Just over a century ago, in 1911, the Baltimore city council adopted the first residential segregation law in the country, forbidding black people from living in predominantly white neighborhoods. Though the Supreme Court ruled such policies unconstitutional seven years later, the consequences of the law, as well as the consequences of subsequent racist policies and practices like redlining, the displacement of black families, and mass incarceration remain. Today, Baltimore is one of the most segregated cities in the nation, where black residents make up a majority of the population but do worse than the average black American—and far worse than the average white Baltimore resident—on almost every measure of general well-being.
But over the past decade, Baltimore and other city governments have taken active steps to reverse the centuries of inequality that remain embedded in policy and practice. After all, if inequality was written into law, can’t it be written out?
Last week, Baltimore’s Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh signaled that she would sign two bills that would incorporate racial equity practices into city government. One bill requires agencies to assess the equity of proposed and current policies and address disparities, while the other allows voters to decide in November whether an equity fund will be established in the city charter. Such a fund would provide money to projects fighting racism. The legislation received unanimous support from the city council, according to The Baltimore Sun.