Eminent Domain’s Shameful, Racist Legacy
I have previously noted that eminent domain has all-too-frequently been used to uproot minority communities. A few days ago, the Associated Press ran a story that highlighted San Francisco’s use of “blight” designations to destroy a thriving neighborhood that had been called the “Harlem of the West.” As the story notes, these “urban renewal” projects were undertaken to destroy black neighborhoods in Kansas City, as well as all over the nation. Despite constitutional requirements that dispossessed property owners be given “just compensation,” very few received anything like enough money to replace the homes, businesses, and community networks of which they had been forcibly stripped.
While it is no longer socially acceptable to use race as an overt factor in making a blight declaration — it is no longer kosher to refer to urban redevelopment as “negro removal,” as it was in the past — the fact remains that the burden of eminent domain still falls most heavily on neighborhoods populated primarily by minorities. Until Missouri reforms its laws, returning the use of eminent domain to its proper, sharply-limited scope, people of color in this state will have to be concerned that their homes, businesses, and houses of worship may become the next targets of “urban renewal.”