Posts Tagged ‘Discrimination’

Whether or not racial profiling in traffic stops is a thing of the past

May 27th, 2013 No comments

By: *Marthe Ngwashi

Blog Topic: Racial Profiling & Traffic Stops

Whether or not racial profiling in traffic stops is a thing of the past.


Could racial profiling in traffic stops be an issue of the past? While difficult to determine whether discrimination or other factors dictate a traffic stop, people of color, as research indicates, continue to be stopped more often than whites.[1] For a traffic stop, the purpose of profiling based on race remains unsubstantiated, while the length and search rate for stops between a person of color and a similarly situated white driver may be no different at all.[2] In fact, one study noted that a higher level of discrimination on an officer’s part, does not even take place prior to a stop.[3] Analytically though, something likely more important than the stop itself is the character of each stop and the subsequent treatment of the individual(s) detained.[4]

All things considered, research verifies that subjectivity plays a role in an officer’s decision to make a stop.[5] As such, any attempts to discontinue a practice involving racial bias will require commitment and persistence on a police chief’s part and patience from the public. It is unknown whether the bias stems from the culture within a police department or merely a small group of problem officers.[6] As a result, it is evident that racial profiling in traffic stops is not an issue of the past.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


*Marthe Ngwashi is a staff member on Widener’s Journal of Law, Economics & Race. To learn more about Marthe, click here to view her page.

[1] Racial Profiling and Traffic Stops, National Institute of Justice (Jan 10, 2013),

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

Pennsylvania Judge Bars Voter-ID law for 2012 Election

December 3rd, 2012 No comments

By: *Christopher King

Blog Category: The Economics of Discrimination

On October 2, 2012, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson granted a preliminary injunction in Applewhite v. Commonwealth,[1] thus, putting on hold a law passed by the Pennsylvania legislature earlier this year, requiring Pennsylvania voters to produce photo identification at the polls in order to vote.  Originally, Judge Simpson had denied the plaintiffs’ application for a preliminary injunction.[2]  The plaintiffs, however, appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who voted to vacate the judge’s order and remanded the case for further review.[3] In its decision, the Court asked the judge to assess the availability of state-issued photo ID, and wrote that the law should be temporary blocked if the judge found that there were voters who would be disenfranchised because of the difficulty in obtaining a photo ID prior to the November general election.[4]


In his October 2nd ruling, Judge Simpson accepted the petitioners’ argument and said that it was logistically impossible to make IDs available to everyone who needed one before the November general election.[5]  Judge Simpson ruled that, while election officials can still request to see a voter’s ID on Election Day, voters are no longer required to show ID in order to cast a regular ballot.[6]  The law as adopted had only allowed for a voter without the required ID to cast a provisional ballot, and for that ballot to be counted only if the voter returned with the proper photo documentation within six days of the election.[7]


The idea of producing identification in order to vote is something that strikes most people as a reasonable requirement.  After all, we need a photo ID to get on an airplane, to enter a number of governmental buildings, or even to buy Sudafed at the drug store.  Supporters of voter-ID laws maintain that the intent of these measures is to ensure that each registered voter is who he says he is and to prevent fraud by persons trying to cast a ballot in someone else’s name.[8]  Again, it seems reasonable enough, so why has there been so much vocal opposition to voter-ID laws?


For starters, a look at the history of voter-ID laws shows that, before 2006, no state required its voters to show government-issued photo ID in order to vote.[9]  Prior to the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American President, only two states had implemented photo identification requirements for voters.[10]  In 2011 alone, thirty-four states introduced legislation that would require its citizens to show photo identification in order to vote.[11]  Aside from Rhode Island, all voter-ID legislation has been introduced by Republican-controlled legislatures.[12]

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, 11% of American citizens, and an even greater percentage of low-income and minority citizens, do not possess a government-issued photo ID.[13]  Based on the Brennan Center’s 2006 survey, Citizens Without Proof, 25% of voting-age African Americans have no current government-issued photo ID, compared to just 8% of voting-age white citizens.[14]  The survey also states that 16% of voting-age Hispanic citizens have no current government-issued photo ID.[15]  Citizens with comparatively low incomes are also less likely to possess photo identification.[16]  The survey indicates that at least 15% of voting-age Americans earning less than $35,000 per year do not have a valid government-issued photo ID.[17]


A recent Pennsylvania study comparing people listed in the state’s ID database with its voter rolls found that more than one in seven Pennsylvania voters did not appear to have valid state-issued IDs.[18]  In the city of Philadelphia, nearly one out of every three voters were found to be without the proper photo identification.[19]  While there has been some discrepancy concerning the total number of voters who lack a suitable photo ID, Azavea, a geospatial software firm, used the information relevant to Philadelphia to show a disturbing tendency about where those who do not have an ID are most likely to live.[20]  The firm found that voters who live in the city’s most heavily African American-populated areas are 85% more likely to lack a valid ID than a voter who lives in a predominantly white area.  In addition, voters who live in heavily Hispanic areas were 108% more likely to lack the right ID than those in white neighborhoods.[21]

Finally, opponents of these laws argue that photo ID requirements are similar to a poll tax because, even though the state-issued photo IDs are offered for free, citizens must produce documents that cost money, like passports and birth certificates, in order to obtain the IDs.[22]


The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

*Christopher King is currently a staff member on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race on the Harrisburg campus. To learn more about Christopher King, click the link to visit his page: Christopher King

[1] Applewhite v. Commonwealth, No. 330 M.D. (Pa. Commw. Ct. Oct. 2, 2012), NR/rdonlyres/CFBF4323-B964-4846-8179-88D689375C10/0/CMWSuppDetAppPrelInjOrder _100212.pdf.

[2] Suevon Lee, Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Voter ID Laws, ProPublica (Oct. 10, 2012, 1:54 PM),

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Sophia Pearson, Pennsylvania Judge Bars Voter-ID Law for 2012 Election, Bloomberg (Oct. 3, 2012, 12:01 AM),

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Lee, supra note 2.

[9] Wendy R. Weiser & Lawrence Norden, Brennan Ctr for Justice, Voting Law Changes in 2012 4 (2011), available at

[10] Id. at 2.

[11] Id.

[12] Lee, supra note 2.

[13] Weiser & Norden, supra note 9.

[14] Brennan Ctr for Justice, Citizens Without Proof: A Survery of Americans’ Possession of Documentary Proof of Citizenship and Photo Identification 3 (2006), available at

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Dan Froomkin, Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Hits Philadelphia Blacks, Latinos Harder, HuffingtonPost (Aug. 7, 2012),

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Lee, supra note 2.

Economics and Discrimination

November 12th, 2012 No comments

Blog category: The Economics of Discrimination

By: *Alexandria MacMaster

While the awareness of discrimination and its effect on the economics of those being discriminated against is on the rise, there is still an unknown and subtle discrimination that directly hurts the economics of struggling groups.  One group in particular that is struggling, especially in the criminal court system, is African American women.  Geneva Brown writes in her Article, “The Wind Cries Mary” in the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development that African American women are targeted as a group to become imprisoned in some of the “for-profit” prisons through the criminal justice system.  She also goes on to point out the harm of having many of these African American women imprisoned goes much further than just potentially harming these specific women.  A point that should be emphasized in our conversations regarding discrimination and economics is that having African American women incarcerated is taking away the matriarch of family units in struggling families.  Regardless of whether or not anyone agrees with the high number of incarcerated black women being a product of discrimination, the fact alone that so many are incarcerated  is reason enough to break down why they are incarcerated, and how that can be rectified.   African American women being taken away from their families displaces their children, many of whom end up in foster care, or become homeless or criminals themselves.  This is not something that does our society or our economy any good. Communities and families’ futures are limited when African American women are incarcerated and it is an issue that needs to be addressed.

For a review of the article, click here.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


*Alexandria MacMaster is currently a staff member on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics and Race. To learn more about Alexandria MacMaster, Click here to visit her page: Alexandria MacMaster

Immigration and the War on Terror and the Illegal Drug Trade

November 5th, 2012 No comments

Blog Category: Immigration

Written by: *Jesse Rhodeside

Throughout the history of the United States, periods of immigration have frequently corresponded with concerns over prospects for assimilating new groups of immigrants.  In each instance, however, the fears were found to be overstated and the group at issue would become part of the rich variety of cultures within our nation.  These concerns are present today in contemporary discussions on immigration and frame the belief that immigration is intertwined with the trade of illegal drugs and perhaps even terrorism.  As public discussions about immigration focuses on these issues, and legislators pass laws meant to address concerns related to the “War on Terror” or the “War on Drugs,” more pressing issues are ignored.  Given the interests involved and the contemporary attempts to direct political effort toward economic recovery, it suggests that attention by both the media and lawmakers is misplaced.

Much of the justification for taking a hard line against undocumented immigrants is the purported connection with the illegal drug trade.  Most immigrants are not involved in the illegal drug trade, and the crime rates in immigrant communities are comparable to non-immigrant communities.  Likewise, although the September 11 attacks demonstrated flaws in the defense mechanisms of the United States, the connection between acts of terror and the status of the border is tenuous.  The supposed connections with the drug trade and terror, however, has led to the effective criminalization of immigration law violations.  Given that these workers are afforded few legal protections as a result of their undocumented status, there is great potential for wage and working condition abuse.  Kevin Johnson suggests redirecting our public conversation towards the goals sought and to reduce the inflammatory tone of the conversation in order to achieve reform in this contentious area.

For additional information about unaddressed issues in the immigration policy debate, see Kevin Johnson, It’s the Economy, Stupid: The Hijacking of the Debate Over Immigration Reform by Monsters, Ghosts, and Goblins (or the War on Drugs, War on Terror, Narcoterrorists, Etc.), 13 Chap. L. Rev. 583 (2010).


*Jesse Rhodeside is currently the Senior Managing Editor on the Harrisburg Campus. To learn more about Jesse Rhodeside, click the link to view his page: Jesse Rhodeside


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American Scheme

November 4th, 2012 No comments

Blog Category: The Economics of Discrimination

Written by: *Brandon Perloff

Before the “Great Recession” beginning in 2008, the average, informed American never heard of the term “subprime mortgage,” but now, the term can now be heard on on Main Street just as frequently heard on Wall Street.  The hardships of the financial crisis has not, however, affected everyone equally. Three major metro Atlanta counties has identified the cause of that disparate effect on another increasingly more commonly heard term “predatory lending.”[1]

For borrowers, a predatory loan is just as sinister as its name suggests.  It is a loan excessively higher than those granted to similarly situated borrowers, not justified by the borrower’s credit-worthiness, and is secured by the borrower’s home.[2]   After reality sets in and the borrower defaults on the loan, the “American Dream” of owning your own home soon becomes a nightmare after lenders swoop in for the foreclosure.[3]

Three Georgia counties, DeKalb, which was 54.4% African- American in 2011, Cobb (25.9 %), and Fulton (45.45%), are suing the London-based mortgage lender HSBC under the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”).[4]   The FHA makes it illegal to “discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin.”[5]   HSBC allegedly took advantage of minority borrowers by placing them in mortgages they couldn’t afford, or accompanying expensive loans with high fees when they might have qualified for cheaper mortgages.[6]   According to the complaint, HSBC generated billions in fee income nationally by using improper marketing tactics to lock African-American and Hispanic borrowers into subprime loans.[7]  Tactics included: targeted mailings, which offered credit cards, car loans and other consumer credit lines were used to “up-sell” clients to high-cost mortgages that were more lucrative to HSBC, which placed the volume over the quality.[8]

Kevin Jacques, a finance professor at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio and a former economist and regulator for the U.S. Treasury Department and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said, “We are seeing so many lawsuits because the banks got sloppy and abusive at times in their mortgage practices and their foreclosure practices. Now they have to pay for it.”[9]    Well that may be true, but is “paying for it” just another cost of doing business that allows billions of dollars to pour into their capital accounts? As more lawsuits are brought into federal courts, juries will have their say in determining if these suits are just another entry to the accounts payable column or serious deterrent.


*Brandon Perloff is currently a staff member on the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. To learn more about Brandon Perloff, click here to visit his page: Brandon Perloff
[1] Atlanta Banker. Law News, Metro Atlanta Counties Sue HSBC for Predatory Lending, BEFOREIT’SNEWS.COM, (Oct. 20, 2012, 0:12),
[2] Id.
[3] Id.
[4] United States Census Bureau, State & County QuickFacts, (last visited Oct. 20, 2012, 5PM), available at
[5] Discrimination in the sale or rental of housing and other prohibited practices, 42 U.S.C.A. § 3604(b) (1988).
[6] J. Scott Trubey, Counties file suit in housing crisis, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION (Oct. 18, 2012, 7:59 PM),
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Id.

Colorblind Or Simply Blind?

October 29th, 2012 No comments

Blog Category: The Economics of Discrimination

Written by: *Peter A. Galick

Racism and racial inequality have purveyed nearly every facet of American society since before its inception.  On the other hand, some have asserted that we now live in a post-racial society, that is, a society that has transcended racial barriers and has entered an age of equality.  These bold assertions came into the popular limelight upon the election of Barak Obama as the 44th President of the United States.[1]   For a short time, it appeared that we, as a society, had in fact become colorblind, making Reverend Martin Luther King’s dream a reality.[2]   Then, just as publicly as America had “transcended” racial barriers, the widely-publicized case involving the shooting of Trayvon Martin made it perfectly clear that American society is still battling the demons of our shameful history.[3]   This drastic shift in attitudes has not only exposed a major issue affecting the daily lives of all Americans, but it has also lead to an extremely difficult question: is colorblindness a worthy goal in today’s society, or do attempts to discount race intentionally ignore practical realities?

Scholars have debated whether we do exist in a post-racial society, and whether a post-racial society can exist at all.[4]   I truly believe a post-racial society can exist.  While it can be said that the very notion is an impossible ideal, I believe otherwise.  What I do not believe, is that a colorblind society could exist today.  Nor do I believe that colorblindness is even a good thing were it possible in today’s society.  A conscious and informed discussion on race and racial inequality must take place if America is to ever truly transcend racial barriers. Perhaps one day, the “impossible” ideal will be met, but until that day, a colorblind society is a blind society.


The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


*Peter A. Galick is the Editor-in-Chief of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. To learn more about Peter A. Galick, click here to visit his page: Peter A. Galick
[1] See, e.g., Adam Nagourney, Obama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls, N.Y. TIMES, Nov. 5, 2008, at A1, available at
[2] I Have a Dream Speech (January 9, 2012, 1:41 PM),
[3] Bianca Prieto, Trayvon Martin: ‘We are Gathered Here Today to Demand Justice’ In Teen’s Fatal Shooting, ORLANDO SENTINEL, Mar. 14, 2012,
[4]E.g., EDUARDO BONILLA-SILVA, RACISM WITHOUT RACISTS: COLOR-BLIND RACISM AND THE PERSISTENCE OF RACIAL INEQUALITY IN THE UNITED STATES (2d ed. 2006); DERRICK A. BELL, FACES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL: THE PERMANENCE OF RACISM (1992); Neil Gotanda, A Critique of “Our Constitution is Color-Blind,” 44 STAN. L. REV. 1, 68 (1991); Reva B. Siegel, Discrimination in the Eyes of the Law: How “Color Blindness” Discourse Disrupts and Rationalizes Social Stratification, 88 CAL. L. REV. 77, 78, 84-107 (2000).