The State of Obesity

By: Kosta Patsiopoulos

In September 2014, The State of Obesity published an article analyzing statewide efforts to prevent obesity in black communities. The analysis explains the obesity disparity between African Americans and Whites (47.8% of African Americans are obese whereas 32.6% of Whites are obese). These disparities seem to be directly correlated to the “[a]ccess to affordable, healthy food”, “[h]igher exposure to marketing of less nutritious foods”, and “[l]imited access to safe places to be physically active”. The significance of these inequalities corresponds with “obesity related healthcare costs for preventable diseases”.
In the past few years, progress has been made, starting with school children. In fact, Philadelphia’s strategy to close the racial obesity gap among children has been successful. Over the past decade, the City of Philadelphia removed sodas and sugar-sweetened drinks from public school vending machines, banned deep fryers in school kitchens, and switched all milks served at school to 1 percent and skim milk. Furthermore, the City of Philadelphia created “new financing methods to attract grocers to open stores in lower-income neighborhood . . . .” Between 2006 and 2010 there was a 5 percent reduction in the obesity rates among children in kindergarten through twelfth grade. More notably, the most significant decline was among African American boys at 7.6 percent.
Public health starts with incorporating a healthy diet into our lifestyles; however, equal access to and knowledge of healthy foods need to be readily available to all races and throughout all neighborhoods. Small changes, similar to those made in the City of Philadelphia, go a long way. Imagine what the reduction in the obesity rates would have been among the citizens of Philadelphia if the City of Philadelphia implemented this “school-strategy” throughout the entire city.

Source: The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, Special Report: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Obesity (September 2014), http://stateofobesity.org/disparities/blacks/

Taxi Cab Drivers, Racial Profiling and Apps

By: Nicole Danner

Although cities such as Washington, D.C. and New York City have strict penalties (such as fines or license suspension) in place for taxi cab drivers who discriminate against potential customers based on race or destination, taxi cab drivers still take part in racial profiling. According to a study in Washington, D.C., although dressed similarly, taxi cab drivers are less likely to stop for black individuals than for white individuals. Additionally, many black individuals have experienced the effects of racial profiling in daily life (e.g. standing in bad weather for long periods of time, or arriving late to appointments or to pick up their children because of the extended amount of time it takes to hail a cab).
As a result, many individuals, especially those of color, are embracing a new service provided by ride-sharing apps (such as Uber and Lyft) for transportation. These ride-sharing apps provide transportation to individual’s moments after submitting a request. An Uber spokesman stated “[w]ith 4 in 10 Uber trips starting or ending in neighborhoods underserved by taxis, Uber is ensuring that no rider is rejected because of who they are, where they live or where they want to go.”
Increased use of these services has caught the attention of traditional taxi cab drivers. Services like Uber and Lyft are not subject to the same regulations as taxi cab drivers and may charge lower rates, as a result, taxi cab drivers are losing customers. Taxi cab drivers claim they cannot compete with ride-sharing apps and drivers of such services should be subject to the same regulations as taxi cab drivers.
As word of these ride-sharing app services continue to spread, it will be interesting to see what changes, if any, are taken by those in the taxi cab industry.
Source:
Gene Demby, Apps Make Googly Eyes At Riders Tired of Being Snubbed By Cabbies, WUIS National Public Radio (Oct. 21, 2014, 11:50AM), available at http://wuis.org/post/apps-make-googly-eyes-riders-tired-being-snubbed-cabbies.

Marijuana Reform

By: Lee Molitoris

Legalizing marijuana would benefit the low-income African American community and the United States’ economy. While the current drugs laws are not on their face discriminatory, in practice they have the effect of discriminating against the low-income African Americans. African Americans make up a disproportionate percentage of those arrested for possession. Many low-income African-American men turn to selling marijuana to support their families, and police departments tend to patrol “high crime” areas where a disproportionate number of these African Americans live. Legalizing marijuana would reduce the number of arrests and racial profiling of African Americans, allowing them to support their families and lessen the numbers sent to prisons.
Legalizing Marijuana would also have a beneficial impact on the economy. The government would save billions of dollars they currently spend on the enforcement, education, and prevention of drugs, including marijuana. The government would also save a proportion of the $22,000 they spend annually per prisoner. By legalizing marijuana, the government would then be able to tax marijuana sales and growers. For example, a proposed California bill, A.B. 390, has been projected to generate $990 million in taxes from the fee imposed on sellers of marijuana and another $349 million generated from the sale of every fifty ounces of marijuana sold. Therefore, legalizing marijuana could have a beneficial impact on African Americans by reducing arrests and incarcerations, and aiding the economy by generating tax revenue.

Is the “online you” creating your racial profile?

By: Ryan Logan

Have you ever bought a car? A house? Maybe even a boat? Did you walk away from the deal thinking, “I definitely got the best price I could have.” If you’re like the rest of us, you probably have some regret that you didn’t save that extra one, two, or three hundred dollars. Everyone wants to save money, but not everyone is given the chance to.

Recent studies have continuously shown that employers, lenders, and other merchants target certain racial groups and charge them more. One such study showed that when a first time homebuyers of white and nonwhite disposition tried to secure a loan, the nonwhite individuals experienced less favorable treatments. This type of discrimination has expanded beyond in-person interactions. With the increase of internet sales, online discrimination based on race has become more prevalent.

You would be surprised what you could find out about yourself online. Through various free, public search engines, someone may be able to find your educational background, state financial data, and even your recent purchases online. From that information, what if someone denied you for a loan based on what type of music you buy or books you order? The evidence is there that racial targeting (through advertisements and e-mail) is already happening based on what you’ve already purchased. It’s affecting what you can buy, the types of loans you can secure, and establishing your “online racial profile,” for good or for bad.

Thus, the question remains: is it fair to racially profile someone, if you’ve never met them, based on a few purchases they’ve made? The next time you order something online, and they have a “people who ordered this also liked this” section, look to see if that would really be something you’d buy. If it is, great, but is it something you’d actually like, or something that a certain “type” of person would like based on social and racial trends?

 

 

Sources:

Margery Turner, et al., U.S. Dep’t of Hous. & Urban Dev., All Other Things Being Equal: A Paired Testing Study of Mortgage Lending Institutions (April 2002) available at http://www.huduser.org/portal//Publications/PDF/aotbe.pdf.

Nathan Newman, The Cost of Lost Privacy: Consumer Harm and Rising Economic Inequality in the Age of Google, 40 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 849, 877-79 (2014).

Missing the Mark

By: Joseph Winning 

Despite wide-ranging criticisms from legal academics and practitioners, the prevalence of pretrial diversion programs in the United States has increased considerably since its initial stages of development in the 1960s. Pretrial diversion programs allow prosecutors to defer or dismiss criminal charges pending against an individual provided that the individual complies with and successfully completes the requirements of the ordered program.

Thanks to the implementation of standardized guidelines geared toward determining eligibility, much of the discretion that originally rested with prosecutors has been restructured to ensure more predictable outcomes based on prior history and the current charges pending. Despite this guidelines approach, however, there still remains a wide discrepancy in the availability of diversion programs for minorities when compared to their white counterparts. In an article by Traci Schlesinger[1], the lack of an impact that these standardized guidelines have had on eliminating considerations of race in determining eligibility for pretrial diversion programs is made glaringly clear. The analysis is based on three different models which investigate the effect of race on admittance into diversion programs. Model 1 reveals that “[a]mong defendants charged with felony offenses in counties and years with operating pretrial diversion programs, black and ‘other race’ defendants have odds of receiving pretrial diversion that are 42 and 30 percent lower than those of white defendants, respectively.” Beyond the broad category of felony offenses generally, Model 2 looks specifically at candidates for diversion who committed similar offenses and explains that “[b]lack defendants have odds of receiving pretrial diversion that are 44 percent lower than those of white defendants charged with similar offenses.” Finally, Model 3, which compared the outcomes of candidates who had similar prior records, shows that “black, Latino, and Asian and Native American defendants have odds of receiving pretrial diversion that are 28, 13, and 31 percent lower, respectively, than those of white defendants with similar legal characteristics.”

With the effects of state funded diversion programs working so dramatically to the advantage of one segment of the population, a fresh reformation of the system is due. Perhaps the answer is stricter black-letter guidelines which mandate, rather than permit, admittance into diversion programs. Such strict principles would void the discretionary power wielded by prosecutors which has lead to this gaping disparity in treatment of racial minorities. Or maybe the answer is eradication of these programs all together. Whatever the best approach may be, the current model is clearly missing the mark.

 

[1] Traci Schlesinger, Racial Disparities in Pretrial Diversions: An Analysis of Outcomes Among Men Charged With Felonies and Processed in State Courts, Race and Justice, (April 5, 2013), available at http://raj.sagepub.com/content/3/3/210.full.pdf+html.

 

School Zone Sentencing Enhancements and its Disparate Effect on Racial Minoritie

By: James Kane

Illicit drug use is a troubling public health issue that has gained the attention of both parents and government lawmakers. A primary concern is the prevention of drug exposure to children and many states have taken to establishing drug-free school zone laws in which heightened sentencing guidelines are used. These guidelines establish harsh mandatory minimum sentences for all drug offenders arrested within 1,000 feet of schools, regardless of the child involvement. These laws, while well intentioned, have adversely affected minorities in densely populated urban areas because there are large concentrations of schools in these areas which in effect create an “all-encompassing drug-free school zone.” Nationwide, there is a disproportionately large number of minorities living in these densely populated urban areas and these sentencing enhancements are heavily applied to them.

In New Jersey, the N.J. Sentencing Commission released a study which reviewed the demographics of individuals charged with these drug-free school zone offenses and found that 96% of those convicted under their laws were black or hispanic. Given the original intent of these laws was to protect children from being exposed to drugs, it seems that these laws have also failed in their original purpose as the vast majority of drug arrests do not take place on school property and did not involve children. When the nearly $100 billion budget during the Bush and Reagan administrations are taken into account, this system has proven to be an incredibly expensive one to maintain and one that disproportionately is applied to minorities. While illicit drug use remains a prominent public health issue, the federal government needs to come up with a more economically efficient and effective way to implement these laws, perhaps limiting the sentencing enhancements to arrests on school grounds in order to prevent this disparate effect on urban minorities.

Taylor R. Overman, A “Dubious Distinction”: New Jersey’s Drug-Free School Zones & Disparately Impacted Minority Communities, [XXXIV] Bos. C. J. of L. & Soc. Just. (2014).

ACA: Creating Job Opportunities and Addressing Medical Needs

 

By: Jessica Miraglia

 

The ACA will allow moderate to low-income families and individuals who select an insurance coverage plan from the heath insurance marketplace to gain from both premium tax credits and cost sharing. By doing this, the ACA is going to make it simple for families and individuals to gain access to health care coverage that they otherwise would not have been able to afford. More specifically, those who are of a minority race or ethnic group will benefit from the ACA because they are more likely to fall under the federal poverty levels and/or have lower paying jobs that do not offer them employer paid health insurance. Allowing more Americans to gain access to health care coverage will raise the need for goods and services within the healthcare field and in turn will create more jobs in the community. Creating more jobs will thus lower unemployment rates throughout America. The ACA is also slowing down the rate increase of health care costs. By slowing down the rate increase of health care costs the ACA is giving employers who pay health care premiums for their employees the ability to hire more employees and/or employ more full time positions that offer health care benefits. This again is creating more job opportunities in America and can also help lower the unemployment rates.

Also, by gaining access to health care coverage these individuals and families will now be able to address their medical needs, which is a very important asset. By addressing the medical needs of Americans there will be a reduction in loss of life and an improvement in mental and physical health. The improvement in mental and physical health among individuals will cause people to live longer and be more healthy which will reduce the chance of them becoming disabled. Many families and individuals will no longer have to live in fear of catching the common cold or even worse being diagnosed with a life altering disease.

 

 

Jason Furman, Six Economic Benefits of the Affordable Care Act, Council of Economic Advisers (February 6, 2014), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/02/06/six-economic-benefits-affordable-care-act

 

Kaiser Commission on Key Facts, Health Coverage by Race and Ethnicity: The Potential Impact of the Affordable Care Act, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (March 13, 2013), available at

http://kff.org/disparities-policy/issue-brief/health-coverage-by-race-and-ethnicity-the-potential-impact-of-the-affordable-care-act/

 

National Football League Athletes Stiff Arm the Law

By: Rachelle Cecala

Domestic violence issues in the law, economics, & race arise in several different areas of professional sports. Domestic violence amongst professional athletes, specifically professional football players, has attracted the attention of several media outlets over the years. While there are actual reports and footage of domestic violence occurring between professional football players and their significant others, charges do not seem to get filed against them frequently. Furthermore, in certain situations, professional football players enjoy the liberty of being able to continue playing football while they are under investigation; or sit out of games and practices but continue getting paid. One example is Greg Hardy, a six-foot four inches African American defensive end on the Carolina Panthers football team. In a recent article about Greg Hardy, he was found guilty of “assaulting his former girlfriend and threatening to kill her.” This conviction was found after testimony was given from Mr. Hardy himself stating that he had “flung her from the bed, threw her into a bathtub, then tossed her on a futon covered with rifles. Hardy ripped a necklace he had given her off her neck, threw it into a toilet and slammed the lid on her arm when she tried to fish it out.” Attorneys for Greg Hardy announced that they were going to appeal the matter. Under North Carolina law, those convicted of misdemeanors in a bench trial, as in Greg Hardy’s case, have a right to a jury trial in Superior Court.
Despite the guilty conviction Greg Hardy received, he was placed on the National Football League’s commissioner exempt list until the domestic case is resolved. Being placed on the exemption list means that while Greg Hardy cannot participate in practices or play in professional football games, he will still be paid “his weekly portions of a $13.1 million salary.”
Domestic violence is a serious matter that has varying consequences when it is not addressed or taken seriously. In a 2010 Harvard Law Review article, it was found that “conviction rates for athletes are astonishingly low compared to the arrest statistics. Though there is evidence that the responsiveness of police and prosecution to sexual assault complaints involving athletes is favorable, there is an off-setting pro-athlete bias on the part of juries.” Therefore, law enforcement people are responding to the complaints of domestic abuse, however, charges are not being made. Additionally, even if a professional football player is charged in connection to domestic violence, in certain instances the National Football League allows the player to receive payment or play in games rather than stripping the players of their right to play in an effort to discourage them from this sort of behavior.

The combination of not holding football players responsible for their actions in domestic violence disputes, and people not coming forward and reporting the abuse, research shows that professional athletes are much less likely to be charged for domestic violence offenses. While the National Football League is a money generating industry that relies on the talents of its players to keep the economics thriving, being a member of the National Football League should not give athletes immunity to the law or preferential treatment in domestic violence cases.

Sources:

1. Michael M. O’Hear, Symposium: Blue-Collar Crimes/White Collar criminals: Sentencing Elite Athletes who Commit Violent Crimes,12 Marq. Sports L. Rev. 427

2. Bethany P. Withers, The Integrity of the Game: Professional Athletes and Domestic Violence,1 Harv. J. Sport. & Entm’t 146, 149 (2010).

3. David Newton, Greg Hardy Placed on Exempt List, ESPN (Nov. 20, 2014, 11:43 PM) http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11543641/greg-hardy-carolina-panthers-expected-placed-exempt-list

4. Michael Gordon, Joseph Person, & Jonathan Jones, Panthers Greg Hardy Guilty of Assaulting Female, Communicating Threats, Charlotte Observer (Nov. 20, 2014, 11:43 PM) http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/07/15/5044910/panthers-greg-hardy-arrives-for.html#.VG5-LVPF_s4

5. Justin Peters, No, Seriously, the NFL Does Have a Domestic Violence Problem, Slate (Nov. 20, 2014, 11:43 PM), http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2012/12/04/jovan_belcher_murder_suicide_no_seriously_the_nfl_really_does_have_a_domestic.html

It’s Not Easy Being Green, Thank God for God.

By: Katherine Snyder

Blog Category: Religion & Race

Predatory lending practices target members of minority races disproportionately, leaving them disproportionately vulnerable.  Ads for cash-now pay check advances that have hefty interest rates and short repayment time periods are conspicuously absent from areas where affluent white people live while opportunities for reasonable interest rates and mortgages with banks as opposed to subprime lenders are harder for people of color to attain.  Different communities have started to fight back against these unfair practices, many centered around faith-based initiatives.

People of Latino/a heritage are familiar with the tradition of lending circles, called tandas or cundinas in Mexico.  African Americans and people from almost every culture have different names for these groups all over the globe.  Churches and faith-based service initiatives can be the foundation for the Latino and Black communities as well as for recent immigrant communities alike.  These lending circles allow people from the community to come together, contribute a set portion of their paycheck to a common fund managed by one member of the group.  In turn each member of the group takes turn receiving the proceeds.  Depending on where your name falls on the list it acts as a loan or a savings account.  People are held accountable by the valuable good will they have established within the community before the transaction and in following through with the payments.

The success of these small community programs is widespread and can provide a person with the shot in the arm they need to make ends meet and keep moving forward while helping them avoid taking on debt and entering an agreement that could trap them in a perpetual cycle of borrowing.  Unfortunately, many laws in this area are unclear on their application to this type of lending leaving these people with their credit in limbo.  Some non-profits have sought to organize these lending circles in order to give the loans and repayment cycle legal credence so that people are building their credit and actually getting credit for their responsible payment plans.  This legitimacy often triggers a licensure requirement and creates more barriers for these people because the non-profits have to require more from the participants and do not have the resources to achieve a lending license.

The Baptist churches as well as Catholic Charities have taken the initiative to combat this issue in several ways.  First, the Baptist churches have come together to create a united front in order to lobby for a change in the laws that are allowing predatory lending.  The Baptist churches are also seeking to work within their own communities to support their congregations and create opportunities for positive lending opportunities as well as education for borrowers.  Catholic Charities has started some domestic microloan projects designed to help people break out of the cycle of borrowing from high-interest payday lenders.  Finally, California Sen. Lou Correa has a really innovative approach to regulating these lending circles: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  He sees the wisdom in allowing people to start building their credit with baby steps without requiring them to jump through giant hoops simultaneously.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  

Sources: 

Aaron Weaver, At Summit, Baptist Leaders Announce Action Covenants on Hunger, Literacy, Predatory Lending, General CBF (April 24, 2014), available at http://cbfblog.com/2013/11/25/at-summit-baptist-leaders-announce-action-covenants-on-hunger-literacy-predatory-lending/.

Anita F. Hill, Women and the Subprime Crunch, Gender Discrimination (April 24, 2014), available at http://72.5.117.181/economica/stories/viewStory?storyId=3696.

Beth Newberry, Multiplying Loaves, Sojourners (April 24, 2014), available at http://sojo.net/magazine/2013/01/multiplying-loaves.

Brian Dakss, Loans To Avoid at All Costs, CBSNews.com (April 24, 2014), available at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/loans-to-avoid-at-all-costs/.

Manny Fernandez, Study Finds Disparities in Mortgages by Race, N.Y./Region (April 25, 2014), available at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/15/nyregion/15subprime.html?_r=4&ex=1350187200&en=a9978e04a9864642&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&.

Tim Logan, Church, Housing Groups Sue Gov. Brown Over Mortgage Settlement Money, Business (April 24, 2014), available at http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-mortgage-settlement-money-20140314,0,5927040.story#axzz2wBUjSRCL.

Sarah Ennis, CCHD: Catholic Charities of Salina Expands Microloan Project, (April 26, 2014), available at http://www.ncrlc.com/news.aspx?ID=278.

Shereen Marisol Meraji, Lending Circles Help Latinas Pay Bills and Invest, Morning Edition (April 2, 2014), available at http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/04/01/292580644/lending-circles-help-latinas-pay-bills-and-invest.

Women of Color: Domestic Violence Victims & Nuisances in the Eyes of the Law

By: Patrice Turenne 

Blog Category: Domestic Violence Issues and the Law, Economics, & Race 

In the last twenty-five years hundreds of cities and towns across the country have enacted nuisance ordinances. These ordinances make landlords responsible for weeding out drug dealers and other types of disruptive and undesirable tenants, with the goal of saving neighborhoods from blight.  Landlords are tasked with controlling the conduct of their tenants or face penalties, ranging from fines to the loss of their license to rent.  While the goal of creating beautiful and peaceful neighborhoods is admirable, these ordinances have resulted in an unintended negative consequence, namely the labeling of minority domestic violence victims as nuisances and as a result punishing them for the conduct of their abusers.  This is a heavy burden for a domestic violence victim to bear.  A recent case which stemmed from events that took place in Norristown, Pennsylvania, a small town northwest of Philadelphia, attracted nationwide attention to the plight of domestic violence victims in communities with nuisance ordinances.

Lakisha Briggs, an African-American resident of Norristown, Pa, was afraid to call the police to her rental unit when her live-in boyfriend was abusing her.  Her fear was based on a Norristown Municipal Code, which states that landlords are responsible for the “disorderly behavior” of their tenants.  Under the ordinance, disorderly behavior includes “domestic disturbances that do not require that a mandatory arrest be made.”  More than three calls to the same rental unit for domestic disturbances can result in a landlord being forced to evict their disorderly tenant.  Based on the ordinance in effect at the time, Ms. Briggs, after being beaten with a broken ashtray and then stabbed in the neck, was served an eviction notice.  Prior to losing consciousness Briggs begged her neighbor not to call 911 because she had been warned that further calls to police for domestic disturbances might result in her eviction.

Nuisance ordinances like the one in effect in Norristown, in addition to labeling domestic violence victims nuisances, have an additional unintended impact on minorities.  They disproportionately impact African-American women.  This is due to the fact that African-American women are more likely to be domestic violence victims than Caucasian women.  Recent statistics indicate that African-American women experience intimate partner violence at rates significantly higher than Caucasian women.  The same appears to be the case for African-American men as compared to Caucasian men.  With these statistics in mind, if nuisance ordinances remain in place, minority women and men all over the country are at greater risk for ending up in situations like Ms. Briggs, abused and facing eviction as a result.

Luckily, Ms. Briggs’ situation attracted the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union.  A complaint was filed on behalf of Ms. Briggs against Norristown in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  The complaint alleges that Norristown’s ordinance violated Ms. Briggs’ constitutional rights, including her right to procedural and substantive due process.  Nuisance ordinances like the one in place in Norristown threaten citizens’ fundamental right to call the police for help in situations where domestic violence is involved.  We can only hope that Ms. Briggs’ case will result in the removal of domestic violence disturbances from the list of eviction worthy offenses in Norristown, PA.  Furthermore, the pending lawsuit hopefully will result in a wave of similar changes to the nuisance ordinances in effect in other jurisdictions.  Finally, I sincerely hope that the attention brought to Ms. Briggs’ case will result in widespread education, especially for police officers, about domestic violence.  The last thing a victim needs is to feel like a nuisance or a burden when they call for help.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

Sources:

Sandra Park, Shut Up or Get Out: PA City Punishes Domestic Violence Victims Who Call the Police, available at https://www.aclu.org/blog/womens-rights-lgbt-rights-racial-justice-criminal-law-reform/shut-or-get-out-pa-city-punishes  Shut Up or Get Out: PA City Punishes Domestic Violence Victims Who Call the Police.

American Bar Association, Domestic Violence Statistics, available at http://www.americanbar.org/groups/domestic_violence/resources/statistics.html.

Josh Sugarmann, Black Women Face a Greater Risk of Domestic Violence, available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/josh-sugarmann/black-women-face-a-greate_b_4157659.html.

Anna Stolley Persky, A Call for Help an Ordinance That Evicts Tenants for Seeking Police Aid Is Putting Abused Women Out on the Street, ABA J., September 2013.

Erik Eckholm, Victims’ Dilemma: 911 Calls Can Bring Eviction, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/17/us/victims-dilemma-911-calls-can-bring-eviction.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.