New York Law School

The Challenge of Black Commentators in the Obama Era

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

The Promise of the Sleeping Giant: Title VI and LDF’s Specialized High School Desegregation Complaint

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

Racial Justice Project Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Congressman John Lewis

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.

Black Youth Are More Exposed to Alcohol

Turn to your favorite hip-hop TV station.  Watch the advertisements. Open up the latest issue of Jet or Vibe magazine.  Turn on the radio.  It’s everywhere—the African American youth culture is knee deep in alcohol exposure.  A recent study published by John Hopkins University Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) reinforces that it’s time to begin implementing some changes.

On September 27, 2012, CAMY released a study putting some concrete data findings behind their concerns of marketing to Black youth.  The focus of the CAMY study was to: (1) analyze exposure of alcohol advertising by type and brand among Black youth ages 12-20 in comparison to all youth ages 12-20; and (2) assess the exposure of Black youth ages 12-20 to alcohol advertising relative to Black adults and all adults, and accordingly the extent to which Black youth were exposed to more alcohol advertising relative to adults in magazines, on radio, and on television.

The bottom line: African Americans ages 12 to 20, generally consuming more media than other non-African American youth, are exposed to far more alcohol advertisements on TV and in magazines than youth in general. Read more

2013 Symposium Announced: Remembering the Dream, Renewing the Dream

SAVE THE DATE! Friday, September 13, 2013 at New York Law School

Remembering the Dream, Renewing the Dream: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” Speech and the March on Washington

On the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and the March on Washington, leaders of the civil rights movement will join prominent civil and human rights attorneys and legal scholars to reflect on the impact Dr. King’s speech and the March had on the civil rights movement, examine civil rights enforcement in the federal courts, and discuss the legacy of these events today and for the future.

For more information or to pre-register, visit the symposium website at www.nyls.edu/RememberingTheDream.

Sponsored by the Justice Action Center at New York Law School, the New York Law School Racial Justice Project, and the New York Law School Law Review. Selected papers presented at the symposium will be published in a future issue of the New York Law School Law Review.

Race-based Education Standards in Florida

In a move that is drawing heavy criticism from parents, educators, school board members, and community advocates, Florida’s State Board of Education just approved a plan that sets educational achievement standards at different levels based on race. Under this new plan, white and Asian students are held to a higher standard than black and Hispanic students, with the expectation that 88% of white students and 90% of Asian students will be reading at grade level by 2018, while only 74% of black students and 81% of Hispanic students are expected to be reach that same goal.  The goals for math proficiency are similar, with the highest targets set for white and Asian students and the lowest set for Hispanic and black students. Read more

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Files Complaint Challenging Specialized High Schools

On September 29, 2012, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”) filed a complaint against the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) and New York State Department of Education (NYSDOE), alleging that the admissions process for New York City’s Specialized High Schools (SHS’s) causes unjustified racially disparate impact, and is therefore in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The admissions process is determined solely by a student’s rank-order score on a multiple-choice exam called the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). LDF’s complaint alleges that this admissions process results in many qualified, high-potential students being denied access to the experiences that New York City’s Specialized High Schools offer. Read more

The Community Safety Act

It can happen anywhere. Walking home from school. Walking to the grocery store. Walking to the subway. Thousands of New Yorkers are stopped and frisked by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers every year.  Stop-and-frisk consists of two separate acts with respective levels of legal justification.  When a police officer has reasonable suspicion that a person is committing, has committed, or is about to commit a crime, the officer may stop that person; however, in order to “frisk” or search that person, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that the person stopped has a deadly weapon or instrument.  Read more

Voter Victory in Texas

Many states have or are trying to pass legislation to make the requirements to vote in an election very costly and complicated—potentially disenfranchising many poor and minority populations around the country. Thankfully though, one of the most suppressive voter identification laws to date will not be in effect this November. Texas Senate Bill 14, a very stringent voter identification bill passed in 2011, was recently declared unconstitutional by a three-judge panel of the District Court of the District of Columbia; marking “the first time a federal court has blocked a restrictive voter ID law.”

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The New Supreme Court Term

Monday, October 1, 2012 marked the commencement of the new term for the United States Supreme Court. This term is filled with controversial issues ranging from same-sex marriage to drug-sniffing dogs. Especially interesting are the race-related cases that are before the Court. The highly anticipated race-conscious admissions case, Fisher v. University of Texas, for which the Court heard oral arguments on October 10, is a very important case. Petitioner Fisher brought this equal protection action against the University of Texas alleging that she was denied admission and passed over for minority students due to UT’s race-conscious admissions program. The primary issue presented is whether race can be considered in admissions programs at institutes of higher education. Read more