The Loving Civil Rights Award Dinner
The Center is proud to keep up with past recipients of the Mildred and Richard Loving Civil Rights Award and happy to inform you they continue to fight for social justice and equality on many different fronts. Find out what previous winners are up to today by reading below.
For reservations and additional information, call (860) 247-4400 or click here to register online.
➥ An Open Letter from 2009 Winner: Attorney John P. Relman
In a recent letter to the Center, Attorney Relman caught us up on what he has been doing since winning the 1st ever Loving Civil Rights Award! Read his letter below! This year’s winner, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, is certainly in good company!
It is hard to believe it has been six years since I joined you for the Loving Dinner back in 2009. I think the best way to summarize the work we have been focused on at the firm since then is to frame it in terms of a concept we call “structural racism.”
Our definition of structural racism refers to any practice or policy that exploits historic discrimination and spatial segregation for private or political gain. These can be corporate policies, or government policies. The practices are implemented typically because profits and power can be extracted more easily from underserved communities made vulnerable by decades of historic discrimination and segregation. The harms resulting from this type of structural racism are legion: these policies and practices strip equity from minority and underserved communities; create new barriers to integration; and perpetuate segregation.
The most important cases we have been involved in over the last six years have all challenged policies and practices that, left unchecked, have done just this. For example, in 2012 we resolved two important reverse redlining cases against Wells Fargo on behalf of the cities of Baltimore and Memphis that alleged that the bank had targeted minority communities in these two cities for predatory loans. These practices did huge damage to neighborhoods of color because they resulted in high rates of foreclosure, stripping equity from African American and Hispanic families. The Department of Justice eventually joined us in the battle against Wells Fargo, and in July 2012 Wells Fargo resolved our suits, and a nationwide case brought by DOJ for more than $200 million in damages to victims of discrimination and communities of color. A year later we settled another reverse redlining case, this time against a vocational school (the Richmond School of Health and Technology) for targeting African American communities in Richmond, Virginia for a sham education, done for the purpose of luring unsuspecting students into expensive student loans from which RSHT profited handsomely. The students were left at the end jobless and in debt. The result was the same as with Wells Fargo, just another variation on the theme. Our class action settlement resulted in $5 million in restitution to a class of students who were de-frauded by RSHT’s practices. This was the first reverse redlining case we are aware of brought under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. With the subprime mortgage foreclosure crisis abating, the focus has now been back on old style redlining. Communities of color, no longer targeted for predatory loans (because they are no longer permitted by the regulators), now find themselves starved for good credit (prime loans). This past year we sued Santander Bank on behalf of the City of Providence for redlining communities of color in that city. Last December we won a terrific settlement that will result in $24 million in prime loans going to Providence’s neighborhoods of color.
Most recently we have been involved in cutting edge litigation in an important new area involving a different type of structural racism. This litigation challenges barriers to housing in the private rental market that block anyone with a criminal record (an arrest, misdemeanor, or felony) from renting housing. Our view is that these “blanket bans,” as they are known, have an unjustified and highly disproportionate impact on African American and Hispanic men who make up a very large part of the prison and jail population in most states across the country. When these “blanket bans” are combined with restrictions that those re-entering society from prison or jail face in finding work, voting, or even qualifying for SNAP benefits, it becomes clear that we are relegating an enormous population of persons of color to permanent second class citizenship. This too is a form of structural racism. These are policies that perpetuate segregation in a most fundamental sense because they result in high rates of recidivism, returning persons of color to prison rather than finding ways to integrate them back into the mainstream of society – something they have earned the right to do. Recently we filed a landmark lawsuit in New York City on behalf of the Fortune Society challenging blanket bans in the private rental market. The Fortune Society works with those re-entering society from prison to help them find jobs and housing.
This is just a snapshot of the important civil rights issues we have been working on. There is much, much more we are involved in, and so much to do. But we are excited with the progress that we see being made all around us, and are happy to be engaged in the struggel for economic and racial justice in America. Nothing could be more important to the future of our country. The success of our democracy will ultimately turn on our ability to figure these issues out and redress the huge divide that structural racism has ripped in our social fabric. These are the civil rights issues of the 21st century. We will get there. It will take time and commitment and optimism, but we will get there.
➥ 2012 Winner: Dr. Manuel Pastor
Mildred and Richard Loving Civil Rights Award 2015 Update for Dr. Manuel Pastor
“Since receiving the honor of the Mildred and Richard Loving Civil Rights Award in 2012, Dr. Manuel Pastor has continued to lead social justice and equity research efforts as the director of the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), and co-director for the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII). He also continues to write, speak widely, and provide media commentary on issues of demographic change, environmental justice, economic inequality, and community empowerment.
From research on movement building metrics for change, to transportation equity in Los Angeles, to screening for environmental exposure disparities, Dr. Pastor and his research team at PERE have produced rigorous, research with relevance to public policy concerns and to directly affected communities that most need to be engaged in the discussion. In addition, CSII’s immigrant integration research has lifted up the economic benefits of citizenship and naturalization, as well as the political, social and economic impacts of executive action on immigration on millions of U.S. citizen children.
Two recent milestones were the National Equity Atlas launch and an endowed chair installation at USC. Last fall, PolicyLink and PERE co-released the National Equity Atlas – a first-of-its-kind web resource that provides local leaders with data and policy tools to help build an equitable and prosperous economy where all can participate. In February 2015, Dr. Pastor was named the Turpanjian Chair in Civil Society and Social Change at USC to further his role as the “people’s academic” and to advance research that creates impact in the civil society sector. In this role, he aims to facilitate collaboration and new approaches to university-community partnerships for social change.
PERE, CSII, and Dr. Pastor congratulates this year’s Loving Civil Rights Award recipient, Mayor Toni Harp and the Connecticut Fair Housing Center for your ongoing commitment to justice and equitable access to housing opportunities.”
For more information, please visit: http:///dornsife.usc.edu/pere/pastor
(last edited and hyperlinked: GM 4/10/15)