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2002 May - June

About This Issue

The articles in this issue of the Clearinghouse Review make the case for legal services providers to pursue race-based advocacy aggressively as part of their poverty-alleviation and and service-provider efforts.

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Race-Related Articles in Previous Issues of CLEARINGHOUSE REVIEW

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Lawyering to Meet the Needs of Monolingual Asian and Pacific Islander Communities in Los Angeles

A Case Study

By Joann H. Lee

Most mainstream legal services organizations are not equipped to assist monolingual Asian and Pacific Islander clients. To give such clients meaningful and effective legal services, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles has worked closely with the Asian and Pacific Islander community to understand better its needs, has conducted targeted outreach, and has collaborated with communitybased and other legal services organizations.

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The Long, Long Winding Road to Better Bus Service in Los Angeles

By Erica J. Teasley

For decades, bus service in Los Angeles' largely minority inner-city neighborhoods has been inferior to service in suburban neighborhoods. When the transportation authority decided to raise bus fares, eliminate monthly passes, and allocate more of its budget to rail systems to serve primarily white suburbs, the Bus Riders Union filed suit, charging that the transportation authority operated a separate and unequal public transportation system that discriminated against minority riders. Today, six years after the court approved a consent decree, the bus riders and their counsel are still fighting for the improvements that the decree promised.

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Breaking Down the Wall

Opening Building-Trade Careers to Low-Income People of Color

By Hannah Roditi & Naomi Zauderer

In cities across the country, people of color have battled for decades to gain entry to the building trades, particularly to the unionized trades that offer training, good pay, and good benefits. Community leaders in Waterbury, Connecticut, formed a coalition of local and national organizations, cultivated union and press relationships, and assembled legal advisors to win binding resident-hiring requirements for city-funded construction projects. The result is one of the country's strongest local-hiring laws, crafted to withstand constitutional challenge.

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Zero Tolerance

Racially Biased Discipline in American Schools

By Judith A. Browne

Zero tolerance was introduced as a get-tough approach to curb school violence. The result has been the creation of a disciplinary policy that promotes racial intolerance. Racial disparities are rampant in the current school zero-tolerance policy; legal strategies can address them.

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New Research on Special Education and Minority Students with Implications for Civil Rights Advocacy

By Daniel J. Losen

New research shows that racial disparities in special education identification, placement environment, and quality of services persist. The research supports arguments that subjectivity in referral and evaluation, influenced by unconscious race and ethnicity discrimination, along with poverty and deficiencies in regular education, contributes to minority overrepresentation in special education. In addition to race discrimination law, systemic challenges under disability law can stimulate improvements for large numbers of mislabeled or underserved minority children.

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Invisibility of Clients of Color

The Intersection of Language, Culture, and Race in Legal Services Practice

By Victor Goode & Phyllis Flowers

Although limited-English-proficiency regulations explicitly prohibit national-origin discrimination, many persons of color continue to experience this horrific civil rights violation in the public education system, public health agencies, the courts, and social service agencies. An arsenal of legal advocacy tools can be used to protect legal services clients of color in the battle against race and national-origin discrimination.

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Camden, New Jersey, and the Struggle for Environmental Justice

By Olga D. Pomar & Luke W. Cole

Communities of color are exposed to a far greater level of environmental hazards in the United States than white communities, and poor people of color bear the greatest burden. A recent environmental justice case unfolding in Camden, New Jersey, illustrates both the high degree of inequality in the distribution of environmental hazards and ways legal services lawyers can help low-income communities fight pollution. However, given the limitations that the federal courts have imposed on such litigation, lawyers also must be aware of the importance of community-based organizing and advocacy in achieving environmental justice.

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Encouraging Race-Based Advocacy in Legal Services Practice

By Charles Elsesser Jr. & JoNel Newman

Legal services programs need to recognize that their daily client intake involves numerous race-based discrimination claims, many of which go unidentified. Programs striving to improve their recognition of such claims and to encourage race-based advocacy should examine and strengthen four aspects of their programs: management commitment to furthering race-based advocacy, knowledge and training of their legal staff, contact with the minority client community, and awareness of Legal Services Corporation restrictions.

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Race-Based Advocacy:The Role and Responsibility of LSC-Funded Programs

Race-Based Advocacy:The Role and Responsibility of LSC-Funded Programs

By Camille D. Holmes, Linda E. Perle & Alan W. Houseman

While Legal Services Corporation (LSC) restrictions impose some limitations, LSC-funded programs still may, and should, engage in aggressive advocacy on behalf of low-income individuals and communities of color. Race-based advocacy should encompass traditional civil rights challenges to discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and language as well as representation of people of color on issues that, while not explicitly based on race, may originate in historic racial inequities. Community participation in developing program priorities is critical. Many LSC-funded programs have found creative ways to pursue effective race-based advocacy.

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Eliminating Race Discrimination in Education

Success and Future Challenges

By Kathleen B. Boundy

By challenging segregation in schools and inequities in school financing, advocates focused on obtaining equal educational opportunity for minority students. They also challenged barriers, including ability grouping and disciplinary exclusion, to such opportunity. The more recent standards and assessments are offering advocates new ways to address the unequal educational opportunity that many minority students experience.

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Race Discrimination and Consumer Law

What Legal Services Can Do to Attain Justice in the Marketplace

By Deanne Loonin

Low-income minority groups and individuals continue to find discrimination in the marketplace. They pay more for credit, and predatory lenders target them. Among other laws, the Equal Credit Opportunities Act and the Fair Housing Act can be used to fight racial inequality in the marketplace.

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A Practical Legal Services Approach to Addressing Racial Discrimination in Employment

By Sharon M. Dietrich & Noah Zatz

Almost forty years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed racial discrimination, minorities still do not share equally in the rewards of employment. Legal services can tackle employment discrimination based on race.

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The Welfare Advocate's Challenge

Fighting Historic Racism in the New Welfare System

By Henry A. Freedman

Race discrimination has a long history in government welfare programs. The 1996 welfare reform law expanded caseworker discretion, which can lead to disparate treatment of persons of color. Research shows that it has led to such treatment. While the 1996 reform eliminated the entitlement to welfare and recent court decisions have limited litigation under civil rights acts, there remain many viable antidiscrimination strategies, some of which advocates have yet to invent.

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Housing, Poverty, and Racial Justice

How Civil Rights Laws Can Redress the Housing Problems of Poor People

By Florence Wagman Roisman

People of color in the United States today suffer disproportionately, egregiously, and inexcusably from lack of housing, substandard housing, excessive rents, inadequate and dangerous neighborhood conditions, discrimination, and segregation. Civil rights laws afford remedies for these harms.

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Race and Health

By Jane Perkins

Legal services advocacy challenging racial disparities and discrimination in health care delivery has, for example, led to publicly funded hospitals providing services to persons unable to pay. Racism continues to affect health care delivery, and advocates need to be vigilant and use new strategies, such as filing complaints with the Office for Civil Rights, to protect their clients' rights.

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Racial Justice

The Role of Civil Legal Assistance

By Alan W. Houseman

Racial discrimination continues to be a leading cause of the legal problems that low-income people of color experience. While some legal aid programs engage in very effective race-based advocacy, many more can do so. Programs must strengthen their capacity to engage in racial justice work and explicitly incorporate racial justice advocacy as a key component of their work.

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