How has our country come to be so racially segregated with housing so often either predominantly white or predominantly black and neighborhood schools following suit? The familiar answer is that it’s always been so — to start with because of slavery but, since the end of slavery, simply as a product of the fact that “both whites and blacks naturally choose not to intermingle.”
That understanding has been so widespread that U.S. Supreme Court justices — divided on the result in a 2007 case involving schools whose enrollments mirrored this neighborhood pattern — nevertheless agreed that the racial segregation that was so evident in the community in question was what the law terms “de facto” segregation. De facto segregation is caused by choices black and white people voluntarily make, as contrasted with “de jure” segregation that comes about through government action. The court’s majority held that as de facto segregation, the result was not remediable by affirmative action as it could have been if the segregation had been de jure.