New Mexico Communities Reflect on Racial Restrictive Covenants

Explicitly racist and exclusionary language remains embedded in many communities' restrictive covenants. State legislators and local leaders want to change that.

March 23, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Exclusionary covenant

elycefeliz / Exclusionary covenant

Although race-based restrictive covenants were rendered unenforceable by the 1968 Fair Housing Act, communities across the country linger in the shadow of their legacy as the language restricting residency remains in many property deeds. Wufei Yu reports on racial covenants in Albuquerque, where mid-century deed restrictions kept Black and Latino residents from buying homes in many parts of the city. 

While "some Albuquerque title companies omitted restrictions based on race, color or national origin, scrubbing the racist language from their covenants," many kept the language in its original form. "In March, High Country News reviewed 10 property deeds in historically white neighborhoods closings and found that four of them still included racially offensive language from the city’s segregated past." Despite New Mexico's multiethnic origins—by 1920, the state was "home to nearly 6,000 African Americans, about 500 Asian Americans and over 19,000 Indigenous people"—a backlash against minorities led to the adoption of the "Alien Land Law" in 1921, which "barred people of Asian descent from owning and leasing real estate." The Alien Land Law wasn't removed from the state's constitution until 2006.

Today, "state Senators Daniel Ivey-Soto and Jerry Ortiz y Pino are drafting a bill that would encourage the removal of all racial covenants," calling the language a dangerous precedent for "viciously racist" policies like the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.

Monday, March 15, 2021 in High Country News

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