Racial covenants were once enforceable deed restrictions preventing minorities from buying in white neighborhoods. While now illegal their legacy and impact stretches to the present day. 

The Spatial Justice Studio in Winston-Salem's new Mapping Prejudice in Forsyth County project looks to document how these covenants shaped the area. WFDD's DJ Simmons recently spoke with Winston-Salem State University professor and Spatial Justice Studio founder Russell Smith about the effort.

Interview Highlights

On how the mapping prejudice project could impact the subject of housing in Forsyth County:

"This is another effort to understand that deliberate things were done to create the differences in spaces across our community. And as a result of that, deliberate things can be done to handle and tackle and make communities that we look at as unsustainable, undesirable, make those sustainable places, make those just places where people want to live, where they want to send their kids to school, where they have access to grocery stores, where they have access to transportation."

On how racial covenants affect cities and communities today:

"There's two dates that stand out: 1948, there's a court case, 1968, the Fair Housing Act, those kind of made these null and void. They still exist, you might own a piece of property and look at the deed all the way back in the 1930s and see an amendment that says it's not enforceable today. But even with that said, these spatial patterns that were created during these decades have tended to impact us still to today."

On how practices like this may continue to exist today:

"I talk about it in class the idea of spatial profiling. I think it's something we all do. We get this idea in our head of areas, like you shouldn't go there, or that's a nice place. We create these profiles of geography and of places. And that reinforces those geographic inequalities, when many times these profiles are false or the narrative isn't completely true. It's been jaded. There's racist tendencies in there, there's media bias, there's all these things that lead us to believe or make conclusions, or jump to conclusions that might not be true. So, do we still have residential segregation? Yes, and some people will say that's personal preference. I think there's more to gaming the system than that."

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