Trump’s assault on civil rights protections | Editorials

The Trump administration is considering lifting some significant civil rights protections for minority groups.

The Justice Department reportedly submitted an amendment to the enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to the White House for approval that prohibits recipients of federal funds from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The regulation covers housing programs, employers, schools, hospitals and other organizations and programs.

Under the change, the Department of Justice would no longer enforce the protection of the law in cases where a policy or practice had “different effects” on blacks or other minority groups.

The Trump administration has argued that civil rights law only protects against willful acts of discrimination.

However, the rule of different effects is critical to depicting discrimination as it takes into account patterns of behavior that may appear neutral and compares the results for different groups to reveal inequalities. These types of cases represent the greatest form of discrimination in litigation as companies and organizations rarely disclose that they are deliberately engaged in the practice.

The proposal would remove references to policies and practices that “have the effect” of exposing individuals to discrimination.

This 11th hour move is the Trump administration’s recent move to roll back civil rights protection for minorities and other groups. The administration has curtailed positive action policies and reduced state diversity training.

The new change would have profound effects.

For example, protection from disparate effects was critical to the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation into disproportionate disciplinary rates among black and Latin American students in schools. The division’s civil rights bureau was able to review guidelines and consider harmful outcomes, said Shiwali Patel, senior counsel for the National Women’s Law Center. In several cases, the office found that schools disciplined students differently depending on their race.

When the new amendment is introduced, a potential Supreme Court review will be launched with a Conservative majority deemed to be against the protection of civil rights. The new attorney general in the new Biden administration and the new democratically controlled Congress must act quickly against the proposal.

The Trump administration’s dangerous proposal would promote longstanding civil rights protections for combating systemic racism in education, housing and other areas.

Disparate Impact is a longstanding legal tool needed to combat unlawful discriminatory practices, especially those that lie below the surface.

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