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Sex Discrimination and the Fair Housing Act

Posted on 22. Apr, 2018 by in Blog

The second wave of the Women’s Movement gained significant traction in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. Activists fought on multiple fronts, including for legal equality based on sex. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 made sex-based discrimination unlawful in employment and education, respectively. These two laws influenced the eventual inclusion of sex in the protections guaranteed by the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974.

When the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was originally passed, it prohibited discrimination in all housing transactions based on race, color, religion, and national origin. It was not until 1974 that sex was added to the list of protected classes. Before then, sex discrimination was widespread in rentals, sales, mortgage lending and other transactions.

Despite legal protections, however, sex discrimination continues. Banks have been found to deny mortgage applications from home-buyers who are on maternity leave based on assumptions about the borrowers’ plans and future income. This type of discrimination is not only illegal under the Fair Housing Act, but also under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Predatory loans, those that are designed to fail, are also most frequently targeted at women of color.

If you believe that you or someone you know has experienced discrimination, you can file a complaint here or call GNOFHAC at (877) 445-2100 for free and confidential help.

50 Years Since the Dire Warnings of the Kerner Commission

Posted on 19. Mar, 2018 by in Blog

The most often quoted warning from the Kerner Commission report is that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white–separate and unequal.”  The 1968 Kerner Commission analyzed the causes of riots that occurred across the country between 1965 and 1968. The 11-person Commission, formally known as the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson and headed by then-Governor of Illinois, Otto Kerner. Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the report’s release, and prompted many to reflect on the Commission, its results, and our progress (or lack there of) 50 years later.

During the turbulent Civil Rights era, African Americans in urban centers across the country rose up against a century of post-Civil War systemic racial discrimination. Hundreds of people died or were injured in the more than 150 riots and disorders. Detroit, for example, had one of the largest riots with 43 people killed and over a thousand injured. Nationwide, most casualties were black.

The commission found that the underlying reason for such racial tensions and public disorders was primarily white racism. In other words, as Assistant General Counsel Nathaniel R. Jones described: “the report stated that white society created it, perpetuates it, and sustains it.”

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was finally signed into law after years of demands from the Civil Rights Movement, in part in response to the dire warnings from the Kerner Commission. The Fair Housing Act was a landmark achievement, intended not only to end housing discrimination but also to remedy the damage caused by generations of segregation and discriminatory housing policies. The Fair Housing Act, however, has never been adequately enforced, and segregation and discrimination remain deeply entrenched in communities across the country.

The last surviving member of the original Kerner Commission, Fred Harris, highlights this lack of progress in the recently released “Healing Our Divided Society: Investing in America Fifty Years After the Kerner Report”. The report describes how a lack of court oversight undermined desegregation programs, as black and Latino families frequently continued to be locked out of neighborhoods of opportunity. What gains were achieved have also proved difficult to maintain: the report notes that 44 percent of black students in 1988 attended majority-white schools, while only 20 percent do so today. Further, the black homeownership rate falls startlingly short of the white rate, at roughly 40 and 70 percents, respectively. These rates remain relatively unchanged since that of the 1960s. Black homeowners remain few in number relative to white ones, and those who do own property are typically concentrated into lower-income urban areas.

Most people agree that factors like race, religion, or gender should not limit a person’s potential for success. However, the reality is that systemic oppression and discrimination exist. In order to combat such severe disparities in access to opportunity, it is of the utmost importance for policymakers to listen to the needs of their constituents and take action now.