Yesterday the U. S. Supreme Court, Scotus for short, issued two important decisions. The Court’s decision upholding the subsidy provision of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, overshadowed another much more important decision. That was the decision in a Dallas, Texas case called Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. The case was brought to address the issue of whether the Department of Housing and Community Affairs was issuing tax credits to housing developers in a way that concentrated housing in mostly black neighborhoods. The issue revolved around whether the plaintiffs bringing the lawsuit needed to prove discriminatory intent or motive or whether the disparate impact of certain practices was sufficient proof of discrimination.
The housing decision comes amid what we know is a move toward a “race neutral” or “post racial” America. The decision was watched by legal analysts to see if the Supreme Court would continue to chip away at the last vestiges of “considerations of race” on a wide spectrum, from college admission to hiring and firing decisions. What we know is that the current Supreme Court has made it clear in decision after decision that race should not be included as a matter of preferential treatment—never mind that white women are the largest beneficiaries of affirmative action—never mind that. Even though we know that race still plays a significant role in hirings, firings, arrests, incarcerations, school discipline, and matters of voting rights of African Americans, there is still a strong legal undercurrent to avoid serious issues of race discrimination that are still the “order of the day.” It is almost impossible to win an employment discrimination case without proving “intent to discriminate,” a standard almost impossible to meet unless there is a “smoking gun” of someone caught on tape using racial slurs or other overt acts of bias and racism.
The decision in the Dallas fair housing case upheld the right to bring a lawsuit under the federal fair housing statute, alleging disparate impact as opposed to discriminatory intent or motive. The Court agreed with the Inclusive Communities Project that disparate impact could be used to bring a lawsuit under the federal fair housing statute. The Court’s decision used the terms, “disguised animus” and “unconscious prejudice” to address hidden, not so overt, acts of discrimination by housing officials in Dallas. But this case should have wider ramifications than Dallas. I wonder how the City of Amarillo can justify its own employment numbers. As I have mentioned in another column, I recently made an Open Records request to the City of Amarillo requesting information on city employees who earn more than $60,000. I requested race and gender information. The City of Amarillo responded with information showing that there were 512 employees earning more than $60,000. Of the 512, 407 were white males, 42 were Hispanic males, no Hispanic females, 6 were African American males, no African American females, 44 were white females, 3 were Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 1 was American Indian/Alaskan Native. The Amarillo police force has 357 employees, 283 are white males, 19 white females, 6 African Americans, 45 Hispanics, no African American females work for the Amarillo police department. The Amarillo fire department has 252 employees, 233 are white males, 3 are white females, 1 African American, 15 Hispanics, no African American females. The question to be asked is whether the City of Amarillo is engaging in discrimination under “disguised animus” or” unconscious prejudice.” Let me answer this question with a new book.
The book, Reproducing Racism: How Everyday Choices Lock in White Advantage” written by Daria Roithmayr, explains how the City of Amarillo’s workforce can consistently and persistently exist, mostly white and male dominated with higher salaries, without challenge. Roithmayr is a law professor at the University of California at Berkley and she says unequivocally that white advantage in America is a self-reinforcing monopoly that has been carried over from generation to generation and will not disappear even if racism does. What she says is that that racial inequality lives on because white advantage functions as a powerful self-reinforcing monopoly, reproducing itself automatically from generation to generation even in the absence of intentional discrimination. Drawing on work in antitrust law and a range of other disciplines, Roithmayr compares the dynamics of white advantage to the unfair tactics of giants like AT&T and Microsoft. Using data and statistics Roithmayr locates the engine of white monopoly in positive feedback loops that connect the dramatic disparity of Jim Crow to modern racial gaps in jobs, housing and education. But is there more going on in hiring and promotion decisions with the City of Amarillo? Is there “disguised animus” or “unconscious prejudice” at play? And, mind you, other employers across Amarillo are not exempt from this discussion, especially Amarillo Independent School District, AISD where the data is worse that the City of Amarillo.
The recent “take down that confederate flag” controversy is a good place to start to address ongoing “disguised animus” toward African Americans in America. It is real and not just perceived. It is real in every nuance of the socio-economic fabric of America. It is an unbroken chain of disparate treatment of African Americans beginning with slavery. The black-white wealth disparity is proof that “something be wong” in America—when the average white net worth is $141,000 and black net worth is $11,000. Roithmayr’s book explains this disparity easily by pointing to generational racism. This racism has persisted even though “latter day” white beneficiaries of “old racism” have directly benefitted from the overt and conscious acts of racism of their parents and grandparents. These “latter day” white beneficiaries are quick to throw up their hands and say, “I didn’t own any slaves.” But they are woefully or willfully ignorant on the direct link between their continued favored economic status which is a direct result of generational racism. There is just no breaking through the “I didn’t own any slave” mentality. But what we do know is that “disguised animus” and “unconscious prejudices,” generationally linked, are alive and well in America and in Amarillo, Texas. Too bad some of these big-rig chasing Panhandle lawyers don’t have the balls to take on race discrimination cases that the Supreme Court’s fair housing decision just blew wide open. Oh I forgot, they need a client.
Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.