Onwards towards justice: Our statement on the violence in DC, the Fair Housing Act, and the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 16, 2021

This Saturday, January 16th, marks the 54th anniversary of the introduction of the Fair Housing Act in Congress, a federal law that legally ended the common practice of racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination in housing.* The law was a monumental achievement of the Civil Rights movement, and laid the foundation for much of the work we do today to make housing more affordable, and equitable, for everyone.

Under ordinary circumstances, California YIMBY would be sending you an email celebrating the Fair Housing Act, and honoring the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (whose birthday is January 15). King’s advocacy — and vicious assassination by a White supremacist — helped ensure the Act’s final passage in 1968.

But these are not ordinary circumstances.

On January 6, 2021, violent insurrectionists laid siege to our Capitol and our democracy, in a brazen effort to overthrow the results of the Presidential election. As we write this, they are threatening more violence. We have confidence in the ability of our institutions to weather this threat from within, and hope you’ll join us in praying for the safety and security of our elected officials and public servants as they turn back this threat to the sanctity of the vote, and to our republic.

But we’re also not naive about the challenges we still face. We see a direct connection between King’s legacy, fair housing, and the rise of violent Trumpism.

There is a straight line between the Civil War; the White terrorism that ended Reconstruction and gave rise to Jim Crow laws of enforced segregation; racist redlining of our urban neighborhoods; and the wave of urban downzoning in the 1960s and 70s, designed to prevent people of color from moving to majority-White cities.

Many of these same motivations are behind the atrocities we all witnessed last week: The cancer of White supremacy lives on in the United States. Trump built his political career on spreading false, racist rumors about the “Central Park 5,” a group of young men falsely accused of rape and imprisoned. Trump compounded these racist lies with his false assertions that President Barack Obama was a “Muslim from Kenya.”

And now, Trump’s lies have incited a deadly, treasonous attack on our democracy — and on the decades-long effort to bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice.

Like you, we are watching anxiously for our legal system to kick into gear and hold these criminals accountable. As we rise up with our neighbors to demand justice, we’re inspired by the actions of so many in the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Civil Rights movement before them, to continue the steady drumbeat — both on the warnings of the risks of White supremacy, and on the hope of extending the benefits of liberty and equality to ALL Americans.

We invite you to join us in recommitting ourselves to creating a California, and a United States, that provides opportunity, equity, and justice to everyone, and to eradicating the systemic racism that threatens our republic. We hope you are staying vigilant while being safe, and staying home, until the danger on our streets (and from COVID) has abated. And we thank you for your support of our efforts to, in our own small way, move the needle on equity and justice in housing. We couldn’t do it without you.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, we encourage you to find a COVID-safe service opportunity near you on January 18th to participate in the National Day of Service:

In sadness, hope, and solidarity,

Team California YIMBY

Vincent Jones
Barbara Schihl
Konstantin Hatcher
Melissa Breach
Brian Hanlon
Rachel Stevens
Stan Oklobdzija
Salim Zymet
Jenny Burger
Connor Finney
Louis Mirante
Matthew Lewis
Ryan Joy
Sean McFeely

*The Fair Housing Act was amended in 1974 and again in 1988 to extend anti-discrimination protections based on gender, familial status, and disability.