Hate Thy Neighbor: Move-in Violence and the Persistence of Racial Segregation in American Housing

Hate Thy Neighbor: Move-in Violence and the Persistence of Racial Segregation in American Housing

Hate Thy Neighbor: Move-in Violence and the Persistence of Racial Segregation in American Housing

Hate Thy Neighbor: Move-in Violence and the Persistence of Racial Segregation in American Housing


"Hate They Neighbor shows in devastating detail the rise and persistence of tactics for preventing residential racial integration, starting in the 20th century and continuing into the present. Although many minorities can find good housing in areas they can afford, just enough of their neighbors still greet them with cross-burnings, firebombs, and violence to send an ongoing warning: integrate at your own risk." - Amanda I. Seligman, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Despite increasing racial tolerance and national diversity, neighborhood segregation remains a very real problem in cities across America. Scholars, government officials, and the general public have long attempted to understand why segregation persists despite efforts to combat it, traditionally focusing on the issue of "white flight," or the idea that white residents will move to other areas if their neighborhood becomes integrated. In Hate Thy Neighbor, Jeannine Bell expands upon these understandings by investigating a little-examined but surprisingly prevalent problem of "move-in violence:" the anti-integration violence directed by white residents at minorities who move into their neighborhoods. Apprehensive about their new neighbors and worried about declining property values, these residents resort to extra-legal violence and intimidation tactics, often using vandalism and verbal harassment to combat what they view as a violation of their territory. Hate Thy Neighbor is the first work to seriously examine the role violence plays in maintaining housing segregation, illustrating how intimidation and fear are employed to force minorities back into separate neighborhoods and prevent meaningful integration. Drawing on evidence that includes in-depth interviews with ordinary citizens and analysis of Fair Housing Act cases, Bell provides a moving examination of how neighborhood racial violence is enabled today and how it harms not only the victims, but entire communities. By finally shedding light on this disturbing phenomenon, Hate Thy Neighbor not only enhances our understanding of how prevalent segregation and this type of hate-crime remain, but also offers insightful analysis of a complex mix of remedies that can work to address this difficult problem. Jeannine Bell is Professor of Law at IU Maurer School of Law-Bloomington. She is the author of Policing Hatred: Law Enforcement, Civil Rights, and Hate Crime; Police and Policing Law; and Gaining Access to Research Sites: A Practical and Theoretical Guide for Qualitative Researchers (with Martha Feldman and Michele Berger).


The night after members of a black family moved into their new house
in a predominately Italian neighborhood, a mob of roughly a thousand
whites, who had been rioting in a nearby park, surrounded the family’s
house and began to throw stones, breaking windows. the following eve
ning, two hundred teenagers gathered close to the family’s home shout
ing, “We want blood.”

Soon after Reginald Doster purchased a home for his family in a white
neighborhood in Taylor, Michigan, two white men plotted to burn down
the Dosiers’ house. They and several other men broke a window in the
house, poured gasoline inside, and ignited the gasoline.

How can we make sense of these two incidents? Though they are similar in that they both involve blacks who have moved into all-white neighborhoods, what is perhaps most interesting is that more than fifty years separate these events. the first occurred in the late 1950s, the second in 2002. Though many assume that violence directed at racial and ethnic minorities who have moved to white neighborhoods is a relic of this country’s long-dead history, such behavior is not uncommon. in fact, scenarios like the ones described above, targeting racial and ethnic minorities who integrate white neighborhoods, are so common that scholars have coined the term “move-in violence” to describe such acts of violence and intimidation.

The harassment of the Doster family, which occurred in the twentyfirst century and not in the lim Crow era, is disquieting. As the latest . . .

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