With two weeks left in the term, the Supreme Court is set to deliver a series of high profile rulings on civil right cases. As early as Monday, the Court could hand down its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, a case that challenges Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Section 5 mandates that nine states and 56 additional counties receive preclearance by the Department of Justice before making any changes to voting laws which might discriminate against minorities. Seven years ago Congress overwhelmingly reauthorized Section 5 for another 25 years, affirming that the law still plays a critical role in ensuring fair and equal voting rights. Yet, opponents of Section 5 claim that race-based discrimination is no longer present to the extent that justifies such legal protection.
Melissa Harris-Perry guest host Ari Melber and his Sunday panel discussed the scope of structural racism today and whether it requires legal protection and remedy in the case of voting rights. “Every single indicator, shows the continued existence of racism,” said Jelani Cobb, director of the Institute of African American Studies at the University of Connecticut.
Rather than overt interpersonal racism, this discrimination is more covert and structurally based, often occurring via policies with disparate impact.
Cobb pointed to two reports issued this week as evidence of continued race-based discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced on Tuesday that it has filed suit against Dollar General and BMW for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by basing employment policies on criminal background checks that have a disparate impact on African-Americans.
Also on Tuesday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released its 2012 report “Housing Discrimination Against Racial and Ethnic Minorities.” The report found that, while blatant race-based housing discrimination is declining, unequal treatment continues to persist. In a paired-test study, HUD found that black, Asian and Hispanic renters and homebuyers are told about and shown fewer homes and apartments than white renters and home buyers.