One obvious and painful reminder of racial discrimination baked into the law and enforcement of it can be found in deeds across Texas: documents prepared decades ago including covenants that were recorded against a property’s title that prohibited future owners from selling, renting, or allowing the property to be used by people of certain races or ethnicities.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1948 that courts could not enforce these covenants and they became illegal with the 1968 Fair Housing Act. But, more than 50 years later, untold numbers of property deeds in Texas retain the racist and discriminatory language.
This is not the first time Texas lawmakers have introduced a bill to wipe such language out of property documents. But, in this 87th legislative session, Senate Bill 30 looks to have a good chance of making it into law.
Texas Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, is listed as the first author of Senate Bill 30 alongside the rest of his Senate colleagues. Senators unanimously passed the bill out of committee and its low bill number shows it is a priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican.
“He asked me to carry the bill,” West said. “And so I’m the author of the bill. But I was able also to get the other members of the Senate to join.”
West pushes back on criticism that this bill is simply symbolic.
“I think housing discrimination is still an issue in this country,” West said. “And to the poor, unsuspecting person who wants to get a house that may or may not know that you cannot discriminate, and they see that language and they think that that language is still valid language in this country, but obviously it’s not… And it needs to be stricken from the record, if you will, of this country.”
He says though this measure is long overdue, he believes it is better to address the issue of discriminatory language in real estate documents now, rather than later. He says this is also true for issues including police reform and other aspects of fair housing.
“I have other the bills that would say that you cannot discriminate against someone because of the source of their income. And so there’s still a lot of battles out there that we need to fight,” West said.