Burma’s Censored Census

By: Konstantinos Patsiopoulos

Blog Category: International Law & Race

Although not an official confirmation, a brief review of Burma on Wikipedia supports the proposition in TIME’s article that the Rohingya Muslim community have been discriminated against in the latest U.N. census.  Under the “Ethnic groups” category, Rohingya is not listed.  On February 25, 2014, TIME covered a story related to the release of a report alleging that the Rohingya people were victims of oppression by Buddhist-dominated government in Burma.  Roughly one month later, TIME reported that the Burmese government would not allow the Rohingya people to be identified on the census.

Since there have been accusations of involvement with U.N. officials, what remedial measures could the minority group take?  After approximately 140,000 Rohingya people have been essentially quarantined in displacement camps over the past two years, the minority group views this head-count procedure as just another discriminatory tool in the Burmese government’s arsenal.  Moreover, anti-Rohingya mobs have destroyed international aid boats and vehicles, which were transporting food, water, and medical supplies to the minority group.

Luckily, these reports and news articles caught the attention of the U.N. Population Fund, who expressed its concern.  Therefore, with U.N. assistance and continued international news coverage, remedial measures may be on the way for the Rohingya people.

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: 

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, available at En.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma (last visited Apr. 21, 2014).

Charlie Campbell, Burma Accused of ‘Crime Against Humanity’ Over Persecution of Rohingya, TIME (Apr. 21, 2014, 4:54 PM), available at http://time.com/9518/burma-rohingya-crime-against-humanity.

Charlie Campbell, Burma’s Racist Census Degenerates Into Violence, TIME, (Apr. 21, 2014, 10:00 AM), available at http://time.com/44891/burma-census-rakhine-rohingya.

Racism In The International Criminal Court

By: Jason Staloski

Blog Category: International Law & Race

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is located in the Netherlands and was established in 2002. The ICC was created in order to prosecute individuals charged with either genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or crimes of aggression. The ICC currently has jurisdiction over 122 states where these crimes occur. Recently, the African Union (AU) has levied allegations against the ICC claiming that the institution is racially discriminatory in deciding which cases to prosecute.

To support their allegation of racism, the AU notes that every prosecution pursued by the ICC originated from a country located in Africa. At the most recent AU Summit, the member nations of the AU unanimously agreed that a sitting head of state in a member nation of the AU should be hauled in front of ICC in response to William Ruto, the sitting Deputy President of Kenya, being forced to attend his trial in front of the ICC regarding the pending crimes against humanity charges. While the AU has not threatened to withdraw from ICC jurisdiction, the possibility has been discussed by AU nations.

Hailemariam Desalegn, chairperson of the African Union and Ethiopian President, has stated that, “The process [of the ICC selecting who to prosecute] has degenerated into some kind of race hunting.[1]” The ICC has defended itself by stating that a majority of its member nations come from Africa, therefore, it is only logical that there would be more cases arising from AU nations. The ICC also defended itself by indicating that of the 8 current investigations regarding AU nations, four of the ICC was requested by that state itself to investigate.

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: 

Richard Lough, African Union accuses ICC prosecutor of bias, Reuters (Apr. 5 2014), available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/30/ozatp-africa-icc-idAFJOE70T01R20110130.

Jacey Fortin, African Union Countries Rally Around Kenyan President, But Won’t Withdraw From The ICC, International Business Times (Apr. 5, 2014), available at http://www.ibtimes.com/african-union-countries-rally-around-kenyan-president-wont-withdraw-icc-1423572.

Al Mariam, The International Criminal Court on an African Safari?, Salon, (Apr. 5, 2014), available at http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/2013/09/29/the_international_criminal_court_on_an_african_safari.

Australia’s Public Divided on Racial Discrimination Amendments

By: Andrew Schneidman

Blog Category: International Law & Race

Australia announced major amendments to its Racial Discrimination Act that effectively reduce legal constraints on discriminatory speech.  Since 1975, and until now, the Act banned actions “reasonably likely . . . to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate others because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin.”  The new amendment removes from the Act the words “offend, insult, humiliate,” banning only actions “reasonably likely . . . [to] intimidate” or “vilify.”  Moreover, the Act grants a major exemption, legalizing actions of racial intimidation made for any genuine purpose in the public interest.  The change comes in the wake of the opinion handed down in Eatock v. Bolt, a 2011 case where a newspaper columnist was found to have breached the Act when he published two articles targeting fair-skinned Aborigines.

The amendment has triggered a public debate, with opponents arguing the amendment bolsters bigotry, and supporters claiming the amendment bolsters free speech.  Opponents contend that the amendments will open the floodgates to racial discrimination in all public discussions.  They fear the amendments’ exemptions are too broad, effectively endorsing acts of public discrimination in any public forum.  Supports reason that the amendments correctly shift racial discrimination claims from the perspective of the group claiming to be offended to “the perspective of a reasonable member of the Australian community.”  They maintain that the amendments simply bar frivolous lawsuits against innocent citizens.

Time will tell the true effect of Australia’s amendments to its Racial Discrimination Act, but one thing is clear: Australia’s courts have less say in matters of discriminatory speech.

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:

Gay Alcorn, Locked in a war of words to define free speech, The Sydney Morning Herald (Mar. 29, 2014), available at http://www.smh.com.au/national/locked-in-a-war-of-words-to-define-free-speech-20140328-35oi1.html.

Gillian Triggs, Race law changes seriously undermine protections, The Australian (Mar. 28, 2014), available at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/race-law-changes-seriously-undermine-protections/story-e6frg6zo-1226866727210#.

Martin Gilmour, Discrimination law change strengthening free speech, The Examiner (Mar. 29, 2014), available at http://www.examiner.com.au/story/2183828/discrimination-law-change-strengthening-free-speech/.

HUD Codifies Disparate Impact

By: Joseph Squadroni
Blog Category: Housing/Entitlement Programs

Early last month, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) codified its prohibition under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) against housing practices  that have a disparate impact on members of certain protected classes, including race.  While not changing the substance of the law in any way—the disparate impact standard has been employed by HUD and the courts for over 40 years—the new rule brings about a formalistic change in the law with several byproducts.[1]

First, the rule will provide a clear and uniform national standard under which to apply the claim of disparate impact.  This means that the minor degrees of variation in the ways different circuit courts have applied the disparate impact standard (i.e. with respect to who bears the burden of proving a less discriminatory alternative housing practice) will be fully resolved.[2] The use of disparate impact claims has long protected home buyers from discrimination on the basis of race, making loans more readily available at lower costs to lower income families, many of whom are minorities.

Second, and more significantly, the new regulation will serve as a protection of the disparate impact standard should the Supreme Court decide to hear the case Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action.  The case involves a constitutional challenge to the use of disparate impact claims and many think that a conservative majority will rule against the standard.[3]  With the passing of the rule, HUD seeks to protect the standard by hoping the Court will defer to its judgment in interpreting the breadth of its enforcement power under the FHA.[4]

Critics of disparate impact rules range from those who argue that they force banks and creditors to ignore risk factors associated with granting loans out of fear of being prosecuted to those who are concerned that the new rule will lead to an increase in frivolous lawsuits.[5]  Given the long-standing history and use of the disparate impact standard, my opinion is that it is unlikely the disparate impact standard will be struck down entirely.  It is more likely that if any change occurs, it will be only a heightened showing of the disparate impact claimed. Or, perhaps, a doing away with the “less discriminatory alternative” provision.

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.


[1] Gregory D. Squires, Politics, HUD’s Disparate Impact Rule Praised by Fair Housing Advocates: Misunderstood by Critics, Huffington Post (Feb. 24, 2013), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gregory-d-squires/huds-disparate-impact-rul_b_2755023.html.

[2] Id.

[3] Paul Sperry, CAMPS Real Time Legislative Information Under the Dome, HUD Formalizes ‘Disparate Impact’ Lending Rule To Sway Supreme Court, California Association of Mortgage Professionals (Mar. 9, 2013), http://realestatemarbles.com/campga/2013/03/09/hud-formalizes-disparate-impact-lending-rule-to-sway-supreme-court/.

[4] Id.

[5] Squires, supra note 1.

Untangling True Racial Profiling From Other Factors

By: Jason Gibson

Blog Category: Racial Profiling & Traffic Stops

A study done in Cincinnati found that minority drivers experienced longer stops and higher search rates than white drivers.  Looking at this study in a vacuum it could be used to support an argument that these drivers were victims of racial profiling.  However, when researchers compared the data against white drivers who were stopped at the same time, place, and for the same reasons, the differences disappeared.

Identifying the disparity in treatment by police is the easy part.  The difficulty lies in separating the numerous other factors involved in a traffic stop from true racial discrimination.   If there are more police on patrol in a neighborhood with a higher minority population, then logically more minority drivers will be stopped.  Is the higher police presence a result of discrimination or is it in response to increased crime in a certain area?  Studies have shown that seatbelt usage is chronically lower among minority drivers.  When are officers being aggressive in enforcing these types of violations, and when is it due to racial bias?

The use of racial profiling in traffic stops, or any other area of law enforcement, is a disgrace.  It is a tool used by a few officers that tarnishes the reputation of entire departments.  No one talks about the specific officers who attacked Rodney King, they talk about the L.A.P.D.  By creating better methods designed to isolate true racial profiling, law enforcements agencies will be able to focus on identifying the offending officers more quickly and reduce the incidents of racial profiling.   This is why some researchers support creating benchmarks for individual officers to identify the offending officers before more incidents can occur.

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. 

Source:

Racial Profiling and Traffic Stops, National Institute of Justice, available at http://www.nij.gov/nij/topics/law-enforcement/legitimacy/traffic-stops.htm.

Putting the Red Light on Racially Motivated Traffic Stops

By: Jay Patel

Blog Category: Racial Profiling & Traffic Stops

Putting the Red Light on Racially Motivated Traffic Stops

In the late 1990’s the State of New Jersey entered into a consent decree with the United States Department of Justice.[1] The basis: New Jersey State Troopers were using race as a means of discriminating among drivers stopped for traffic infractions.[2] The consent decree underscored a stark reality; police officers across the country were using race as a pretext to stop, and in many cases, harass minorities.[3] The question then becomes: How can we curb these flagrant abuses?

Several commentators have proposed suggestions which could be easily implemented and maintained.[4] The first proposal would establish internal police policies which would set forth standardized procedures that an officer would have to follow when conducting a traffic stop.[5] To ensure that these policies are followed, the author suggests financial awards or fines based on departmental adherence.[6] Another commentator has suggested that by either restricting or barring consent based searches race-centric stops will cease.[7] He would apply the Terry standard of reasonable suspicion for a stop and frisk as a prong to any motorist consent.[8] In short, law enforcement officers would need both the motorist’s consent and reasonable suspicion that illegal contraband was present before conducting a search.[9] The other plausible scenario would render ineffective a citizen’s consent to search and effectively bar the police from searching a motor vehicle.[10]

Ideally we would like to reside in a society where racial profiling does not exist; however, that is not the reality. Therefore, it is important that we consider one or many of the proffered solutions as a means to end racial profiling.


[1]  Noah Kupferberg, TRANSPARENCY: A NEW ROLE FOR POLICE CONSENT DECREES, 42 Colum. J. L. & Soc. Probs. 129,139 (2008).

[2]  Id.

[3] Id.  at 134 (detailing the United State Department of Justice’s investigation and subsequent consent decree with the City of Los Angeles); See also  David A. Harris, ESSAY: “DRIVING WHILE BLACK” AND ALL OTHER TRAFFIC OFFENSES: THE SUPREME COURT AND PRETEXTUAL TRAFFIC STOPS, 87 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 544, 561-69 (1997) (detailing several disturbing race-based traffic stops).

[4]  Id. at 576-79; See also, Timothy P. O’Neil, Article: Vagrants in Volvos: Ending Pretextual Traffic Stops and Consent Searches of Vehicles in Illinois, 40 Loy. U. Chi. L.J. 745, 772-779. (2009).

[5] Harris, supra, note 3 at 576-79.

[6] Id. at 579.

[7]  O’Neil, supra, note 4 at 774-75.

[8]  Id. at 773.

[9]  Id. at 778-79.

[10]  Id. at 778.

Whether or not racial profiling in traffic stops is a thing of the past

By: *Marthe Ngwashi

Blog Topic: Racial Profiling & Traffic Stops

Whether or not racial profiling in traffic stops is a thing of the past.

 

Could racial profiling in traffic stops be an issue of the past? While difficult to determine whether discrimination or other factors dictate a traffic stop, people of color, as research indicates, continue to be stopped more often than whites.[1] For a traffic stop, the purpose of profiling based on race remains unsubstantiated, while the length and search rate for stops between a person of color and a similarly situated white driver may be no different at all.[2] In fact, one study noted that a higher level of discrimination on an officer’s part, does not even take place prior to a stop.[3] Analytically though, something likely more important than the stop itself is the character of each stop and the subsequent treatment of the individual(s) detained.[4]

All things considered, research verifies that subjectivity plays a role in an officer’s decision to make a stop.[5] As such, any attempts to discontinue a practice involving racial bias will require commitment and persistence on a police chief’s part and patience from the public. It is unknown whether the bias stems from the culture within a police department or merely a small group of problem officers.[6] As a result, it is evident that racial profiling in traffic stops is not an issue of the past.

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.

 


*Marthe Ngwashi is a staff member on Widener’s Journal of Law, Economics & Race. To learn more about Marthe, click here to view her page.

[1] Racial Profiling and Traffic Stops, National Institute of Justice (Jan 10, 2013), http://www.nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/legitimacy/traffic-stops.htm#noteReferrer1

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

Pennsylvania Judge Bars Voter-ID law for 2012 Election

By: *Christopher King

Blog Category: The Economics of Discrimination

On October 2, 2012, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson granted a preliminary injunction in Applewhite v. Commonwealth,[1] thus, putting on hold a law passed by the Pennsylvania legislature earlier this year, requiring Pennsylvania voters to produce photo identification at the polls in order to vote.  Originally, Judge Simpson had denied the plaintiffs’ application for a preliminary injunction.[2]  The plaintiffs, however, appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who voted to vacate the judge’s order and remanded the case for further review.[3] In its decision, the Court asked the judge to assess the availability of state-issued photo ID, and wrote that the law should be temporary blocked if the judge found that there were voters who would be disenfranchised because of the difficulty in obtaining a photo ID prior to the November general election.[4]

 

In his October 2nd ruling, Judge Simpson accepted the petitioners’ argument and said that it was logistically impossible to make IDs available to everyone who needed one before the November general election.[5]  Judge Simpson ruled that, while election officials can still request to see a voter’s ID on Election Day, voters are no longer required to show ID in order to cast a regular ballot.[6]  The law as adopted had only allowed for a voter without the required ID to cast a provisional ballot, and for that ballot to be counted only if the voter returned with the proper photo documentation within six days of the election.[7]

 

The idea of producing identification in order to vote is something that strikes most people as a reasonable requirement.  After all, we need a photo ID to get on an airplane, to enter a number of governmental buildings, or even to buy Sudafed at the drug store.  Supporters of voter-ID laws maintain that the intent of these measures is to ensure that each registered voter is who he says he is and to prevent fraud by persons trying to cast a ballot in someone else’s name.[8]  Again, it seems reasonable enough, so why has there been so much vocal opposition to voter-ID laws?

 

For starters, a look at the history of voter-ID laws shows that, before 2006, no state required its voters to show government-issued photo ID in order to vote.[9]  Prior to the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American President, only two states had implemented photo identification requirements for voters.[10]  In 2011 alone, thirty-four states introduced legislation that would require its citizens to show photo identification in order to vote.[11]  Aside from Rhode Island, all voter-ID legislation has been introduced by Republican-controlled legislatures.[12]

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, 11% of American citizens, and an even greater percentage of low-income and minority citizens, do not possess a government-issued photo ID.[13]  Based on the Brennan Center’s 2006 survey, Citizens Without Proof, 25% of voting-age African Americans have no current government-issued photo ID, compared to just 8% of voting-age white citizens.[14]  The survey also states that 16% of voting-age Hispanic citizens have no current government-issued photo ID.[15]  Citizens with comparatively low incomes are also less likely to possess photo identification.[16]  The survey indicates that at least 15% of voting-age Americans earning less than $35,000 per year do not have a valid government-issued photo ID.[17]

 

A recent Pennsylvania study comparing people listed in the state’s ID database with its voter rolls found that more than one in seven Pennsylvania voters did not appear to have valid state-issued IDs.[18]  In the city of Philadelphia, nearly one out of every three voters were found to be without the proper photo identification.[19]  While there has been some discrepancy concerning the total number of voters who lack a suitable photo ID, Azavea, a geospatial software firm, used the information relevant to Philadelphia to show a disturbing tendency about where those who do not have an ID are most likely to live.[20]  The firm found that voters who live in the city’s most heavily African American-populated areas are 85% more likely to lack a valid ID than a voter who lives in a predominantly white area.  In addition, voters who live in heavily Hispanic areas were 108% more likely to lack the right ID than those in white neighborhoods.[21]

Finally, opponents of these laws argue that photo ID requirements are similar to a poll tax because, even though the state-issued photo IDs are offered for free, citizens must produce documents that cost money, like passports and birth certificates, in order to obtain the IDs.[22]

 

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.


*Christopher King is currently a staff member on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race on the Harrisburg campus. To learn more about Christopher King, click the link to visit his page: Christopher King

[1] Applewhite v. Commonwealth, No. 330 M.D. (Pa. Commw. Ct. Oct. 2, 2012), http://www.pacourts.us/ NR/rdonlyres/CFBF4323-B964-4846-8179-88D689375C10/0/CMWSuppDetAppPrelInjOrder _100212.pdf.

[2] Suevon Lee, Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Voter ID Laws, ProPublica (Oct. 10, 2012, 1:54 PM), http://www.propublica.org/article/everything-youve-ever-wanted-to-know-about-voter-id-laws.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Sophia Pearson, Pennsylvania Judge Bars Voter-ID Law for 2012 Election, Bloomberg (Oct. 3, 2012, 12:01 AM), http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-02/pennsylvania-judge-bars-voter-id-law-for-2012-election.html.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Lee, supra note 2.

[9] Wendy R. Weiser & Lawrence Norden, Brennan Ctr for Justice, Voting Law Changes in 2012 4 (2011), available at http://brennan.3cdn.net/92635ddafbc09e8d88_i3m6bjdeh.pdf.

[10] Id. at 2.

[11] Id.

[12] Lee, supra note 2.

[13] Weiser & Norden, supra note 9.

[14] Brennan Ctr for Justice, Citizens Without Proof: A Survery of Americans’ Possession of Documentary Proof of Citizenship and Photo Identification 3 (2006), available at http://www.brennancenter.org/page/-/d/download_file_39242.pdf.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Dan Froomkin, Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Hits Philadelphia Blacks, Latinos Harder, HuffingtonPost (Aug. 7, 2012), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/07/pennsylvania-voter-id-philadelphia-blacks-latinos_n_1752480.html.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Lee, supra note 2.

Economics and Discrimination

Blog category: The Economics of Discrimination

By: *Alexandria MacMaster

While the awareness of discrimination and its effect on the economics of those being discriminated against is on the rise, there is still an unknown and subtle discrimination that directly hurts the economics of struggling groups.  One group in particular that is struggling, especially in the criminal court system, is African American women.  Geneva Brown writes in her Article, “The Wind Cries Mary” in the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development that African American women are targeted as a group to become imprisoned in some of the “for-profit” prisons through the criminal justice system.  She also goes on to point out the harm of having many of these African American women imprisoned goes much further than just potentially harming these specific women.  A point that should be emphasized in our conversations regarding discrimination and economics is that having African American women incarcerated is taking away the matriarch of family units in struggling families.  Regardless of whether or not anyone agrees with the high number of incarcerated black women being a product of discrimination, the fact alone that so many are incarcerated  is reason enough to break down why they are incarcerated, and how that can be rectified.   African American women being taken away from their families displaces their children, many of whom end up in foster care, or become homeless or criminals themselves.  This is not something that does our society or our economy any good. Communities and families’ futures are limited when African American women are incarcerated and it is an issue that needs to be addressed.

For a review of the article, click here.

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.

_________________________________________________

*Alexandria MacMaster is currently a staff member on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race. To learn more about Alexandria MacMaster, Click here to visit her page: Alexandria MacMaster

Immigration and the War on Terror and the Illegal Drug Trade

Blog Category: Immigration

Written by: *Jesse Rhodeside

Throughout the history of the United States, periods of immigration have frequently corresponded with concerns over prospects for assimilating new groups of immigrants.  In each instance, however, the fears were found to be overstated and the group at issue would become part of the rich variety of cultures within our nation.  These concerns are present today in contemporary discussions on immigration and frame the belief that immigration is intertwined with the trade of illegal drugs and perhaps even terrorism.  As public discussions about immigration focuses on these issues, and legislators pass laws meant to address concerns related to the “War on Terror” or the “War on Drugs,” more pressing issues are ignored.  Given the interests involved and the contemporary attempts to direct political effort toward economic recovery, it suggests that attention by both the media and lawmakers is misplaced.

Much of the justification for taking a hard line against undocumented immigrants is the purported connection with the illegal drug trade.  Most immigrants are not involved in the illegal drug trade, and the crime rates in immigrant communities are comparable to non-immigrant communities.  Likewise, although the September 11 attacks demonstrated flaws in the defense mechanisms of the United States, the connection between acts of terror and the status of the border is tenuous.  The supposed connections with the drug trade and terror, however, has led to the effective criminalization of immigration law violations.  Given that these workers are afforded few legal protections as a result of their undocumented status, there is great potential for wage and working condition abuse.  Kevin Johnson suggests redirecting our public conversation towards the goals sought and to reduce the inflammatory tone of the conversation in order to achieve reform in this contentious area.

For additional information about unaddressed issues in the immigration policy debate, see Kevin Johnson, It’s the Economy, Stupid: The Hijacking of the Debate Over Immigration Reform by Monsters, Ghosts, and Goblins (or the War on Drugs, War on Terror, Narcoterrorists, Etc.), 13 Chap. L. Rev. 583 (2010).

_________________________________________

*Jesse Rhodeside is currently the Senior Managing Editor on the Harrisburg Campus. To learn more about Jesse Rhodeside, click the link to view his page: Jesse Rhodeside