Yonkers, NY, Traces Yesterday’s Past Black Discrimination That Now Kills Today

historic image of Moquette row, with pavement from house front to house front and no greenery at all
Neighbourhoods like these, with lots of paving and little greenery, help create urban heat islands, and health risks for residents.

Recent protests in the US have focused on current discrimination against Blacks, as well its deep roots in American culture and society since Emancipation. The unrest has triggered calls for reparations for historic injustice, and some states have already begun to consider the issue.

We recently posted an article from California that offered up housing injustice as a possible target for reparation efforts.1 One strong argument in favour of housing reparations is the visible footprint of decades and centuries of active discrimination that still exist.

In this regard it can be quite unlike the discrimination of universities that received applications but didn’t consider any of the Black applicants, or businesses that advertised for employees but never even interviewed a Black person. These are actions that seldom leave a trace of the actual moments of discrimination. Those unrecorded moments merely accumulate through time, and are revealed as patterns of adverse results.

What kind of ‘discriminatory residue’ still exists in the world of housing? For some of the examples that have been of great consequence not only to individuals but to their communities, read more in LOHUD:  Yonkers sees higher temps in areas impacted by discriminatory housing practice: Study

The results of this particular study trace many decades of discrimination. Chasing concrete physical evidence as a pathway towards reparations however, has its problems, just as more ephemeral evidence does. For example, the characteristics of underserved neighbourhoods in Yonkers that have produced heat islands — lack of local tree cover, for example — cannot in the present repair discrimination that may have been once directed at Blacks alone. Today, community investment to redress heat islands might well benefit not only Blacks, but other minorities who over time have come to share the neighbourhood.


  1. Try: Black Reparations? Housing Opportunities As A Suitable Direction For Action