San Antonio couple shocked by racist clause in property deed

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SAN ANTIONIO, TX (WOAI) — A San Antonio couple says they were shocked to find a racist clause in the deed to their new home.

“My own grandfather told us never to bring a black person home,” says San Antonio resident Maggie Rios.

Times have changed and Rios is now engaged to a black man.

Her fiancé, Fidel Simmons grew up in Barbados and while he remembers feeling the sting of prejudice, it is not something he thought would be thrown in his face in 2016.

“You might see certain things in text books, but nothing that I thought could impact me in this day and age,” Simmons says.

Just a few days before they were scheduled to close on their new property, Rios was going through documents from the title company.

“That’s when I saw the clause and I said, have you read what’s in here?” Rios recalls.

She remembers bringing the deed restrictions over to her fiancé to read the offensive, racist wording she had just seen.

The deed stated, “No lot, site, structure or dwelling, with the exception of bona fide domestic servant’s quarters shall be used or occupied by any person, or persons, other than members of the Caucasian race.”

“I actually saw kind of hurt in his face,” Rios says. “It was a different kind of angry than I’ve seen before.”

The language of the deed made Rios and Simmons question if the document was even valid.

“I don’t think anybody should have to read that and still wonder is this still valid and then see the hurt,” Rios said.

Under the civil Rights Act, passed in 1968, race-based contract restrictions are unenforceable.

“What is the point of even having them or attaching to it?” Rios asked. “If it’s no longer valid then it shouldn’t be there.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 makes race-based covenant restrictions unenforceable, but the title company said these documents are included in the chain because of the valid restrictions that they also have. The title also has a list of exceptions, invalid portions that violate the Civil Rights Act.

Simmons said that he thinks the historical language should stay, despite its racist and offensive nature.

“The ugly truth needs to come out because if it doesn’t come out, any individual can rewrite history,” he said.

Simmons also thinks the entire situation could have been handled better.

“If it came with a warning saying, listen I know you’re going to buy this property but understand this is the history of this property,” Simmons said.

Gerard Rickhoff, who is the Bexar County Clerk, says that there thousands of deeds with racist restrictions in the U.S. and that the online versions have an explainer.

“It makes it clear to people that we’re not going to entertain that kind of thinking in modern society,” he said.

Rickhoff also said that the county would consider putting an online warning system in place that property owners could read before reading the deeds.

“The next best idea could come in the door, as it did today. Of course we’re going to embrace and we’ll look into it and we’ll have an internal dialogue about it,” he said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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