Continuing Our Fight Against Discrimination

Continuing Our Fight Against Discrimination

When we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery earlier this month, we were reminded of the scourge of discrimination, and of the historic work of the civil rights movement to make fundamental change. And we were called – by Congressman John Lewis and President Obama – to continue that fight today. While we are not called to risk our very lives as the Selma marchers courageously did, we are called upon to do all that we can to root out discrimination.

While we’ve made real progress, there is a long way to go– even here in New York City. NYC’s Human Rights Laws provides some of the strongest civil rights protections anywhere in the country against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. But for the past 20 years, we have too often failed to enforce them. NYC’s Human Rights Commission has been allowed to shrink to a shadow of its former self, leading New Yorkers facing discrimination to wait a year or more for meager investigations, and with no pro-active investigations to combat systemic discrimination.

Luckily, under the leadership of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and with Park Sloper Carmelyn Malalis as the newly-appointed chair of the NYC Human Rights Commission, we are getting back on the right path. Together, we will double the funding and staff of the Commission, ensure more accountability, update the Human Rights Law, and renew our efforts to combat discrimination and ensure equal justice under the law.

I’m proud to be part of this effort. Today at the City Council’s Stated Meeting, we passed a bill I proposed that will create a program to test for discrimination in the housing market, and a similar bill sponsored by Council Member Darlene Mealy that will require the same kind of testing for discrimination in employment.

One technique we will start using again is “matched-pair testing,” where two otherwise similar individuals – one black and one white, one straight and one gay, one abled and one disabled, one with and one without a housing voucher – both apply for an available apartment or job. The idea is to hold landlords and employers who systematically discriminate against New Yorkers accountable for their actions, with real investigations and tough sanctions. That’s part of how we’ll make change.

Ending discrimination is Bold Idea #12 of the 13 Bold Ideas for a Progressive NYC that the Progressive Caucus of the City Council ran on in 2013 – and we are working to accomplish this goal through every channel we can. Beyond our push to embolden and strengthen the Human Rights Commission, we’re still fighting to end credit checks as a condition for employment, and pushing to confront segregation and increase diversity in our City’s schools.

Today we took an important step toward ensuring that our City takes seriously its charge to protect every resident from prejudice and discrimination. But our fight is far from over. 

I look forward to accomplishing even more together.

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