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  • The Narrative Project

OCA Releases Study on the Causes & Impact of Segregation in Hartford with NAACP and Others


October 29, 2020 Aaron Johnson


Hartford, CT – Open Communities Alliance along with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), and the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at Brandeis University, today released a report that examines Connecticut’s history of segregation in education and housing throughout the state. The report, “A Steady Habit of Segregation: The Origins and Continuing Harm of Separate and Unequal Housing and Public Schools in Metropolitan Hartford, Connecticut,” focuses on the harmful array of policies and practices that engineered racial separation in the Hartford region. “Just as The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein did at a national level, this report seeks to explore the government role in creating and cementing the hard lines of segregation in the Hartford region,” said Susan Eaton, the author of the report. “This joint report holds a mirror up to the state’s long-standing segregative history that has created severe burdens on Black and Latinx families and communities,” said Erin Boggs, Executive Director of Open Communities Alliance. “Connecticut continues to earn its moniker as the Land of Steady Habits, this time for its legacy of sustained segregation. Through this report, we’re taking a hard and long-needed look at the systemic issues still present across our state. Policymakers and legislative leaders have an obligation to address the far-reaching ripple effects impacting communities of color, and correct our tradition of willful neglect.” “As this report shows, racial segregation in housing and education in Hartford was the result of conscious government policy choices,” said Cara McClellan, Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Dismantling racial inequality requires similarly conscious action. Half of Black and Latinx students in Hartford now attend diverse, high quality schools as a result of the hard-fought Sheff v. O’Neill lawsuit. But the state can and should go further to ensure educational equity, particularly now when the pandemic threatens to further widen and entrench racial disparities in access to opportunity in Connecticut.” The report, which highlights enduring conditions of racial and ethnic segregation in schools and housing, notes that segregation in the capitol city has been rooted in historical and contemporary racial discrimination practices and policies that exacted disparate harm on Black and Latinx people. It notes that school segregation both reflects and reinforces segregation in housing that was created, sustained, and exacerbated over decades. A Steady Habit highlights the roles government and other actors have played in creating and cementing segregation while examining the consequences of the condition of racial and ethnic separation. The report offers a total of six recommendations that, if implemented, will address the driving forces of segregation in the Hartford Metro area. The recommendations call for solutions to issues in multiple sectors, including housing, education, health, and economic development. To address these system issues, the report offers the following recommendations:

  • Support more opportunities for regionalism in public schooling and housing practice and policy.

  • Support and collaborate with nonprofit organizations engaged in awareness raising, public deliberation, and direct action with regard to redress for African American and Latinx communities in Connecticut harmed by government-created segregation.

  • Support examinations into individual communities’ resistance to fair and affordable housing and/or school desegregation.

  • Support development of school curriculum that builds community knowledge about the roots and consequences of the demographic patterns in specific municipalities, in the Greater Hartford region and the state.

  • Make it easier for developers to build affordable housing in communities that lack it by strengthening and enforcing the state’s existing law known as 8-30g.

  • Enforce and improve implementation of existing zoning laws by adopting policies requiring that each town plan and zone for its “fair share” of the affordable housing need in its region.

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About Open Communities Alliance

Open Communities Alliance is a Connecticut-based civil rights organization that promotes access to opportunity for all people through education, organizing, advocacy, research, and partnerships. The Alliance works to address Connecticut’s deep level of segregation and support policies that lead to housing choice. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 80 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointment. The Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) is a civil rights law and policy organization based in Washington, D.C. Our mission is to promote research-based advocacy strategies to address structural inequality and disrupt the systems that disadvantage low-income people of color. PRRAC was founded in 1989, through an initiative of major civil rights, civil liberties, and anti-poverty groups seeking to connect advocates with social scientists working at the intersection of race and poverty. The Sillerman Center at Brandeis University draws upon scholarship and practitioner experience to inform and advance philanthropic practice that aspires to achieve racial justice, remedy social and economic inequality and support true democracy. We engage emerging and established members of grantmaking communities across the United States through publications, public events, webinars, courses and fellowships.

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