The Trump administration is considering more rollbacks of civil rights legislation.
A leaked memo orders civil rights administrators in the Justice Department to look into how “disparate impact” rules affect their departments and what would happen if such regulations were removed from the books, reports The Washington Post.
"Disparate impact" refers to actions that may not be intended to be racist or discriminatory but adversely affect marginalized groups.
Current disparate impact rules allowed a lawsuit to be brought against a New York landlord who refused to rent to people with criminal records. Lawyers opposing the landlord argued the renting policy broke disparate impact rules because the area had more people of color with criminal histories than white people with records.
The Obama administration used disparate impact rules to rebuke schools that were suspending Black students at higher rates than white students and to suggest ways schools could make discipline the same regardless of a student's race.
The memo has been panned by critics who believe rule changes would permit institutions to be discriminatory.
“Disparate impact is a critical framework to secure opportunities and equality for people of color, women and others struggling under the weight of present-day and historical discrimination,” said Jeff Robinson, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, in an ACLU statement.
Robinson continued, “It is shameful that this administration is considering dismantling tools to fight discrimination rather than using its power to foster respect for the dignity and equality of all people.”
Roger Clegg, who heads the conservative think tank the Center for Equal Opportunity, said repealing disparate impact rules would make the U.S. a fairer place because it would make all discussions of fairness and discrimination race-blind.
“The disparate-impact approach requires decision-makers to make decisions with an eye on race," Clegg said. "That is exactly what the civil rights laws are supposed to prohibit.”
There is no word on the timeline of this review or whether there will actually be any concrete changes made. The Department of Education is also looking into changing disparate impact rules, while Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development is slowly implementing changes.
This would not be the first time the Trump administration has targeted civil rights legislation.
In October, a memo outlined new guidance on the federal definition of gender and Trump administration's intention to treat people based on the gender they were assigned at birth. As Blavity reported, this threatened federal protections of transgender people.
“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the memo read. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
In July, affirmative action guidelines for college admissions by former President Barack Obama were dropped. Opponents to this move fear it will make colleges more white; proponents claimed it would merely ensure the best students are accepted into the best school, Blavity reported.
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