So much of racism hides within our social and institutional systems. For instance, across our country, cities used discriminatory policies and practices to craft their neighborhood planning and city zoning. One of these policies was racial covenants.
What is a Racial Covenant?
Racial covenants were zoning and contract clauses that discriminated and segregated people based on their race, ethnicity, and heritage. Racial covenants highly discriminated against the Black community. However, the Black community wasn’t the only one targeted by these discriminatory clauses. According to NPR, “While most of the covenants throughout the country were written to keep Blacks from moving into certain neighborhoods…many [racial covenants] targeted other ethnic and religious groups, such as Asian Americans and Jews.”
In short, these contract clauses helped segregate non-white communities from white ones, and, because this legal and explicit discrimination and segregation went on for decades (racial covenants didn’t become fully illegal until 1968), racial covenants specifically helped white communities accumulate more home ownership and generational wealth over non-white communities.
Racial Covenants and Madison, Wisconsin
In addition to being used for decades, racial covenants were also used across our country, including right here in Madison, Wisconsin. In fact, there are still a number of Madison area neighborhoods with racialized covenants and restrictions as part of their legal documents. For example, the Neighborhood Covenant for Sunset Village says this: “Only members of the Caucasian race shall use; or occupy any dwelling on said plat, excepting that this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race employed by an owner or tenant.” (You can download the PDF: here.)
The Lasting Legacy of Racial Covenants
The Fair Housing Act made racial covenants illegal in 1968. However, racial covenants still directly impact the lives of Madison families today. On one side, the legacy of racial covenants protects generational wealth for white families, and on the other side, the legacy of racial covenants continues to create barriers between non-white families and resources, home ownership, and generational wealth. But, we can help end this legacy by becoming more aware and by taking the necessary action to make changes.
Learn More About Our History
To further educate yourself and others, please read through the reference list below:
- 3 Unsettling Truths About Neighborhood Segregation
- Racial Covenants, a Relic of the Past, are still on the Books Across the Country by NPR
- The 1948 Supreme Court Ruling Against Racial Covenants
- The 1968 Fair Housing Act
- The Legacy of Redlining in Madison, Wisconsin Research Project
- Do You Have a Racist Deed? By The Wisconsin Association of Realtors
- Legacy of Redlining Policies in Madison by the Cap Times
- Jim Crow of the North Discussion Guide by Bethel Madison
- Madison Wisconsin’s Official Redlining Map
- Sunset Village’s Racial Covenant
Support OWN IT: Building Black Wealth
And to take action, please join us in supporting OWN IT: Building Black Wealth. OWN IT: Building Black Wealth is a two-part program designed to address and work toward eliminating substantial barriers to wealth and homeownership for Black and brown families in the Greater Madison area. The program does so by providing two key elements: an educational program and access to $15,000 down payment funds.
As a real estate company, the more we learned about the history and impact of discrimination in our country, the more we saw it showing up in our day-to-day work. This motivated us to work toward a more just community and to actively support increasing wealth in Black and brown communities through homeownership.
This is how we became involved in creating and financially supporting OWN IT: Building Black Wealth. Not only were we seeking a way to make financial contributions but to also partake in healing action from the harm caused by the real history of white communities explicitly denying people of color access to homeownership and white communities building wealth through racism, redlining, and racialized covenants and restrictions for so many decades.
The Alvarado Group company contributes a percentage of revenue to the OWN IT fund. Additionally, 100% of our agents, at every transaction, contribute a portion or a percentage of their commission earnings to the fund, and many times our clients contribute as well. Together, we must acknowledge the harm done to our community through policies and practices like racial covenants. And, more importantly, we must stop that harm and build equity instead of exclusion.
To help do that, talk to your agent, and please support OWN IT: Building Black Wealth: here.