Posted on July 16, 2004

A Sign Of Another Time: ‘For Whites Only’

Mike Burkett, West Valley View (AZ), July 14, 2004

An official with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said her department hadn’t encountered such a sight in 50 years. The director of the federal Housing and Urban Development’s Phoenix field office said, “We’ve never seen anything like it. I’m amazed, just amazed.” Both were reacting to a pair of signs placed in front of an upscale Waddell.

The first reads: “For sale by owner.”

The second reads: “4 whites only.”

The owner of the did not return repeated telephone calls. But his sign is getting him plenty of attention.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office, which enforces the federal Fair Housing Act and other related statutes, dispatched a photographer to take pictures of the Monday afternoon, according to Ann Woodley, litigation sections chief of the Civil Rights Division.

And Rebecca Flanagan, director of the HUD Phoenix field office, told the West Valley View, “This is blatantly illegal under the Fair Housing Law. HUD will pursue once a complaint is filed. We . . . will be in touch with local Fair Housing agencies, Arizona Attorney General and the Phoenix Fair Housing Center.”

But first, as Flanagan said, a complaint from a neighbor or passerby must be filed. Until then, neither the Attorney General’s Office nor HUD can do anything. As of midday Tuesday, however, no complaint had been filed.

A sign of another time

Ironically, July 2004 marks the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the nation’s most comprehensive civil rights law. The Fair Housing Act, which was added to the Civil Rights Act in 1968, was designed to eliminate discrimination in housing based upon an individual’s race, color, religion or national origin.

The Act was amended in 1974 to prohibit discrimination based on sex, and amended again in 1988 to include the prohibition of discrimination based on handicap or familial status.

“A person may not refuse to sell or rent after a bona fideIn Arizona, according to state law, offer has been made or refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of or otherwise make unavailable or deny a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin.”

The statute further states that “A person may not discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in providing services or facilities in connection with the sale or rental, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status or national origin.”

But before either of these laws can be enforced, a complaint must be filed by someone who is offended, someone who believes such discrimination isn’t right, someone who feels discriminated against.

That hasn’t happened. “I haven’t seen the sign, but I’ve heard about it,” said Donald Miller, who lives down the street from them. “It sounds like he might be a little prejudiced. But it doesn’t bother me.”

“I think it’s stupid,” said another neighbor, Annie Bosley. “This is 2004, not the 1960s. But it’s his house. We can’t tell him not to.”