power.  No matter how much authority or autonomy were assigned to SEC or UDC, their formal powers could at any point be modified by the state legislature, as were UDC’s as a result in part of opposition to scatter-site housing.  Similarly, their policies could be changed by personnel changes at the top,  as when the legislature insured that opponents of busing were appointed to the state Board of Regents.  Moreover, both state agencies preferred cooperative to hostile relations with their local counterparts.  SED, after all, educated no children; it depended heavily on local school systems for information and carrying out state programs, and was expected to be partners with rather than adversaries of  local school officials and their communities.  UDC had considerably more freedom of action with regard to housing, but Logue, who had made his mark as a local urban renewal official, understood that the agency could not survive without forging close ties with its local constituents, particularly in cities like Yonkers that needed UDC’s money and power to implement local programs.  Both state agencies were powerful, but using that power effectively meant operating within the web of shared and delegated power and being sensitive to legislative and local concerns.  Thus employing the power of SED or UDC was very difficult when the issue was school or housing desegregation.

A second cluster of explanations for the failure of SED and UDC to desegregate focuses more on internal dynamics within each agency rather than relations across agencies and levels of government.  Neither agency had racial desegregation as its primary mission, and in each racial goals were secondary to the primary functional concerns.  SED’s mission encompassed every aspect of public education, a task involving it with hundreds of school boards, thousands of public officials, and millions of children.  UDC was created to build subsidized housing, renew New York’s faltering cities, and stimulate economic development.  Whatever the commitment of these agencies to racial integration, and it was substantial among some key officials in both agencies, promoting racial inclusion was a secondary objective.[32]  Both SED and UDC committed relatively meager financial and staff resources to racial goals, even in comparison with investments in other secondary agency missions.   And this particular subsidiary objective was highly controversial, and thus a threat to the more central goals of each agency.  Pressing for racial integration was likely to provoke political retribution by legislators, jeopardize the local cooperation that was essential to carrying out core education and housing programs, and risk contaminating other programs with the contagion of race-based controversy.  For both agencies, the response to the dilemma was to de-emphasize racial objectives; they revised priorities, shelved controversial proposals, abandoned activist policies, and accepted local preferences for racial separation.[33]

Third, in the end the state agencies failed to desegregate Yonkers because a majority of citizens, certainly in Yonkers and probably in the state as a whole, did not want them to do so and were able to use the democratic process to achieve their preferences.  Democracy -- in the basic sense of government responsiveness to the desires of a majority -- worked in the case of both schools and housing, at the expense of the rights of some citizens and perhaps the long-term strength of democracy itself.  Elected officials at the local and state level were responsive to opponents of desegregated schools and dispersed subsidized housing; and their responses imposed constraints on SED and UDC which foreclosed policies and plans which promised less racial separation.  As a result, in the sensitive policy areas of schools and housing, especially when the issue was race, the most powerful players in New York were democratically elected officials rather than powerful independent agencies, flamboyant public entrepreneurs, policy wonks, faceless bureaucrats, or economic elites.  Two formidable agencies -- SED with its wide powers and apolitical expertise, UDC with its expansive powers and skilled leadership -- were no match for elected officials responding to citizens who did not want desegregated schools or scattered subsidized housing.


Lessons  from the Yonkers Fiasco About the Content of Racial Policy

We draw two sets of lessons from the history just related and analyzed.  The first has to do with the nature of possible policies to promote racial equality, and the second with the requirements of the policy-making process.  To begin with, policy-makers need an implementable policy.  To be implementable, a policy needs to have at least one of the following four characteristics:[34]

It offsets market distortions created by “inefficient” tastes such as that for racial discrimination. The best example here is public accommodations, or the sports and entertainment industries.  Once policy changes forced the market to open up to all potential consumers or producers, the desire for profits from new customers, a winning team, or a popular show took over as the “enforcement” mechanism.

It is a single-stage policy, that is, one with “no intermediate steps between adoption of the policy and production of the effects.”[35]  A good example here is the right to vote; once an end to discrimination against black would-be voters is required, it is relatively easy to figure out how to stop intimidation and discrimination in registration and voting procedures.

It accords with or is necessary to some other goal of the implementing institution.  The best example here is desegregation of the armed forces.  Once the military realized that it needed black soldiers to fill out the ranks, and that those soldiers had to be able to win battles, the various branches did what was necessary to achieve that goal.  That included ensuring that black soldiers were trained as well as white ones, that morale remained high and racial tensions low, and that “the leaders look... like the led.”[36]

It creates positive-sum rather than zero-sum or negative-sum games.  Employment discrimination declined less as a result of external enforcement than as a result of personnel officers realizing that procedures for guaranteeing equal opportunity helped them to do their jobs better.  Such procedures gave them grounds for rejecting pressures of nepotism, for enhancing their own professional standing and importance within their firms, and for reinforcing their self-perception as fair and equitable.[37]  Personnel offices were reinforced by managers of sales forces, who realized that people were more likely to buy goods and services when offered by salesmen who looked like themselves.  Thus everyone -- or at least enough people -- “won” within corporations to make reducing job discrimination worthwhile from their perspective.

School and housing desegregation enjoy none of these characteristics.  School desegregation is either outside the reach of market forces, or market incentives work against desegregating schools (since schools with relatively high proportions of African American students are typically assumed to be less good and therefore a drag on the housing market).  Desegregation of subsidized housing is more within the reach of market forces, but there are typically more applicants than there are units, and residents of subsidized housing are usually seen as more of a drag on than a boon to private housing markets.   We can see both of these phenomena at work in Yonkers -- the strongest opponents of both school and housing desegregation were the neighborhood organizations in the wealthier “suburban” sections of the city whose members voiced fears about the adverse consequences of school and housing desegregation for property values.

Second, neither housing nor school desegregation is a single stage policy.  A huge array of features of a school and school system must change for desegregation to be implemented, and an even larger array must be changed for that desegregation to succeed and persist. [38]  Scatter-site housing is equally complicated, and maintaining a desegregated neighborhood even more difficult.[39]  In both cases, implementation must persist over a very long period of time, with changing and complicated circumstances, and the need for constant repetition of policy interventions.

Similarly, educators or housing authorities seldom see desegregation as essential to their key mission; they are more likely, in fact, to see it as an impediment.  Educators’ goal is to teach the children they confront every day, and they seldom feel a lack of a sufficient number of students to reach their goals (as in the armed forces).  Housing agencies seek to build, rent, and maintain as much housing as possible, and political controversy over its location or racial mix simply gets in the way of this goal.   The school superintendents in Yonkers who expressed interest in desegregation did so as a sidelight to their more central concerns -- reducing racial tension and occasional violence in the schools for Paul Mitchell, and closing schools and reorganizing  grade structures for Joseph Robitaille.  Logue’s commitment to dispersing subsidized housing gave way to his stronger commitment to the construction of new housing, which was most expeditiously accomplished by locating projects where they were locally acceptable.

Finally, neither school nor housing desegregation is typically construed as benefiting all participants.   White citizens have almost always seen school desegregation as imposing direct and severe costs on themselves and their children without any compensating benefits.  Many black citizens have come reluctantly to the view that the potential benefits of desegregated schools do not outweigh the certain costs of trying to achieve them; a small but important proportion have moved beyond that view to a principled rejection of publicly-mandated integration.  Most white families are no more eager to live in desegregated housing than to send their children to desegregated schools.  Some black families are indifferent to the racial composition of neighborhoods compared with their desire to live somewhere decent at prices they can afford; others see efforts to desegregate neighborhoods as a source of further tension in already difficult lives . A few are principled nationalists, and another few remain principled integrationists.

In Yonkers, whites consistently opposed school and housing desegregation.  Many blacks supported desegregation efforts, but for instrumental more than intrinsic reasons. They saw that schools and neighborhoods were much better in white than black Yonkers and that a racial divide blocked black access to newer schools, better teachers, and attractive neighborhoods.  Once school and housing desegregation seemed to offer more problems than benefits even to black residents of Yonkers, their support faded.

Policy-makers need not only an implementable set of policies in order to foster racial equality but also the incentive and opportunity to carry out such a goal.  More particularly, a policy-maker needs to have at least one of the following characteristics:

A strong institutional structure on which to build, or the tools with which to build a strong new institution.  The transformation of the right to vote and seek office nicely illustrates the value of institutions.  During the 1960s, a new federal law and regulations, and newly appointed agents of the Justice Department (DOJ), shifted the ground from futile individual efforts to exercise the right to vote into legal wrangles over district boundaries and routines for policing voting rules and practices.  African Americans increasingly voted and attained elective office, thereby securing the status of incumbents and the financial, organizational, and personal resources attached to public offices and party organizations. They, in turn, moved to higher offices and promoted the prospects of other African American political hopefuls.[40]  DOJ continues to monitor voting rights, and the Voting Rights Act was continually strengthened even through the Reagan presidency.

The ability to require another political actor to change its behavior and bear the costs of doing so.  President Truman in Executive Order 9981 told the armed forces to desegregate; the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education told southern educators and judges to desegregate the schools; northern members of Congress told southern election officials to desegregate the voting booth.  They all succeeded, in part because they sustained their resolution through not having to change themselves in order to invoke change by others.

The chance to issue a policy mandate to an organization that is tightly hierarchical rather than loosely coupled.  One can be relatively confident that an order will be obeyed in the Army, in a courtroom, or on a sports team, at least compared with the expectations one has when issuing a mandate to homeowners or school teachers.

The commitment and capacity to stick with a problem as long as is necessary to overcome the inevitable obstacles to success.   Elected officials seldom dare to commit  themselves to a program with a good chance of success in the long run but little immediate pay-off.  Nor can they afford to devote most of their energy to a program with a lot of complications and opponents.  Thus the most effective policy entrepreneurs are often agency officials or private actors with long tenure in their position, deep conviction about the importance and ultimate success of their cause, relative insulation from outside forces, and a touch of fanaticism.. 

School and housing desegregation have seldom, if ever,  enjoyed a policy context with these characteristics.  First, the state of New York did not build a strong institutional base under its efforts to desegregate schools and subsidized housing in Yonkers (or elsewhere).  The Division of Intercultural Relations (DIR) was the desegregative unit of SED; it was always underfunded, its positions were never completely filled, and many members of its staff were personally and professionally weak.  It simply did not exude institutional authority or strength, and it certainly did not inspire respect or awe. In UDC, desegregation never had a separate institutional base. So when desegregation came into conflict with other agency goals, its advocates had no independent grounds on which to take a stand, in contrast with HUD which had a formal site selection review process undertaken by a civil right office to insure that federally-aided projects did not increase racial concentration.[41] 

Second, the history of Yonkers demonstrates clearly that school and housing officials cannot issue orders to other actors and expect them to bear the costs of carrying out those orders.  The desegregative elements of SED survived fifteen years but eventually the mounting political pressure of opposition to desegregation cost the Department so much that it halted any further effort to desegregate schools.  The desegregative elements of UDC started out by seeking to impose much higher costs on Yonkers’ officials and residents than SED had ever dared to contemplate; the political costs redounded quickly enough to destroy UDC’s scatter-site venture in less than a year, and insured that UDC would build future projects in locations that did not impose unwanted costs on Yonkers’ dominant majority.

   Third, schools are the quintessential “loosely-coupled” organization.[42]  Housing is even less hierarchically structured, with scores of developers and lenders, hundreds of realtors, and thousands of buyers and sellers in the smallest metropolitan area, as well as dozens of public agencies involved in planning, zoning, building codes, and subsidized housing, along with a growing phalanx of nonprofits concerned with everything from halfway houses to the homeless.   Thus school administrators and housing officials could expect very little direct responsiveness even if they were to issue orders mandating racial equality or integration in classrooms, real estate firms, and rental offices.

Finally, all responsible analysts agree that it takes years if not decades for reforms in education or the housing market to show substantial impact, and then it is possible only if reforms are sustained and deepened.  And this in a context in which the core reforms may be highly controversial themselves (as with school and housing desegregation) or may simply be competing against other plausible reforms for scarce time, money, and commitment.  In these circumstances, policy entrepreneurs with many resources and much commitment and staying power are essential.  School desegregation has been unusually blessed with such policy entrepreneurs, but they have more often advocated from outside the schools than made and implemented decisions from within. Housing desegregation has lagged behind education in these terms; organized interests generally have been weak, underfinanced, unable to penetrate the decision making process, and discouraged by the tedious necessity to deal with individual cases and the marginalized public agencies responsible for housing discrimination.[43]

In short, if one were to search for two policies that are maximally difficult to promulgate and implement, one could not do much better than to choose school and housing desegregation in an electoral context.  But even this characterization of the obstacles facing the state of New York is incomplete.  We must consider two additional features of the policy-making process before turning from the nature of the problems to an outline of solutions.

The likelihood of attaining a policy goal depends not only on the characteristics of the policy and of the policy-makers; it also depends on resources.  Agencies seeking to implement a substantial policy change need a fairly high level of resources, flexibility in deploying them, and appropriate substantive content.  Money is the most fungible resource; it offers the greatest flexibility in deployment and the best means for attaining appropriate substantive resources.  But it is not the only resource, and cannot even buy some of the most essential ones.  An agency needs systematic and neutrally-gathered information about the problem it is addressing in order to plan and evaluate.  It needs responsible and knowledgeable experts -- on its staff, as advisers and consultants, and as part of an informed and supportive policy sub-community that can enhance the agency’s efforts and legitimacy.  It needs support from strong political figures, a firm legal or legislative mandate, a powerful and effective constituency, or some other tool for withstanding opposition.   The level and kind of resources available for reform are not, of course, independent of the characteristics of policies and policy-makers that we just described.  But control over resources can determine a policy’s success or failure regardless of the policy’s characteristics or champions.

The final feature of the policy-making context is public opinion.  An agency needs a decent “fabric” of public opinion -- that is, a workable mix of visibility, saliency, and intensity -- in order to accomplish its reforms.  By visibility, we mean how aware the public is of policies and policy changes. Most citizens are unaware, for example, of banking rules that effectively deny the possibility of loans to some predominantly black neighborhoods in their community.  Citizens are more aware of proposals to build subsidized housing, and they are vividly aware of proposals to desegregate schools. 

By saliency, we mean how much people care about policy changes. The general softening of whites’ racial attitudes over the past forty years has allowed for major policy changes in some arenas, such as participation in professional sports and entertainment, voting rights, and public accommodations.  In other arenas, either there has been less softening of white racial attitudes (e.g  with regard to interracial marriage, perhaps until recently) or there is  too big a gap between general softening of racial attitudes and willingness to acquiesce to a particular policy change (such as school or housing desegregation).  There is simply too much at stake -- emotionally, socially, culturally, financially  -- for whites to see schools and neighborhoods as only occasionally salient.

Finally, by intensity, we mean the depth of people’s passion about the arena in which policy changes are proposed. Low levels of intensity permit policy change -- think of sports, entertainment, or public accommodations.  But public opinion is likely to become intense, and therefore policy change is likely to be difficult, when 1) the site of a policy change is tied to a particular space or set of daily practices, as are schools and homes; 2) the new policy will affect people over a long duration, as do changes in schools and neighborhoods; and 3) there is no exit option or exit is very costly. Again, contrast schools and housing with hotels or a baseball game; one can readily avoid the latter if the imposition of  desegregation is intensely distasteful, but it is very difficult to leave a home or assigned public school, particularly for those who lack the means to exercise the exit option.

In short, citizens’ concerns over issues that are visible, salient, and intense will produce a break between their general support for principles of racial desegregation  and their particular behaviors. The dominant opinion of local publics is likely to become amplified and effective in these circumstances because its continuance provides enough time for elected officials to be roused into defensive action, which often means retaliation against agency officials who took the actions that so alarmed the public to begin with.  In addition, a policy intervention can set up “sympathetic vibrations” among citizens who perceive that the threat will reach them next -- thus making the issue highly visible, salient, and intense even for those not currently affected by it.[44] 

What Is There To Do?

Given this context -- a policy whose nature is intrinsically difficult to implement, policy-makers who lack the characteristics that lead to success, insufficient  resources, and a hostile or skeptical public opinion -- is there any chance for achieving racial equality through schools and housing? To put the question more programmatically, what would it take to make a public agency take responsibility and succeed in desegregating schools and housing?

We do not have a complete answer at this point (perhaps we never shall).  But we can offer three rules that the history of Yonkers suggests are necessary if not sufficient for success.

First, begin where the public is -- individual racism is wrong, and institutional racial discrimination is wrong.  Most white Americans do not want (or are unwilling to admit that they want) to see themselves as prejudiced and do not want to act in a way that denies opportunities to black Americans.  Similarly, most white Americans do not want their political and economic institutions and practices to discriminate against black Americans.  This is a real and important change over the past forty years, and it is the essential starting point for any policy designed to promote racial inclusiveness.  At a minimum, leaders need to remind citizens endlessly that racial discrimination is bad for all Americans, that all Americans will gain from its demise, and that policies can be designed to ensure that improving the life chances of African Americans need not harm the life chances of white Americans.

Second, give focused responsibility to a single agency, so that ameliorating racial discrimination is the central, if not sole, agenda of that agency.   The history of Yonkers, and many other places, shows that if an agency has other mission(s), they will take precedence over desegregation given how hard it is to do and how much public opposition it arouses.  Most civil rights agencies have been weak components (offices for civil rights, DIR) of weak functional departments (Departments of Education, Labor, HUD, SED), a reflection of weak commitment to civil rights and the primacy of core functional responsibilities.  Thus it is hardly surprising that such agencies rarely have prevailed.   Officials of a new civil rights enforcement agency must be committed to the success of its central mission --whether for reasons of ideological commitment, political ambition, or material gain -- for that agency to have any chance of thriving in a dense political environment.[45]

Third, ensure that the agency responsible for promoting racial equality has substantial resources and sufficient authority to carry out its mandate.  It should be constituted as a law enforcement agency, analogous to the specialized agencies within the DOJ that oversee voting rights and investigate civil rights violations.  It needs an authoritative legal mandate, an independent funding source, the ability to streamline procedures, the capacity to cut across functional categories which most other agencies focus on, insulation from short-term political punishment -- and a passion for racial justice.[46]

We are under no illusions about the political feasibility of these proposals -- how could we be after analyzing Yonkers and its stark teachings about civil rights and political realities?  But one of the key lessons of this case is that our nation must find better means for insuring racial justice than those now in place.  Those means will begin with current laws and the post-1960s consensus that publicly endorsed racism and discrimination are unacceptable.  But they must build more powerfully than heretofore upon that legal and normative base if civil rights guarantees are ever to be more than haphazardly enforced.  And after all, almost nothing that has advanced the rights and broadened the opportunities of people of color in the United States seemed politically feasible a decade before change came.  We would like to believe that creative thinking and bold political claims, whether ours’ or others’, will once again create a way out of no way, perhaps for the kind of approaches that we suggest here.[47] 


[1]. U.S. v. Yonkers Board of Education (1985) 624 F. Supp. 1276 (S.D.N.Y.)

[2]. U.S. v. City of Yonkers (1996) 96 F. 3d 600 (2d Cir.)

[3]. Joseph Berger 1996. “State Faulted in Segregation in Yonkers,” New York Times, Sept. 25: B1.  Both of us worked as expert witnesses in the case leading to the 1995 decision by the federal district court which was reversed upon appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  The 1995 district court ruling was by Judge Leonard B. Sand, who presided over the entire Yonkers litigation.  He held that the state was morally culpable but could not be found legally liable for segregation in Yonkers because it had been a passive bystander rather than an active fomenter of segregation [U.S. v City of Yonkers (1995), 880 F. Supp. 212 (S.D.N.Y.)].  In July 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the 1996 appeals court ruling.

[4]. Joel Garreau, Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (New York: Doubleday, 1991).

[5]. University of the State of New York (1960). Regents statement on intercultural relations in education. Journal of Regents Meeting  New York: The University of the State of New York, January 27-28.

[6]. A 310 petition is an official complaint to which the commissioner must respond with “quasi-judicial proceedings designed to enforce state education policies”[Yonkers Board of Education v. New York State (1995: 13)]. The commissioner may also initiate 310 actions on his own behest.  (The term comes from Section 310 of the New York Education Law which spells out the commissioner’s responsibility and authority for these proceedings.)  During the period of our study, substantive decisions could not be appealed; the only possible appeal to the courts was the procedural claim that the commissioner’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”  The courts traditionally interpreted this standard very narrowly.

[7].  Matter of Mitchell (1963, June 17). Decision No. 7240, 2 Ed. Dept. Rep. 501.

[8]. Lee v. Nyquist (1970) 318 F.Supp. 710.  The law did not prohibit elected school boards from reassigning students for desegregative purposes; its strictures reached only to SED and appointed boards of education.  Thus it can be described, and was so described by its supporters, as an endorsement of democratic reform.  Even after the provision was struck down by the courts, the legislature continued to debate and occasionally to pass anti-busing bills for the next few years.

[9]. As early as 1963, the Regents requested funds from the legislature to address “urgent problems of racial imbalance” [State Education Department of New York (1963) The Regents Major Legislative Proposals for 1964, December] and the plea continued through the 1970s. SED generally requested $10 to $15 million annually; the legislature allocated $3 million in 1968, $1 million each of the succeeding two years, and nothing after that.



[10]. Clark, Kenneth (1988). [Deposition]. Yonkers Board of Education v. New York State, 60 Civ. 6761 (LBS), S.D.N.Y., 14.

[11].  SED did not take other possible steps. Among the steps not taken that Judge Sand identified in his 1995 ruling were: removing school officials who failed to comply with the commissioner’s orders, withholding state funds under the same circumstance, initiating 310 investigations and rulings without waiting for a citizen’s petition, issuing regulations for desegregation and following them with inspection and enforcement procedures, and denying approval for the construction of new schools in sites that would exacerbate segregation (Yonkers Board of Education v. New York State 1995: 12-14).  The state did take some of these steps, especially that of strict regulation and detailed compliance reviews, to implement other controversial policies such as special education, bilingual education, and vocational education.  As a former Yonkers school board member put it, “On everything else the state followed through except on racial balance.” (Interview with Robert Jacobson, November 26, 1990, by Jennifer Hochschild, Steven Routh, and Monica Herk).

[12]. State Education Department of New York (January 1968) Integration and the Schools: A Statement of Policy and Recommendations by the Regents of the University of the State of New York, Position Paper No. 3 (Albany), pp. 7, 12.

[13]. Observed one new Regent, “It breaks my heart to see those little bitsy things standing on the corner in ice, snow, and wind waiting for the bus” (Gershowitz, Mike (1974) “New Regents Board Member Will Make Waves,” Long Island Press, April 7: 22).

[14]. Pforzheimer, Carl (1969) Regents Minutes, June 27.  Chancellor McGovern (head of the Board of Regents) made the same observation regretfully rather than pugnaciously: “Recent events... turn away the Regents from a position of leadership which they have long maintained” (McGovern, Joseph (1975), Letter to Bishop Paul Moore, March 3).

[15]. In fact, he delayed or watered down several of Commissioner Nyquist’s remaining 310 orders.  As an Assistant Commissioner concluded in 1985, “Our mission is limited, our purview is limited.  We are a wonderful department, but we can’t solve all of the problems of society.” ##

[16]. Sobel, Morton (1970) Memorandum to Yonkers File Regarding Title IV Technical Assistance, October 29. Inaction followed despite the fact that Sobel had noted in the same memo that “we would not be faced with insurmountable [sic] difficulties in assisting Yonkers to desegregate.”

[17]. Guerney, Joseph (1990) Interview by Beth Lorenz, Steven Routh, and Monica Herk, November 1.

[18].  TONEY (Taxpayers Organization of North East Yonkers Education Committee) (1978) TONEY Report on School Reorganization Phase #2 (Printed in the Herald Statesman), March 5: 1-1d.; see also Lincoln Park Taxpayers Association Education Committee (1977) Report (Unpublished manuscript), March.

[19].  Jacobson (1990).


[20].  U.S. v. Yonkers Board of Education (1995): 32.

[21]. NEED AUTHOR, TITLE  New York Times, March 8, 1968, p. 28.

[22]. In Public Papers of Nelson A. Rockefeller, State of New York, 1968, p. 204.   

[23]. AUTHOR??  “A Superagency for Urban Superproblems,” Business Week, March 7, 1970, 98.

[24]. New York, Urban Development Act of 1968.

[25]. Walter Webdale to Governor Nelson Rockefeller, plaintiff, Exhibit in United States v. City of Yonkers (1995).

[26]. Edward Logue to Mayor James O’Rourke, in ibid.

[27]. U.S. v. Yonkers Board of Education (1985), p.  1319

[28]. U.D. C. Document in Plaintiff’s Brief, U.S. v. City of Yonkers (1985)

[29]. U.S. v. Yonkers Board of Education (1985), p. XXX

[30]. Deposition of Albert DelBello in U. S. v. Yonkers Board of Education (1995), p. 95.

[31].  Danielson, Michael (1976)  The Politics of Exclusion (NY: Columbia University Press).; Judy Failer, Anna Harvey, and Jennifer Hochschild (1993) “Only One Oar in the Water: The Political Failure of School Desegregation in Yonkers, New York” Educational Policy 7, no. 3: 276-96.

[32].  Similarly, HUD was willing to overlook UDC’s locational policies in Yonkers because the federal housing agency was interested in production, and UDC was the largest single developer of federally subsidized dwellings in the early 1970s.

[33]. As one SED official pointed out as early as 1968, Commissioner Allen should take strong desegregative actions, but he must also “recognize the political... ramifications.”  Civil rights activists must in turn understand the “political realities faced by the Commissioner and his concern to protect the powers of his office.” (Nordos, Wilbur (1968), Memorandum to Ewald Nyquist, April 2.

[34]. For a more detailed exposition of the next few paragraphs and fuller citations, see Hochschild, Jennifer (forthcoming), “You Win Some, You Lose Some... Explaining the Pattern of Success and Failure in the Second Reconstruction,” in Morton Keller and R. Shep Melnick, eds., Taking Stock: Policy and Governance in the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press).

[35]. Arnold, Douglas (1990) The Logic of Congressional Action (New Haven: Yale University Press), pp. 19-20.

[36]. Edwin Dorn (1995) “Helping All of Us Become All We Can Be,” Los Angeles Times, Aug. 9, 1995: B9.


[37].  Frank Dobbin (1993) “Equal Opportunity Law and the Construction of Internal Labor Markets,” American Journal of Sociology 99, No. 2: 396-427.

[38]. Hochschild, Jennifer (1984) The New American Dilemma: Liberal Democracy and School Desegregation (New Haven: Yale University Press).

[39]. Danielson, The Politics of Exclusion      

[40]. This sequence, of course, was reinforced by the political advantages that resulted from the concentration of blacks in particular districts and jurisdictions, a product of historic settlement patterns, housing discrimination, segregated schools, and racial gerrymandering.  Thus one institutionalized success (voting and office holding) worked against creating another (desegregated schools and neighborhoods).

[41]. Of course, such formal institutionalization did not insure desegregative results.  But the existence of the process in HUD made race an explicit factor in site selection, which was not the case at UDC.

[42]. March, James 19XXX - need rest

[43]. See Michael N. Danielson, “Open Housing in America: Promises, Performance, and Prospects,” Report to Ford Foundation, March 1979.

[44]. These “vibrations” are amplified by the publicity given to particularly vivid instances by the media, particularly local television which craves the dramatic images of chanting opponents of busing and clamorous meetings to protect scattered site housing.  And for those on the other side of the racial divide, attitudes about desegregation inevitably are shaped by television cameras which capture the frightened faces of black children on beleaguered school buses or the anger and fear of African Americans whose dream house has been vandalized.

[45]. This paper does not address the myriad other proposals for systemic reform in public education or housing that are currently under serious consideration .  They are beyond our scope here, and in any case most do not have as a central goal the enhancement of  racial  equality and equal opportunity.  Our general stance is that of cautious enthusiasm; after all,  some school systems and housing enviroments could hardly be worse, so almost any change is bound to be an improvement.  Our main point is that all of these reforms would in the ideal world be carefully vetted by a strong civil rights enforcement agency to ensure that at least they did not violate civil rights and at most they helped to foster them.

[46]. Those few agencies that have been dedicated to civil rights enforcement (Office of Equal Opportunity [OEO], Office for Federal Contract Compliance and Procurement [OFCCP])  have not had the resources or legislative backing they needed to do their job.

[47]. We are working on a book manuscript that will develop these policy proposals in more detail, focusing particularly on what this new law enforcement agency should do, if it were ever brought into being.  We acknowledge with thanks the support of the Spencer Foundation in this larger project, as well as in the preparation of this paper.