Property to Race/Race to Property

79 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2021

See all articles by Bethany Berger

Bethany Berger

University of Connecticut School of Law

Date Written: April 12, 2021

Abstract

In the United States, property and race shape each other. This has been true since colonization and is equally true today.

First, property relationships shaped the distinct forms racism took for different racialized groups. Racism exists to explain and justify power and privilege of one group over another. But the goals of power and privilege vary across different groups, resulting in different stereotypes, legal and social barriers, and modes of control. This Article examines the racialization of African Americans, Indigenous peoples, ethnic Chinese, and racialized “off-White” ethnic groups to reveal the crucial role that a group’s relationship to valued resources plays in its distinct trajectory of racism.

Second, racial relationships shaped property law for everyone in the United States. The power to foreclose for debts, the power of local governments to zone, the public goods attached to residence, the scope of the welfare state’s “new property”—in these areas and many more, efforts to control, exclude, and take from racialized groups changed what property means today. This Article reveals the hidden histories of racially neutral rules and shows how they have undermined the security and equitable distribution of property for all.

Today, property law and rhetoric are often used to undermine measures that would increase the security, affordability, and autonomy that justify property in the first place. Revealing the racial roots of modern property rules, I hope, will create space for reform to achieve the liberatory and egalitarian norms that undergird our commitment to property.

Keywords: property, race, legal history, inequality, welfare, transportation, land titling, constitutional law

JEL Classification: KF10

Suggested Citation

Berger, Bethany, Property to Race/Race to Property (April 12, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3825124 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3825124

Bethany Berger (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

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