The upcoming Supreme Court docket promises to settle two salient issues relevant to racial justice. The first, Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, Inc. v. Township of Mt. Holly involves discrimination in the housing market. The second, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action continues the discussion of diversity in the college admission process, in the context of a Michigan amendment that prohibits the consideration of race on collegiate applications.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education held that equal access to public education is essential to the progress of a democratic nation. By law, race could no longer be used to exclude children from school. Brown’s promise of equal educational opportunity has never been fully realized in New York City. It continues to be impeded by harsh disciplinary and school safety policies that disproportionately exclude low-income students, black students, Latino students and students with disabilities from classrooms. As a result, these students are denied Brown’s guarantee of equal access to an education, adding to their greater risk of being pushed through the school-to-prison pipeline (STPP).
On September 13, 2013, New York Law School had the pleasure of hosting a few of the most progressive civil rights lawyers and social justice advocates at our Racial Justice Symposium, Remembering the Dream, Renewing the Dream. We were also proud to host several of the Civil Rights Movement’s pioneers, including Clarence Jones, Dr. King’s lawyer, adviser and one of our featured panelists. During the “Fierce Urgency of Now” panel, Jones discussed the March on Washington, its history and how Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech came to be. Mr. Jones also discussed some of the statistics and issues facing minorities today, such as the correlation between single-parent homes and poverty rates for African-Americans. The discussions of the day concentrated on the challenges social justice advocates face in modern society and the strategies they can utilize to counteract issues such as apathy within the community.
One of the most controversial topics in the field of family law is transracial adoption (“TRA”). While this term technically includes the practice of minority families adopting white children, the debate on TRA mostly centers around adoption of minority children by white families. Opponents of the practice claim that TRA deprives children of cultural identity because they do not have a role model of the same race. Proponents of TRA believe that the concern of maintaining a child’s racial identity can be addressed in other ways, and the paramount focus should be on placing the child in a loving adoptive home. Read more
On September 11, 2011, Shoshana Hebshi boarded Flight 623 en route from San Francisco, California to Detroit, Michigan. Ms. Hebshi, a 35 year-old American born and raised in California, was returning home from a Labor Day weekend spent visiting her sister. While she anticipated that security would likely be increased on the ten year anniversary of 9/11, the daughter of a Saudi man and Jewish woman had no inkling that her journey home would culminate with her being arrested, detained and strip searched, solely because of her ethnicity, and because she had the “misfortune” of being seated between two men of South Asian origin. Read more
The phrase “school-to-prison-pipeline” has been heard frequently around the country over the past several years as schools have shifted towards implementation of zero tolerance policies that criminalize student behavior, resulting in students entering the criminal justice system for offenses that would once have warranted a trip to the principal’s office, after-school detention, or a meeting with parents to discuss the behavior. Even more disturbing is the fact that African-American, Latino, LGBT and disabled students are disproportionately impacted by these policies. The school-to-prison-pipeline is exactly what it sounds like; a pipeline through which students are pushed out of schools and into the criminal justice system due to a national trend in schools criminalizing minor infractions and handing over control of school discipline to law enforcement. Instead of counseling or educational assistance, students are criminally punished for minor infractions and introduced to the juvenile justice system at an early age, increasing the likelihood that they will return to the system in the future. Read more
Political commentary has certainly been contentious since the election of President Barack Obama. However, a new phenomenon has arisen since the election of the nation’s first black president: differing opinions of black commentators regarding their criticism of President Obama, especially regarding issues of race. This has led to two sharp extremes: some steadfastly defend the President on all accounts, while others have harshly criticized him, using incredibly inflammatory rhetoric in the process. Read more
On November 15, 2012 the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education launched its investigation into the admissions test for New York City’s Specialized High Schools, in response to the complaint filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in September of 2012 (read more in our R2J Post of November 28, 2012). Considering the ahistorical and decontextualized approach the Supreme Court has taken when considering school segregation under the Equal Protection Clause, I can only hope that the Office of Civil Rights is able to awaken what U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Thomas Perez, has called the “sleeping giant”—Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Read more
Today the NYLS Racial Justice Project filed an amicus brief on behalf of Congressman John Lewis in Shelby County v. Holder, a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in February.
Congressman Lewis is recognized as one of the “Big Six” leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, along with Dr. King, Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, James Farmer and Roy Wilkins. He was one of the planners and keynote speakers at the March on Washington in August 1963.
On March 7, 1965, Congressman Lewis led one of the most dramatic protests of the Civil Rights Movement. The day came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” That day Congressman Lewis led protestors over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. At the end of the bridge, they were met by Alabama State Troopers. When the marchers stopped to pray, the police discharged tear gas and mounted troopers charged the demonstrators, beating them with night sticks. Congressman Lewis was severely beaten and his skull was fractured. Today, political historians and constitutional scholars acknowledge that Bloody Sunday was the main impetus for President Lyndon Johnson submitting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to Congress on March 15, 1965.
The Racial Justice Project’s brief attests to the high price many paid for the enactment of the Voting Rights Act and discusses the mechanisms that continue to suppress, dilute, and infringe upon minorities’ constitutional right to vote. To read the brief, click here.