Congress eases rules against racial discrimination in the auto loan market
The color of your skin can make buying a car more expensive, decades of experiments and data show.
As a result, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau put out a noticein 2013 reaffirming that discriminatory auto lending is illegal.
The House voted Tuesday to undo that guidance, weeks after the Senate took the same action. The measure now moves to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law.
Here’s what you should know.
Why the guidance was issued
Car dealers often work with third-party lenders, such as banks or credit unions, to provide financing options to consumers.
Once that “indirect” lender offers the car dealer an interest rate on an auto loan, the dealer is often allowed to mark up that rate to the buyer for additional compensation. Such dealer discretion has resulted in discriminatory lending practices, research shows.
“A loan origination should be as objective as possible, but when you add discretion, you add subjective means that are harder to keep transparent and hold accountable,” said Delvin Davis of the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit research and advocacy group for consumers, which conducted the auto lending research.
Just this year, the National Fair Housing Alliance, a collection of organizations that fight against housing and other types of lending discrimination, launched an investigation into the auto loan industry by sending white and nonwhite “testers” into car dealerships in Virginia.
More than 60 percent of the time, the nonwhite individuals who were more qualified than their white counterparts were given more costly options. As a result, people of color who faced discrimination would pay an average of $2,662 more over the length of the loan.
How to prevent racial discrimination during recruitment
Earlier this month, journalist and TV presenter Waleed Aly in his Logie acceptance speech referenced an interaction he had with an actor that night. Aly recalled that the actor told him that he was not able to use his birth name Mustafa, because he would not be able to get a job in the TV industry.
Aly’s speech highlighted one of the potential dangers to businesses in the recruitment and selection process – omitting from the selection process an applicant with a name which may indicate their race, descent, national or ethnic origin.
The incidence of this racial discrimination is not confined to the showbiz industry. Recently, accommodation website Airbnb also came under scrutiny after a Harvard Business School study revealed that requests by users with African- American names or profiles were 16% less likely to be accepted than non-African-American users. One user demonstrated the discrimination when two profiles were created – a request from the profile which had an African-American name was rejected while another fake profile with a different name was accepted.
The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (RD Act) provides that it is unlawful to directly or indirectly discriminate against a person on the base of their race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin.
Under section 15 of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (RD Act) employers cannot refuse or fail to employ a person (in work which is available and for which the person is qualified) due to that person’s race, colour, or national or ethnic origin. The RD Act also provides that it is unlawful to refuse to employ a person on the basis of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the person’s relative or associate (this can be for example, their spouse, parents etc).
Last week, the Victorian Government launched a pilot project “Recruit Smarter” which aims to address unconscious bias in the recruitment process.
The program will assess the personal details (such as name, gender, age) which should be de-identified to avoid potential bias. The program is supported by organizations from both the government and private sector, including Australia Post, the University of Melbourne, Ambulance Victoria and Westpac.
Tips for employers
The Airbnb scenario is a potential risk to employers in the recruitment process. Employers may wish to institute recruitment procedures where identifiers such as name, country of birth etc are removed from applicant’s applications so that each application is assessed on skills, experience etc.
Employers should also regularly conduct workplace training on what is and what isn’t unlawful workplace discrimination and institute anti-discrimination policies to remind employees that discrimination is unlawful and not acceptable.
Are Germany’s anti-racism initiatives achieving enough?
Germany’s government spent over €100 million in 2017 for initiatives promoting diversity. But as the country marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, intolerance remains a serious issue.
“We’ve been busiest at our psychosocial center for refugees over the last few years,” says Isabel Teller, an attorney, mediator and advisor at the Office for Equality at the Aachen Educational Center (GBB). Founded in 1983, the initiative receives financing from the German federal government and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It has seven areas of focus, ranging from support for the victims of racially-motivated violence to the integration of refugees.
“The waiting period for people seeking trauma therapy right now is about six months. That is what we are specialized in,” says Teller, who has also become an expert at dealing with civil registry offices. She says she receives complaints about them on an almost daily basis.
Teller says the most common complaints arise from civil servants refusing to issue birth certificates for refugees who have given birth to children in Germany. “Legal guidelines are often interpreted in such a way that it becomes almost impossible for those seeking documents to get them.”
Brownsville man sues DHS for racial discrimination
In a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last week in federal court, a Brownsville man claims his employee security clearance was rescinded because of where he was born.
Jorge Cruz Fano claims he was discriminated against and his civil rights were violated when DHS officials rescinded his security clearance at the Port Isabel Detention Center without a legitimate reason, the lawsuit states.
“DHS’s actions are consistent with the Trump Administration’s … larger, racialized goals concerning immigration,” the lawsuit’s preliminary statement reads in part. “President Trump has long made clear his antipathy toward Mexican immigrants. On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump kicked off his campaign with a speech in which he labeled immigrants from Mexico ‘rapists’ and criminals. … DHS’s decision to rescind Cruz’s security clearance was infected with the intention to discriminate on the basis of race and/or ethnicity, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.”
Born in Veracruz, Mexico, Cruz’s U.S. residency is legal. He has a civil engineering degree from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, also known as Technologico de Estudios Superiories de Monterrey, the lawsuit states.
At the time DHS rescinded Cruz’s security clearance, he had been an employee with KCORP — which is based in Fairbanks, Alaska, and provides facility maintenance services for the detention center, as well as other DHS facilities — for more than three years.
Cruz filed a lawsuit Feb. 12 against DHS, former acting DHS deputy secretary Elaine C. Duke, current DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas Homan, in their respective official capacities, claiming he was discriminated against because of his race.
The 44-year-old man claims two DHS/ICE employees — Janie Bennett, the assistant field office director of enforcement and removal operations for ICE; and Paul Salinas, the facility manager for ICE at the detention center — harassed and threatened Cruz prior to the rescission of his security clearance, court records show.
Cruz’s attorney, Anthony P. Troiani of Brownsville, declined to comment as litigation is pending.
Fire fighter takes on KCK Fire Department, union and UG for racial discrimination
A black fire fighter in Kansas City, Kan., who has been suspended without pay since 2016 is suing the city’s fire department, the Unified Government and the fire fighters’ union for retaliation and racial discrimination.
Jyan Harris, a KCK Fire Department employee since 2004, claims he has been subjected to repeated harassment from leadership within the department since trying to recover from two on-the-job injuries that left him with lasting pain and physical effects.
Harris, who has been suspended without pay pending termination since Sept. 28, 2016, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday after the Justice Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave Harris a notice of the right to sue the UG and the fire department.
A black fire fighter in Kansas City, Kan., who has been suspended without pay since 2016 is suing the city’s fire department, the Unified Government and the fire fighters’ union for retaliation and racial discrimination. Jyan Harris, a KCK Fire Department employee since 2004, claims he has been subjected to repeated harassment from leadership within the department since trying to recover from two on-the-job injuries that left him with lasting pain and physical effects. Harris, who has been suspended without pay pending termination since Sept. 28, 2016, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday after the Justice Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave Harris a notice of the right to sue the UG and the fire department. Harris, who has been suspended without pay pending termination since Sept. 28, 2016, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday after the Justice Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave Harris a notice of the right to sue the UG and the fire department. a lawsuit in federal court on Monday after the Justice Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave Harris a notice of the right to sue the UG and the fire department.
Lawsuit: Racism, talk of Trump-inspired ‘fence’ at Mt. Healthy police department
A federal lawsuit filed this week alleging a culture of racism within Mount Healthy’s police department is the third in recent years involving one of its African-American officers.
The previous two lawsuits, filed in 2016 and 2017, involved part-time officers. The newest lawsuit was filed by a current full-time officer, Paul Scott, who documents say was the first African-American hired by the small department.
The lawsuit includes allegations that Police Chief Vince Demasi talked with officers about “Demasi’s fence.” The fence was being put up, the lawsuit says, to stop residents of a predominantly African-American apartment complex in Springfield Township from walking through an area that separates the complex from a Mount Healthy shopping center.
During that March 2016 discussion, according to the lawsuit, officers talked about building a wall between the communities – after first discussing then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposed wall at the Mexican border.
“The conversation became even more offensive and racist,” the lawsuit says. An officer suggested they build a moat, where the apartment complex’s residents would “drop into and drown.”
According to the lawsuit, someone then suggested a sign that warned of prosecution:
“Officers said they would need to define the word ‘prosecution,’ implying the African-American residents were not intelligent enough to read or comprehend the sign.”
A day later, on March 18, 2016, Officer Scott filed a complaint with his supervisor about the discussion surrounding the fence.
The lawsuit says Scott complained that Demasi “encouraged the conversation.”
Mount Healthy City Manager Bill Kocher declined to comment. Demasi said he could not talk about pending litigation.
Demasi did say his department does not “condone, accept or allow any type of racial activity to occur.”
He said an outside law firm was hired by the city to investigate Scott’s allegations.
“They found no evidence of any racial discrimination or any issues,” Demasi said.
Black narcotics cops sue city claiming discrimination, corruption
Four African American narcotics officers and the Guardian Civic League, which represents black police officers, have filed a federal lawsuit against Philadelphia, its police department and two narcotics supervisors claiming the officers are victims of workplace racial discrimination and retaliation for refusing to falsify drug-arrest paperwork.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and an end to the alleged discrimination and retaliation, comes three months after the officers‘ attorney and civic league officials first made the allegations public during a news conference.
“Commanding officers have harassed and encouraged harassment and disrespect of African American police officers to the point where we believe that a crisis of racial discrimination exists at Narcotics,” Rochelle Bilal, civic league president, said in September.
Police Department spokesman Capt. Sekou Kinebrew was not at work Friday and no one else was available to comment on the suit, a department spokesman said. The officers have previously not responded to requests for comment on the allegations.
The four-count complaint names Chief Inspector for the Narcotics Bureau Anthony Boyle and Inspector for the Narcotics Bureau Raymond Evers as the supervisors who ordered the plaintiffs to falsify drug reports through a practice known as “flipping,” and who retaliated against them for refusing to do so.
Through flipping, commanding officers expect and require officers to obscure the source of recovered drugs if a suspect who has been arrested is willing to cooperate and provide information on other crimes, the suit states.
The practice circumvents the approved department policy pertaining to the use of confidential informants, while bringing “into question the integrity of evidence, validity of prosecutions, and credibility of those narcotics officers who sign false receipts, and further puts arrestees’ constitutional rights at serious risk,” the suit states.
The plaintiffs, Staff Inspector Debra Frazier, Capt. Laverne Vann, Lt. Anthony Burton and Officer Shamal Bryant, were each punished by Boyle and Evers for refusing to engage in flipping, according to the suit.
UN warns racism on rise in Australia, calls for section 18C to be strengthened
The United Nations has issued a scathing report on racism in Australia, warning discrimination is “on the rise”, including in the political sphere and in the media.
But the assessment and its recommendations have drawn a fierce response from the Turnbull government’s Multicultural Affairs Minister, Zed Seselja, who lashed out at its “bizarre criticism”.
The periodic review documented 16 areas of concern including the welfare and status of Indigenous Australians, asylum seekers and migrant workers.
The UN committee proposed a range of radical changes to combat racism, including beefing up section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and effectively censoring aspects of the media and public commentary.
Multicultural Affairs Minister Zed Seselja, right, said parts of the report’s criticism were “bizarre”. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
It suggested racist incidents were often “treated with impunity” and said section 18C should be better policed by “law enforcement officials”. UN officials were concerned too few racial discrimination complaints made it to court because the costs and the burden of proof were too high.
Free speech advocates consider section 18C – which makes it unlawful (but not criminal) to offend, insult or humiliate someone on the basis of race – a blight on free expression. The Turnbull government earlier this year tried to water down the section’s wording but was blocked by the Senate.
In its report released overnight in Geneva, the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination declared “expressions of racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia, including in the public sphere and political debates as well as in the media, are on the rise” in Australia.
The report’s conclusions are based largely on submissions and testimony from non-government organisations, communities and Australian governments.
Hate speech and violence particularly affected Arabs and Muslims, asylum seekers and refugees, Africans, South Asians and Indigenous people, the committee noted.
Here’s how Australia can act to target racist behaviour online
Although racism online feels like an insurmountable problem, there are legal and civil actions we can take right now in Australia to address it.
Racism expressed on social media sites provided by Facebook and the Alphabet stable (which includes Google and YouTube) ranges from advocacy of white power, support of the extermination of Jews and the call for political action against Muslim citizens because of their faith. Increasingly it occurs within the now “private” pages of groups that “like” racism.
At the heart of the problem is the clash between commercial goals of social media companies (based around creating communities, building audiences, and publishing and curating content to sell to advertisers), and self-ascribed ethical responsibilities of companies to users.
Although some platforms show growing awareness of the need to respond more quickly to complaints, it’s a very slow process to automate.
Australia should focus on laws that protect internet users from overt hate, and civil actions to help balance out power relationships.
Three actions on the legal front
At the global level, Australia could withdraw its reservation to Article 4 of the International Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Such a move has been flagged in the past, but stymied by opposition from an alliance of free speech and social conservative activists and politicians.
The convention is a global agreement to outlaw racism and racial discrimination, and Article 4 committed signatories to criminalise race hate speech. Australia’s reservation reflected the conservative governments’ reluctance to use the criminal law, similar to the civil law debate over section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in 2016/7.
New data released by the eSafety Commissioner showed young people are subjected to extensive online hate. Amongst other findings, 53% of young Muslims said they had faced harmful online content; Indigenous people and asylum seekers were also frequent targets of online hate. Perhaps this could lead governments and opposition parties to a common cause.
Black employees working in Trump’s hotel in Washington sue for racial discrimination
Donald Trump has claimed to love “the blacks” over and over again. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he famously asked what blacks had to lose by voting for him. A great many of us (especially black women) predicted that blacks stood to lose a lot by Trump being in office—hence our not voting for him. But we are also now learning that blacks have a lot to lose just by working for Trump. In a new lawsuit filed this week in Washington, D.C., three black employees claim that they were discriminated against in their work for BLT Prime, the steakhouse in the Trump International Hotel.
In a civil complaint filed Wednesday morning in D.C. Superior Court, [Dominque Hill], a former BLT employee, and [Irving Smith, Jr.], a current one, allege that the Trump Organization and hotel managing director Mickael Damelincourt saw to it that the restaurant routinely steered black employees to less lucrative shifts and subjected them to discriminatory behavior by other staff and by guests. The two men are joined in the case by another former BLT employee, JaNette Sturdivant.
Why is this not surprising? Trump has a long history of anti-black racism. From his calls for the death penalty for the Central Park Five to being sued for housing bias and discrimination, his actions have long proven that he believes that blacks are, in every way, inferior to whites. While Trump clearly doesn’t oversee the day-to-day operations of the hotel, we should not have any doubt that he has put in place a team of equally bigoted and racist employees who have little respect for blacks and other people of color. After all, we’ve seen who he’s brought to work for him in the White House.