Conservative SCOTUS Could Gut Fair Housing Protections

On Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear a case brought by Texas that seeks to limit the use of statistics in housing fairness cases.

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.  is ultimately about limiting the ways by which people can challenge racist policies, be it in housing, voting rights or any other policy area.  Statistics that show discriminatory results of a policy are a way of proving that regardless of intent, the policy is racist.  If Texas persuades the Supreme Court to reject disparate impact in this case, it actually achieves two objectives.  Most directly, it guts Federal protections against discriminatory housing policy.  However, it also achieves the objective of limiting the ways to prove of racist policies, to showing there was an racist intent behind the policy.

This provides comfort to people who want to believe that racism doesn’t exist anymore because most racists have found more subtle ways to express it.  It amounts to saying that a racist result in a policy doesn’t really mean the policy is racist. A policy is only racist, if racism was the intent behind the policy.  Since racism has become more subtle, the odds of a tacit admission of racist intent is virtually non-exist.

The issue is the “correct legal standard to be applied in disparate impact claims under the FHA. In plain English,   Texas wants the Supreme Court to decide if and how plaintiffs can use statistics to prove that policies have a racist result.

This case concerns subsidized low-income housing in Dallas. The Inclusive Communities Project,. connects people with this housing.  They claimed the state government approved developer tax credits for this housing only in low-income and minority heavy neighborhoods while denying them in majority white and majority-Hispanic neighborhoods.  This has perpetuated, and exacerbated the city’s racial segregation.  A federal appeals court described it as a “sordid tale of overt and covert racial discrimination and segregation.”

Texas claims disparate impact shouldn’t be used because it would prove the state’s policies are in this case and that would open the state up to a slew of other lawsuits. In fact, we shouldn’t use statistics to prove that a policy has a disproportionately adverse effect on African-Americans until Texas “achieves racial symmetry in all aspects of government decision making” otherwise “operating any one of those programs exposes the state to a potential disparate impact lawsuit”

In a way, one could look at this argument as an admission that disparate impact would show that the racism extends beyond the project at issue in this claim.

This is sort of like an attempt to throw out use of video as evidence to prove police brutality because use of that evidence will prove that police brutality is pervasive.

If we consider this case within the context of the Court’s previous rulings, it’s likely that conservatives on the Supreme Court will accept this argument, given their rejection of disparate impact on other issues pertaining to racial discrimination.  It’s this wholesale rejection of statistics over beliefs and ideology that made it possible for the conservative court to put the Voting Rights Act on life support and conclude that affirmative action is no longer necessary.

Instead of looking at statistics, the conservative Supreme Court prefers to look at shadow puppets during breaks from reading the Bible simply because statistics burst ideological bubbles.

Image; Huffington Post

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