Karl Taeuber


The racial structure of housing in the United States is rooted in history. As I thought about how to present this historical context, I became disturbed with the assigned title for this panel: The Contemporary Context of Housing Discrimination. In desperation I looked up "contemporary" in my battered desk dictionary and found that it "may refer to any time or any duration." As a feeling of relief swept over me, I realized that starting a paper with a dictionary definition is a habit rooted in my own history, beginning when I was a college freshman assigned a weekly essay in English. The dictionary I reached for was not just any dictionary, but the very same Webster's New Collegiate, 1951 edition, that I used in college, now missing a few pages and held together with yellowing tape. Old habits never die, they just fade from view. So it is with housing discrimination. Old patterns never die, though sometimes they fade from view.

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