After Congress had rejected two earlier versions of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, commonly known as the Fair Housing Act, the third version appeared to be going nowhere prior to the April 4th 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It was that crystalizing moment and the resulting civil unrest that spread across the country, which led to President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Fair Housing Act into law on April 11, 1968. It was the first time that Congress declared it illegal for private individuals to discriminate on the basis of race in the sale or rental of housing.
Today, more than half a century later we continue to experience social unrest and protests centered on issues of equality, equal justice and systemic racism in the midst of a pandemic with racially disproportionate impacts.
Let’s look at the wealth gap and consider that, in 1968, a typical middle-class black household had $6,674 in wealth compared with $70,786 for the typical middle-class white household, according to data from the historical Survey of Consumer Finances that has been adjusted for inflation. In 2016, the typical middle-class black household had $13,024 in wealth versus $149,703 for the median white household, an even larger gap in percentage terms that what it was nearly 50 years ago.
Now consider this: the net worth of a homeowner is 41 times greater than that of a renter.