Educational Component

Civil Rights Act

Aug 12, 2015     admin   0 Comment     Educational Component

“Cases like this one in Beavercreek are critical to lift up for at least three reasons. One, it allows other communities, that may be victimized by policies that have a disparate impact, to be aware of their legal options. Two, it might incentivize the federal government to step in in other areas where they have not in the past and to be aggressive and forthright as we’ve seen the Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration be in this situation and their findings. Three, it helps to educate and inform local and state governments, the other recipients of federal aid, of their obligations under civil rights laws and that they cannot have policies that are neutral on their face, but disproportionately harm certain communities.” – Lexar Quamie, Senior Counsel with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund

Federal law in the United States prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, or ethnic background. In the case of Free to Ride, we see the implications of federal anti-discrimination laws and how they can be used by community members who believe that their rights have been violated.

History of Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was arguably the most significant piece of civil rights legislation to come out of the United States Congress at the time of its passage in over 100 years. The legislation was originally sent to Congress by President John F. Kennedy in June of 1963. It was a fiercely controversial bill, with debate on the floor of the United States Senate lasting 82 consecutive days due to a filibuster from opponents before it was finally passed. This remains the longest filibuster in the history of the Senate.[1]

Ultimately, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 289-126 and the Senate by a vote of 73 to 27. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Act into law on July 2, 1964. The original text of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been amended a number of times by Congress, with noteworthy amendments taking place in 1972 and 1991.[2]

Generally, the United States Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the Court continues to interpret portions of the Act, its overall goals and legitimacy have been solidified.[3]

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: What the Law Says

“Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.” – President John F. Kennedy[4]

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 expressly prohibits discrimination on basis of race, gender, religion, and ethnic background. The Act contains eleven different titles which focus on addressing discrimination in different aspects of life, creating agencies to enforce or implement parts of the Act, and establishing processes for enforcing the Act. According to the Encyclopedia of the United States Supreme Court, the substantive heart of the Act are Titles II, III, IV, VI, and VII. These Titles take action like prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations, continuing the desegregation public schools, and requiring nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs.[5]

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

When lawyers from Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) partnered with the local faith-based grassroots community organization, Leaders for Equality and Action in Dayton (LEAD), they identified Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as the best legal avenue for bringing their complaint against the City of Beavercreek. Their grievance was based on the denial of the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Administration’s (GDRTA) application for bus stops along the Pentagon Boulevard corridor:

“You need to take a look at all the possible laws that could apply to figure out where your leverage is and then you got to kind of understand how you get the leverage by applying those laws. In this instance, we came upon Title VI of the Civil Rights Act which says that if you’re accepting federal benefits, you a public entity, are accepting federal benefits, you’re going to be obliged to make sure that in all of your programs that you’re not discriminating against folks based upon race or national origin.” – Ellis Jacobs, Senior Attorney, ABLE

ABLE’s complaint to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) alleged that Beavercreek’s decision to deny bus stop access along Pentagon Boulevard was a violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Furthermore, they believed that Department of Transportation policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race had been violated, and this action had a disparate impact on Dayton’s communities of color.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.”[6] Title VI was one of the most debated provisions of the overall Act and was argued to be necessary for five reasons listed below[7]:

  1. Even though the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education by the United States’ Supreme Court had deemed “separate but equal” practices unconstitutional, there were still federal financial assistance statutes that were technically operating under the “separate but equal” doctrine. Title VI eliminated any question of unconstitutionality of these statutes.
  2. Title VI made it clear to federal agencies that they had the constitutional authority to prohibit discrimination under the jurisdiction of their programs.
  3. Title VI ensured that Congressional policy on the issue of discrimination was “uniform” and permanent. Congress would no longer need to debate the nondiscrimination clauses into the text of any and all bills dealing with the financing of federal funding programs.
  4. Title VI was seen as an “efficient” alternative to litigating the constitutionality of discrimination. For example, instead of groups having to bring discrimination lawsuits against individual federal agencies, Title VI made it clear that such discrimination was illegal without rulings from the courts.
  5. Federal funding was still being regularly used for programs and policies that discriminated against people on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

The Civil Rights Act in Action

“And as strange as it may sound, many federal recipients, I would venture to say 80–90% of federal recipients, do not understand their responsibilities under Title VI.” – Warren Whitlock, Associate Administrator for Civil Rights at the Federal Highway Administration

To initiate a complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the offended party has two options. The first is to file an administrative complaint directly with the federal agency that oversees the allocation of federal funding dollars which are being used in a discriminatory manner. The second is to file a legal suit in federal court on the issue of federal funding being used in a discriminatory manner.[8]

If a beneficiary of federal funding dollars is found to have discriminated against a person or group because of their race, color, or national origin, they are in violation of Title VI and the federal agency works to bring the beneficiary back into legal standing through voluntary compliance. While Title VI actually deals with the prohibition of intentional discrimination, many federal funding agencies have regulations that prohibit all discrimination in these circumstances, even if there is no intent to discriminate. The constitutionality of these agency regulations has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court.[9] If voluntary compliance cannot be achieved, the Department of Justice recommends that the agency begin the process of terminating federal funding to the offending party or turn the matter over to the Department of Justice for further legal proceedings.[10]

In Free to Ride, the City of Beavercreek was brought into voluntary compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act when they reexamined the GDRTA’s application for bus stops along the Pentagon Boulevard corridor. After the passage of the application for these stops by City Council, no further action was required by the Federal Highway Administration and the issue was not referred to the Department of Justice for further legal proceedings.

“So the Beavercreek case is important because it provides a glimpse into how discrimination can seep into transportation planning. And in many ways it’s instructive for a lot of other advocates around the country. So what we see here is that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act it provides a platform for discussion about issues of disproportionate impact, discrimination, which are really important. These are issues that otherwise wouldn’t come to the floor when we talk about transportation planning. So it’s a really important tool. It’s a tool that’s actually been used by other advocates, in other places. It really forces a necessary discussion and puts issues on the table that are important. So for example, in Oakland, California, advocates there used Title VI to really call to question the wisdom of spending millions of dollars on a planned transportation system that was going to focus on the needs of airport travelers, at the expense of some of the bus riders who were living in and around the Oakland airport. Then in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Title VI was used to call to question the wisdom of planning a new light rail line that was focused, pretty exclusively, on shuttling commuters from the suburbs into the Twin Cities and leaving behind some of the most transit dependent populations, inside of the Twin Cities. Leaving them stranded without options that they desperately needed. And that was adding insult to injury in those communities, because those are also communities that were torn apart by some of the freeway construction that happened in the 1950s and 60s. So Title VI is a really important tool, and coupled with strong community engagement and equity assessments, really helped to ensure that transportation actually connects people to opportunity rather than cutting them off from opportunity.” – Anita Hariston, Associate Director, PolicyLink

Disparate Impact

“…disparate impact is not just a way of proving discrimination when you don’t have overt statements of intent. By seeking relief from disparate impact, really what you’re doing, you’re taking into consideration the historical context within which something exists.” – Ellis Jacobs, Senior Attorney, ABLE

Disparate impact theory deals with actions or practices that are “nondiscriminatory on their face but have a disproportionately negative effect on members of legally protected groups.”[11] By eliminating the need to prove discriminatory intent, it is easier to prove in the court of law that policies and actions negatively impact certain protected groups of citizens.

Historically, disparate impact has played an important role in the ongoing legal battle for civil rights in the context of many different types of equity issues. In a notable recent case, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a key ruling regarding the spatial geography of low-income housing. In Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs vs. Inclusive Communities Project, a local housing group argued that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs was issuing too many tax credits to builders to develop affordable housing in predominantly poor, minority areas.[12] At the center of this decision was the theory of disparate impact: as long as there was a discriminatory effect on minority citizens, there is no need to prove discriminatory intent in the actions of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. After the ruling, Attorney General of the United States, Loretta Lynch, stated “I am pleased that the Supreme Court has affirmed that the Fair Housing Act encompasses disparate impact claims, which are an essential tool for realizing the Act’s promise of fair and open access to housing opportunities for all Americans. While our nation has made tremendous progress since the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, disparate impact claims remain an all-too-necessary mechanism for rooting out discrimination in housing and lending.”[13]

“What we claimed and what we showed was that there was a disparate impact. In other words, African-Americans utilize the bus service disproportionately. And if you bar the buses, you’re going to have a disproportionate impact on the African-American community. Beavercreek is 3% African-American. The city of Dayton where the bus that they wanted to run there comes from is more than 40% African-American. More than 70% of the riders on the RTA buses are minorities. So the statistics make it very clear that if you bar buses from your community, you’re going to have a disparate impact on minorities.” – Ellis Jacobs, Senior Attorney, ABLE

In Free to Ride we see how disparate impact can be applied in the case of transportation inequality. ABLE and LEAD did not have to prove to FHWA to the City of Beavercreek had intentionally discriminated against people of color by denying bus stop access along the Pentagon Boulevard corridor. Instead, the complainants only had to demonstrate that by denying the bus stop permits, Beavercreek City Council’s actions had a disproportionate effect on people of color.

“This was about three bus stops on one stretch of road, and not about race or certain kinds of people or public transit in general. The Federal Highway report says we ran a racially neutral process, and that often gets left out of any stories.” — Vicki Giambrone, former Beavercreek Mayor, (Slate Magazine)[14]

“The disparate impact theory really stems from 1970s litigation that says a policy that is facially neutral, cannot have an impact that disproportionately affects minorities, people of color. It removes the need to show actual discriminatory intent, so it takes motive out of the question. But, it looks at a policy that is neutral on its face, but somehow has a disproportionate affect, disproportionately affects or disproportionately harms certain communities. So, disparate impact has really been used, first in employment is where we saw, in employment discrimination, but it’s also spanned into other areas such as housing, education, and of course, transportation.” – Lexar Quamie, Senior Counsel with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund

Conclusion:

The preservation of anti-discrimination laws is important because they still have many implications in the America of today. The current face of discrimination is not what it has been historically in the United States. As we see in Free to Ride, discrimination does not have to be overt, or explicit. Discrimination can be found in the ways that we build our communities and decisions that are made may have a disproportionately negative effect on people who fall into the protected classes outlined in civil rights legislation.

“So the Beavercreek case is important because it provides a glimpse into how discrimination can seep into transportation planning. And in many ways it’s instructive for a lot of other advocates around the country. So what we see here is that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act it provides a platform for discussion about issues of disproportionate impact, discrimination, which are really important. These are issues that otherwise wouldn’t come to the floor when we talk about transportation planning. So it’s a really important tool. It’s a tool that’s actually been used by other advocates, in other places. It really forces a necessary discussion and puts issues on the table that are important.” – Anita Hariston, Associate Director, PolicyLink

Additional Readings:

VIDEO: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act – http://www.justice.gov/crt/video/title-vi-civil-rights-act-1964

Affordable Housing, Racial Isolation – http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/29/opinion/affordable-housing-racial-isolation.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0

America’s Unfair Rules of the Road – http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/02/america_s_transportation_system_discriminates_against_minorities_and_poor.single.html

Discussion Questions:

What are some areas of your life where you see discrimination occurring?

Can you think of any examples of policies or government activities that might affect different groups of people in different ways?

Look at the policies of your own community. Does your local government have a nondiscrimination ordinance? If not, do you think they should? What groups of people should they be protecting from discrimination?

Bibliography

Chambers, H. (2008). Civil Rights Act of 1964. In D. Tanenhaus (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court of the United States (Vol. 1, pp. 326-331). Gale, Cengage Learning.

Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. (2015) Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Statement on the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project Inc. [press release]. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-loretta-e-lynch-statement-us-supreme-court-ruling-texas-department-housing

Title VI of The Civil Rights Act Of 1964 42 U.S.C. 2000d Et Seq. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/crt/title-vi-civil-rights-act-1964-42-usc-2000d-et-seq

U.S. Department of Justice. (2011). Title VI Legal Manual. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2011/06/23/vimanual.pdf

Ramey, C. (2015, February 27). America’s Unfair Rules of the Road. Slate.

Russo, C. (Ed.). (2010). Disparate Impact. In Encyclopedia of Law and Higher Education (pp. 128–130). SAGE Publications.

The Supreme Court Keeps the Fair Housing Law Effective. (2015, June 25). The New York Times.
Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/26/opinion/the-supreme-court-keeps-the-fair-housing-law-effective.html?_r=0


[1] Chambers, H. (2008). Civil Rights Act of 1964. In D. Tanenhaus (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court of the United States (Vol. 1, pp. 326-331). Gale, Cengage Learning

[2] Chambers, H. (2008).

[3] Chambers, H. (2008).

[4] Title VI Of The Civil Rights Act Of 1964 42 U.S.C. 2000d Et Seq. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/crt/title-vi-civil-rights-act-1964-42-usc-2000d-et-seq

[5] Chambers, H. (2008).

[6] Title VI Of The Civil Rights Act Of 1964 42 U.S.C. 2000d Et Seq. (2015).

[7] U.S. Department of Justice. (2011). Title VI Legal Manual. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2011/06/23/vimanual.pdf

[8] Title VI Of The Civil Rights Act Of 1964 42 U.S.C. 2000d Et Seq. (2015)

[9] Russo, C. (Ed.). (2010). Disparate Impact. In Encyclopedia of Law and Higher Education (pp.

128-130). SAGE Publications.

[10] Title VI Of The Civil Rights Act Of 1964 42 U.S.C. 2000d Et Seq. (2015)

[11] Russo, C. (Ed.). (2010).

[12] The Supreme Court Keeps the Fair Housing Law Effective. (2015, June 25). The New York Times.

Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/26/opinion/the-supreme-court-keeps-the-fair-housing-law-effective.html?_r=0

[13] Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. (2015) Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch

Statement on the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communites Project Inc. [press release]. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-loretta-e-lynch-statement-us-supreme-court-ruling-texas-department-housing

[14] Ramey, C. (2015, February 27). America’s Unfair Rules of the Road. Slate.

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