This all must stop

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Martin Luther King Jr. delivered that profound and hopeful sentence less than a year before he was assassinated, 50 years ago this week. I’ve been thinking about these words in recent days, contemplating the terrible facts revisited by Alan Pyke in the story on page 16.

Online, that article was headlined “The long, painful history of the Sacramento neighborhood where Stephon Clark was killed.” The specifics of the story were news to me, as they might be for most readers.

I did not know about J.C. Carly, a developer who “wrote racially restrictive language into contracts governing the subdivisions he was planting in the innermost portions of Sacramento’s abundant farmlands.” I didn’t even know about the West End, a racially and economically diverse community that sat near what is now the DOCO District, until it was systematically destroyed.

I did, however, know that the US Federal Housing Administration, for decades, explicitly denied mortgages based on race and ethnicity, thereby institutionalizing segregation and racism. Without being aware of the details, I knew why neighborhoods like South Sacramento and Del Paso Heights have fewer parks and libraries than Midtown or East Sac. As Pyke’s article reminds us, we live in a culture that was driven, in much too-large part, by racist ignorance and hatred.

The FHA ended its racist practices in 1968, the year MLK died, partly thanks to his work. That was not the end of institutionalized racism. There is a lot of work left to be done, nationwide and here in Sacramento. If the arc of history is to bend, it’s going to be because we bend it.