The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said.
That arc doesn’t bend on its own. It requires the work of communities and advocates demanding justice, attorney Michael Allen said in a keynote address at the City of Austin’s Fair Housing Summit today. In the past, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has helped ensure steady progress to end housing discrimination and promote inclusive communities. As of 2017, President Donald Trump’s HUD is actively dismantling that progress.
Allen is representing Texas Housers in a lawsuit filed last month challenging the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s abandonment of its duty to enforce civil rights law in the City of Houston.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, HUD is disassembling the hard-won progress in creating integrated, inclusive communities and protecting people from discrimination in their search for a decent home.
“As we mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination—and the open housing law whose birth somehow required his death—we face the monumental insult and sheer absurdity of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development presiding over the deconstruction of the Fair Housing Act and the rollback of its promises,” Allen said. “It’s almost as if HUD is desecrating Dr. King’s grave.”
The federal housing agency, charged with enforcing this law, is telling communities that the work to undo the deep-seated patterns of segregation caused by federal and local government policy and personal prejudice must wait.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of waiting,” Allen said in his speech.
We are, too.
But our mission, our work, and our fight for just and inclusive communities does not begin and end with who is in charge of the federal agency. We’re advocating alongside communities that seek fair and equitable treatment for the long haul.
If HUD falls down on its job, if officials in charge fail to promote opportunity for all, if the agency walks back rules and regulations, Texas Housers will be there.
And so will our allies.
Michael Allen’s main message to HUD was this: “We cannot afford to sit back and wait. If you are not prepared to lead, then prepare to get out of the way, voluntarily, or by court order.”