Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sought a “middle ground between riots on the one hand and timid supplications for justice on the other.” Combined organizing and legal strategies provide that middle ground for social change. Advocates leave too much on the table when they address undefined “equity” and “policy” interests for “disadvantaged communities” without considering people have rights protected by civil rights laws.
Strategies for Health Justice: Lessons from the Field provides a road map by leading attorneys and advocates for civil rights, health equity, and environmental justice to alleviate or eliminate structural inequities based on race, color, national origin, income, and other disparities.
Legal standards are necessary to gather and analyze data, measure progress and equity, and hold officials accountable. A comprehensive civil rights approach relies on coalition building, planning, data collection and analysis, media, policy and legal advocacy, negotiation, and, if necessary, access to justice through the courts—all as part of combined problem-solving strategies. At the same time, voluntary compliance with, and enforcement of, equal justice laws and policies can be preferable to action in court to achieve equal justice, health equity, and environmental justice goals.
Attorneys and advocates address urban renewal; housing, health, and racism; schools; toxics; energy; transportation; waste equity; and a cross-cutting framework based on social science evidence, sound policy, and good law. The framework is summarized at pages 142-57.
Thank you to the Poverty, Race, and Research Action Council for publishing this important report, and for including a chapter by The Praxis Project, GreenLatinos, and The City Project.