What to Know About Racial Covenants
Without a doubt, we have a dark past. To learn what went on many years ago in our country is disgusting. Many had hate in their hearts. Since then, we have come a long way, but racism still exists.
After researching house covenants, I learned quite a bit about racism in the real estate sector.
Have you ever heard about racial covenants? If you don't think so, I'm not surprised. I would be in the same camp until just recently.
For the thirty-six years I've practiced real estate, restrictive covenants in home sales were always assumed to be more about a property than the human race. Little did I know there was also a seedy underbelly waiting to be discovered.
We will look at the general meaning of house covenants and a detailed look at racially restrictive covenants.
You may be surprised by what you learn here.
What is a Restrictive Covenant?
In real estate law, land-related covenants are called real covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CCRs). They can also be called deed restrictions.
Most restrictive covenants come with restrictions on how the land can be used (negative covenants) or require a specific continuing action (affirmative covenant).
Property covenants may also run with the land (referred to as a covenant appurtenant). This means that future landowners must abide by the terms outlined in the covenant.
Covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) control what property owners can do within a community. The original developer usually creates CC&Rs for the community.
The intention of having covenants, conditions, and restrictions is to protect the property values of those living in the community.
Restrictive covenants are almost always found when a homeowners association exists, but they can also be present when there is no HOA.
What Are Racially Restrictive Covenants?
A racial covenant is a type of agreement that limits housing sale, rental, or occupancy to people of a particular racial or ethnic group.
In the last century, it was commonplace for white people to put language into real estate deeds that prevented other races and ethnic groups from purchasing property within particular neighborhoods.
These racial clauses inserted into property deeds prevented black families, those of Jewish decent, and oriental families from owning in many places.
Racial covenants to this day can be found in property records across the United States.
These racially motivated covenants were legally-enforceable contracts that stipulated the property had to remain in the hands of White people. They ran with the land, which meant they could be enforced perpetually.
Anyone who dared to challenge this ban risked losing their claim to the property.
A significant number of properties had racial covenants preventing sale to non-white people.
While such covenants would target several different racial groups, they were primarily used to keep black people from buying property. The discrimination was based on the notion that black people would decrease property value.
The Dark Origins of Racial Covenants
The real estate industry created racial covenants at the beginning of the 20th century to reshape the urban landscape.
Working together to improve the environment of rapidly growing cities, they promoted parks, playgrounds, gardens, zoning, and land usage. It helped map out areas separated by residential vs. industrial uses.
At the heart of this planning was white supremacy. There were strong beliefs that mixed-race residential neighborhoods were detrimental and should be abolished.
The National Association of Realtors Were Involved
More shocking than anything else was The National Association of Realtors participating in this disgusting behavior.
Believe it or not, in 1924, it was put into the code of ethics that "A Realtor should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood a character of property or occupancy, members of any race or nationality, or any individuals whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values in that neighborhood."
This was totally out of character for such an outstanding organization today, as this language suggests.
Steering became a significant part of the real estate landscape, forcing blacks into specific areas of major cities and towns. It laid the pattern for segregation in our country.
Racial deed restrictions became even more commonplace in the United States after 1926 when the Supreme Court ruled that they were legal. These restrictions were typically used to prevent black Americans from purchasing or living in homes in white neighborhoods.
The United States Supreme Court changed its position in 1948. The court decided that racial covenants were no longer enforceable.
Unfortunately, that did not stop communities from enforcing these awful restrictions. Until 1968, Realtors and owners could discriminate based on race.
Congress passed the Housing Rights Act in 1968, which outlawed discrimination based on race or ethnicity in the sale or rental of housing. This act helped to ensure that everyone would have equal access to housing opportunities regardless of their background.
Fair Housing Laws Are Introduced
The tide started to turn when fair housing laws were introduced that real estate agents and property owners were required to follow.
The United States signed into law under President Lyndon B Johnson the Civil Rights Act of 1968 during the Martin Luther King assassination riots.
Racially motivated covenants became illegal and unenforceable. Under the fair housing act, discrimination is unlawful based on any of the following conditions:
- Basis of Race
- National origin
- Sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity
- Familial status
A real estate agent guilty of these discriminatory practices could lose their license to practice.
While discrimination still exists today, we have come a long way. Most sound-thinking, morally correct individuals don't identify someone by the color of their skin or where they came from.
We are all equals. To think about how some people were treated years ago can make me sick to my stomach.
Discrimination should never be tolerated, whether you are a buyer or a seller. If you encounter an agent making any racist remarks, fire them. Agents like this need to be taught a life lesson.
Change comes when you don't look the other way.