E. Factors Affecting Implementation
Although there has been significant progress in the improvement of race relations in the United States over the past half century, serious obstacles remain to be overcome. Overt discrimination is far less pervasive than it was thirty years ago, yet more subtle forms of discrimination against minority individuals and groups persists in American society. In its contemporary dimensions discrimination takes a variety of forms, some more subtle and elusive than others. Among the principal causative factors are:
- The persistence of attitudes, policies and practices reflecting a legacy of segregation, ignorance, stereotyping, discrimination and disparities in opportunity and achievement.
- Inadequate enforcement of existing anti-discrimination laws due to under-funding of federal and state civil rights agencies. Resource limitations cause delays in investigation, compliance review, technical assistance and enforcement.
- Ineffective use and dissemination of data on racial and ethnic issues and information on civil rights protection. Too many persons do not believe that racial discrimination is a common or active form of mistreatment and are therefore less supportive of race conscious remedial actions. Moreover, many minority groups do not have adequate information about government-funded programs and activities because information is not distributed in languages they can understand in often remote areas throughout the United States. This is particularly true for some American Indian and Alaska Native populations.
- Economic disadvantage. In the contemporary United States, persons belonging to minority groups are disproportionately at the bottom of the income distribution curve. While it is inaccurate to equate minority status with poverty, members of minority groups are nonetheless more likely to be poor than are non-minorities. It is also true, in the United States as elsewhere, that almost every form of disease and disability is more prevalent among the poor, that the poor face higher levels of
unemployment, that they achieve lower educational levels, that they are more frequently victimized by crime, and that they tend to live in environments (both urban and rural) which exacerbate these problems.
- Persistent discrimination in employment and labor relations, especially in the areas of hiring, salary and compensation, but also in tenure, training, promotion, layoff and in the work environment generally. Over the past few years, for example, complaints have been leveled against several major employers including Texaco, Shoney's, General Motors, Pitney Bowes and Avis.
- Continued segregation and discrimination in housing, rental and sales of homes, public accommodation and consumer goods. Even where civil rights laws prohibit segregation and discrimination in these areas, such practices continue.
- Lack of equal access to business capital and credit markets. Minorities continue to have difficulty raising capital or securing loans to finance a business. Without sufficient access to such financial markets, minority entrepreneurs will continue to start and grow businesses at a much slower rate than their White counterparts. This problem further lessens the prospects of wealth creation in under-served communities, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty that disproportionately affects minorities.
- Lack of access to technology and high technology skills. Despite the rapid development of the Internet and other information technologies, minorities have participated at lower rates in the so-called "new economy" because they lack the skills necessary to fill the numerous technology jobs created everyday. Technology-based jobs are projected to be a large percentage of new jobs that will be created over the next ten years. If minorities are not trained with information technology skills, a large number of workers will be unable to benefit from the tremendous wealth generated by this segment of the economy.
- Lack of educational opportunities. Largely because of the persistence of residential segregation and so-called "White flight" from the public school systems in many larger urban areas, minorities often attend comparatively under-funded (and thus lower-quality) primary and secondary schools. Thus minority children are often less prepared to compete for slots in competitive universities and jobs. While efforts to dismantle segregation in our nation's schools have enjoyed some success, segregation remains a problem both in and among our schools, especially given rollbacks in affirmative action programs.
- Discrimination in the criminal justice system. The negative overall impact of the criminal justice system on Blacks, Hispanics and members of other minority groups is another barrier to our achieving the goals of the Convention. Various studies indicate that members of minority groups, especially Blacks and Hispanics, may be disproportionately subject to adverse treatment throughout the criminal justice process. High incarceration rates for minorities have led to the political disenfranchisement of a significant segment of the U.S. population. Moreover, many have raised concerns that incidents of police brutality seem to target disproportionately individuals belonging to racial or ethnic minorities.
- Disadvantages for women and children of racial minorities. Often, the consequences of racism and racial discrimination are heightened for women and children. Whether in the criminal justice system, education, employment or health care, women and children suffer discrimination disproportionately. Startlingly high incarceration rates for minority women and children have placed them at a substantial social, economic and political disadvantage.
- Health care. Persons belonging to minority groups tend to have less adequate access to health insurance and health care. Historically, ethnic and racial minorities were excluded from obtaining private insurance, and although such discriminatory practices are now prohibited by law, statistics continue to reflect that persons belonging to minority groups, particularly the poor, are less likely to have adequate health insurance than White persons. Racial and ethnic minorities also appear to have suffered disproportionately the effects of major epidemics like AIDS. For example, in 1999, 54 percent of new cases of HIV infection occurred among Blacks, even though they make up less than 15 percent of the population.
- Voting. While the Voting Rights Act has made it possible for Blacks and Hispanics to obtain an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice to local, state, and federal office, the federal courts -- since the early 1990s -- have become more restrictive in permitting race-conscious apportionment of voting districts. Thus, many of the gains made by minority voters in the 1970s and 1980s have been jeopardized.
- Discrimination against immigrants. Whether legal or illegal, recent immigrants often encounter discrimination in employment, education and housing as a result of persistent racism and xenophobia. Some also contend that U.S. immigration law and policy is either implicitly or explicitly based on improper racial, ethnic and national criteria. Language barriers have also created difficulties of access, inter alia, to health care, education and voting rights for some.
Specific examples of these shortcomings include the following incidents:
- On June 8, 1998, James Byrd, Jr., a Black man, was chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged to his death in Jasper, Texas. Two of the three young White men who killed James Byrd were connected with White supremacist groups. The three men accused of committing this crime were successfully prosecuted under Texas law by the state of Texas, with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice. Two received the death penalty; the third was sentenced to life imprisonment.
- One of the most high-profile cases in recent years was the videotaped beating of Rodney King by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department. After the police officers were acquitted on state charges, riots broke out in Los Angeles and in other cities throughout the country. Subsequent to these acquittals, however, two of the four officers involved were convicted on federal charges and sentenced to thirty months in prison.
- In 1999, Black guests of the Adams Mark Hotel during the Black College Reunion in Daytona Beach, Florida were allegedly mistreated, including being required to wear wrist bands identifying them as guests of the hotel, while White guests did not receive such treatment. The
Department of Justice filed suit against the hotel, and pursuant to a proposed settlement, the hotel chain will agree, inter alia, to adopt a comprehensive plan to ensure every hotel will be operated in a non-discriminatory fashion.
- The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has initiated several investigations into allegations of discriminatory highway traffic stops and discriminatory stops of persons travelling in urban areas (so-called "racial profiling") by state and local law enforcement authorities. Its investigation of the New Jersey state police led to a lawsuit and consent decree emphasizing non-discrimination in policy and practices as well as improved data collection, training, supervision and monitoring of officers. A similar agreement was reached with the Montgomery County, Maryland Police Department.
- In Jackson, Mississippi more than 200 Blacks were allegedly denied home improvement loans even though they received passing scores on credit scoring systems. Black applicants were more than three times more likely to have their loan applications denied than similarly situated White applicants. The United States filed a lawsuit, which was settled in the amount of $3 million, to be paid to Black applicants who had been denied loans.
- Throughout the United States, primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, and professional sports teams use depictions of Native Americans as mascots. Native American groups have challenged these uses on the basis that they are demeaning and offensive.