Forum 1964 Civil Rights Act Title VI “Poverty & Race”; Lisa Garcia US EPA “Real Community Lawyering and and Inspiration” The City ProjectJuly 27th, 2014
On this 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we are taking a forward look at Title VI of the Act, which prohibits discrimination by recipients of federal funds, and which also created its own administrative enforcement infrastructure in each federal agency’s “Office of Civil Rights.” As the articles below discuss, despite some serious setbacks, Title VI is adapting in new and important ways to the shifting landscape of civil rights in the 21st Century. – the editors. [The City Project prepared the following summaries.]
Walk a Mile in My Shoes: Los Angeles Celebrates Anniversaries of the Civil Rights Movement
Title VI is helping transform L.A. in and out of court. Healthy green land use, equitable development, and planning by and for the community have led to transportation justice, great new urban parks, the greening of the L.A. River, and a proposed national recreation area in the San Gabriels under Title VI and the President’s Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice and health. Physical education and school construction are civil rights victories for quality education. Public works projects in parks and schools create meaningful work for diverse workers and businesses. As communities become greener and more desirable, it is also necessary to guard against displacement of low-income homes and businesses. Historically and today, the Civil Rights Movement has included attorneys working in and out of court, ground-breaking judicial decisions, grassroots organizing, legislation, action by the President, implementation by agencies, and people providing a civil rights mandate through the right to vote. . . .
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act at 50: An Unfulfilled Promise at EPA
Marianne Engelman Lado
Reflecting on the sweeping promise of Title VI, inequalities continue in exposure to health hazards. Every day, agencies approve permits for toxic facilities, and private actors — owners and operators of incinerators, refineries, scrap metal recycling sites, landfills — make decisions about siting and safety precautions. School districts decide whether to locate a new school on a contaminated site and, if so, how far they’ll go to clean up the grounds, and municipalities reopen brownfields for development. Advocates are working with EPA to ensure compliance among recipients of EPA funds under Title VI and Executive Order 12898. While robust administrative enforcement of Title VI is critical, Congress should also restore a right of action for private parties to bring Title VI disparate impact claims in the courts. . . .
A Title VI Diversity Assessment at the Department of Education?
In the last decade, several federal agencies have taken a more proactive approach and have required state and local governments to assess the racial impacts of their policies in advance, and evaluate less discriminatory alternatives. Title VI regulations and guidance at the Federal Transit Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture exemplify this new approach. These “equality directives” expand non-traditional advocacy in civil rights enforcement. A Title VI “school diversity assessment” could require prospective assessments of school construction spending decisions, school siting plans, and school districting and boundary proposals. . . .
Reflecting on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 has had the largest impact on racial equality of any legislation. Although the Supreme Court declared school segregation unconstitutional a decade earlier in Brown v. Board of Education, no significant school desegregation occurred prior to the Act. With the Act, things changed quickly. School desegregation began occurring at a rapid pace, and those parts of the Act aimed at employment and public accommodations began to fundamentally change opportunity for people of color across the country. The strategy under Title VI was simple: The further the federal government spread its money, the greater its leverage to address racial equity and discrimination in areas such as transportation, health, and the environment. In 2001, the Supreme Court in Alexander v. Sandoval reversed course. It brought an end to private individuals’ ability to use litigation to challenge racial inequality, unless they could demonstrate intentional discrimination. Three major responses are possible: administrative action, litigation to evolve new doctrine, and legislative reform. Civil rights advocates must continue to press on all three fronts for Title VI to regain its glory. . . .
Lisa García, U.S. EPA Environmental Justice Head, on The City Project “Real Community Lawyering and an Inspiration”
We were going around the country with some of the cabinet members doing listening sessions on America’s Great Outdoors. And how we have to connect certain communities to parks, how we have to improve our open space in, certainly in cities, and connect kids in rural areas to large national parks.
So someone told me that I had to meet a great city parks advocate, Robert García, who was working on national parks issues. And we worked together on this national park issue in California. And I have to say it was really the work of The City Project that got it all solved, it wasn’t the federal government.
The City Project gets that communities need access to all those different amenities, that they need to work together to build up healthy sustainable communities. The City Project gets that they need access to jobs, to housing, to health, to parks, to clean drinking water, access to food, access to safe streets. And so I would say that The City Project really has become this jack of all trades, when we talk about equitable development. The City Project really embodies that and understands that we have to work, when we come to look at a community, holistically. We have to bring all these many tools and all the people together to be able to do it.
So The City Project is truly an inspiration on a community lawyer level.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Associate Assistant Administrator for Environmental Justice 2010-14
Introducing Robert García as the Keynote Speaker at the US EPA New Partners for Smart Growth Conference Workshop in Denver, CO, February 13, 2014
Click here for the video and the unedited transcipt