Residential Segregation: What Are the Causes? (Testimony of Gary Orfield, March 22, 1996)

Article excerpt

Orfield was an expert witness for the Caldwell/NAACP plaintiffs in the areas of education and urban policy in schools, particularly in school desegregation and the relationship of housing and school desegregation. Previously he had served in this case as a court-appointed expert and as a witness for the U.S. Department of Justice. He is examined by William L. Taylor, lead attorney for the Caldwell/NAACP plaintiffs.

TAYLOR: When were you appointed by the Court as an expert in this case?

ORFIELD: I was appointed in the spring of 1980, about March 1980.

TAYLOR: Was one of your duties at that time to prepare a report [Orfield, 1981] on housing and housing policies and practices that flowed out of paragraph 12(d) of the Court's 1980 order?

ORFIELD: Yes, it was.

TAYLOR: What did 12(d) provide?

ORFIELD: It directed the parties to work with the relevant agencies that affected the housing market of metropolitan St. Louis to try to get improvements in some of the housing policies that had created much of the school segregation and hopefully to work towards integration and to work towards more natural school desegregation that would not require pupil transportation.

TAYLOR: In connection with your duties at that time, did you also review the findings of this court and the United States Court of Appeals with respect to discriminatory housing practices of the state and other defendants in this case?

[Taylor asked Orfield to describe those findings.]

ORFIELD: The trial court and the Court of Appeals found that housing was a major factor leading to [segregation] of schools in the St. Louis School District, and, of course, that meant that since housing policies by the various governments were implicated in this process, securing [desegregation] logically requires addressing those housing issues and certainly not permitting public resources to continually be spent in ways that created more and more intense school segregation. . .

[Orfield's housing report was admitted as an exhibit.]

TAYLOR: I would simply observe, and then move on, [that] this is a report that establishes practices that were questioned. The question. . whether there are vestiges of those practices today...obviously has some relevance. Can you summarize the findings you made as to the housing policies and practices of the state and local defendants?

ORFIELD: Yes. Basically, what is described in this report was a comprehensive history of use of public resources and a variety of other public powers to create and intensify and spread segregation within the city of St. Louis and in the greater St. Louis housing market. And it was done through many mechanisms, dating back to racial zoning, to the restrictive covenants that were struck down in the case from this area,1 to redevelopment policies, to relocation policies, to policies of developing highways. Many, many kinds of policies resulted in movement of many, many thousands of people in the St. Louis area and the reconcentration of people who moved in intensely segregated public housing projects and federally subsidized private housing developments, and we really found no evidence of any effort by any government to counteract these kinds of spreading segregation. In fact, [we found] continuous investment in spreading segregation and destabilizing integrated neighborhoods in the way that the policies were implemented right up through the time of the court order. And we made a series of recommendations about how these things could operate in a different way [with] different consequences. And of course we found..that the number of [African American] students who were in subsidized housing.. .was more than the number of students who had to be bussed for the intradistrict desegregation plan in the city of St. Louis, so had that housing been developed in a different way, the court would have faced a completely different set of choices and much, much less burden would have been put on the education officials. …