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article imageWhites-only legal notice has Massachusetts residents furious

By Kim I. Hartman     Jun 15, 2010 in World
New Bedford - A law firm ran an ad for a foreclosed property recently that stated "whites only" in the property description which has set off a flurry of protests and complaints from both blacks and whites who were offended by the illegal, racist and discriminatory ad.
Harmon Law of Newton, MA recently put a property on the market, stating that the land was for sale to "whites only." A complaint was filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination as a result of the ad posted and more complaints continue to be voiced.
The legal notice advertising the sale was placed in the Standard-Times (and Sunday Standard-Times), based in New Bedford, Massachusetts. They are the largest newspaper covering the South Coast of Massachusetts.
The legal notice, which appeared the end of May was a reprint of the language in the deed of the property, stating:
The said land shall not be sold, leased or rented to any person other than of the Caucasian race.
The statement was placed in the New Bedford Standard-Times.
Such a restriction, once common across America, has been illegal since 1948 but still exists in the old documents that constitute the legal record of a property.
Both the newspaper and the law firm placing the ad have issued an apology.
''We do not condone the language and do not believe that it would be enforceable. It is industry practice to include in the notice of sale the exact legal description as set forth in the mortgage,'' said Harmon Law in a statement.
SouthCoast Media Group Publisher Mary Harrington issued a statement Friday saying: "The Standard-Times published a legal notice for the sale of real estate on May 17 and 24. The notice provided by the advertiser was discriminatory and highly offensive. It was a gross error on our part to publish the notice and we sincerely apologize to our readers."
The clause in the deed for the land at 115 Cottonwood St. reads: "The said land shall not be sold, leased or rented to any person other than of the Caucasian race or to any entity of which any person other than of said race shall be a member, stockholder, officer or director." The development dates back to 1946.
The newspaper said the ads were generated by scanning deeds of properties that have been subject to foreclosure. The high number of foreclosure notices is what led to the oversight and they regret this oversight.
Signs designating rentals available for colored people were as common as signs reading whites only b...
Signs designating rentals available for colored people were as common as signs reading whites only before and during the civil rights movement.
Smithsonian Museum of American History
The apology and explanation are not satisfying everyone who was offended by the advertisement and many have continued to file complaints, make phone calls and write letters to the newspaper, the state government, NAACP as well as MCAD.
Malcolm S. Medley, MCAD chairman and commissioner, said in public statement, "Advertising such a sale may also be unlawful under the statute. Our obligation is to investigate this matter to determine whether a violation of law occurred."
"Such restrictive covenants have long been deemed unlawful and unenforceable under Massachusetts statute, and conveyance of any such deed is expressly prohibited under Massachusetts anti-discrimination law," according to Mr. Medley.
MCAD initiated its own investigation after being informed about the ad, and separately received an individual complaint. "Anyone who is aggrieved by a discriminatory act is invited to file a complaint with the commission, MCAD New Bedford investigator Andre Silva said.
Before the MCAD's announcement Friday, lawyers for the mortgage company that placed the ad declared that they were legally required to include the wording in the deed precisely as it is recorded.
The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow - these signs were common throughout the south even after laws made th...
The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow - these signs were common throughout the south even after laws made them illegal. www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow/
WV University Dept of Education
Boyce Watkins of BV Black Spin said "The ad also reminds us that although our nation has changed dramatically since the days of slavery and Jim Crow, there are quite a few remnants of discrimination in our society. In fact, I would argue that language such as this in a property deed is among the least dangerous forms of residual racism in our society."
Watkins said this was "More damaging reminders of racial inequality, which are created by past racism where African Americans find themselves on the bottom rung of opportunity and access."
More about Racism, Massachusetts, Discrimination, Negro, Whites
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