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Eminent Domain and Minority Rights:

The Orlando Sentinel, Kansas City Star and Birmingham News have just published my op ed on the impact of eminent domain on ethnic minorities (coauthored with historian David Beito, Chairman of the Alabama State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights). Here's an excerpt:

Few policies have done more to destroy community and opportunity for minorities than eminent domain. Some 3 to 4 million Americans, most of them ethnic minorities, have been forcibly displaced from their homes as a result of urban renewal takings since World War II....

On Tuesday, the Alabama Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will hold a public forum at Birmingham's historic Sixteenth Street Baptist church to address ongoing property seizures in the state....

Current eminent domain horror stories in the South and elsewhere are not hard to find....

Eminent domain has always had an outsized impact on the constitutional rights of minorities, but most of the public didn't notice until the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 ruling in Kelo v. City of New London. In Kelo, the Court endorsed the power of a local government to forcibly transfer private property to commercial interests for the purpose of "economic development...."

Few protested the Kelo ruling more ardently than the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In an amicus brief filed in the case, it argued that "[t]he burden of eminent domain has and will continue to fall disproportionately upon racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and economically disadvantaged...."

Some earlier civil rights champions, by contrast, often ignored, or worse helped to undermine, the rights of property owners. Ironically, the same U.S. Supreme Court which handed down Brown v. Board in 1954 also issued Berman v. Parker, in which the Court allowed the District of Columbia to forcibly expel some 5,000 low-income African-Americans from their homes in order to facilitate "urban renewal." It was Berman that enabled the massive urban renewal condemnations of later decades, which many critics dubbed "Negro removal" because they too tended to target African-Americans....

If takings end up becoming a key constitutional rights issue for minorities in the 21st century, it will be fitting that the crusade against them begins in Alabama.

Unlike in the 1950s and 60s, today the minority poor are targeted for condemnation less because of intentional racism than because of their political weakness. That, however, is little consolation to the victims.

The massive legislative response to Kelo has made important progress. But, as we note in the article, and I discuss in much greater detail in this paper, many of the new laws are likely to be ineffective. A great deal of work remains to be done before property rights - particularly those of the minority poor - get anything approaching adequate protection.

30yearProf:
Justice Thomas is correct.

From a t-shirt that I'm wearing at this moment:

"Something has gone seriously awry with this
Court's interpretation of the Constitution."
4.28.2008 2:32am
Fearless:

Few policies have done more to destroy community and opportunity for minorities than eminent domain. Some 3 to 4 million Americans, most of them ethnic minorities, have been forcibly displaced from their homes as a result of urban renewal takings since World War II....


Whether you agree with eminent domain or not, this is just a retarded statement.

I think the many Jim Crow policies have done more to harm minority communities than eminent domain.

You know what is even more ridiculous. Somin never talks about minority issues unless it is to advance some pet cause of his that has nothing to do with race or ethnicity.

Guess what Somin. Minorities are not stupid. They can see you are using them to promote your own pet cause.

Maybe you should work on gaining some credibility, and actually talking about race when it does not necessarily advance the cause of libertarianism, you ideological fanatic.
4.28.2008 6:38am
PersonFromPorlock:
Fearless: try for a little decorum.
4.28.2008 8:05am
karrde (mail) (www):
Fearless:

While I do not know how to measure the harm done by eminent domain relative to the harm done by other laws, I know that my home state (Michigan) never had Jim Crow laws.

There were discriminator laws/policies/social compacts in the Detroit area. I'm told that one of the motivations for the '67 riots in Detroit was the eminent-domain practices used against Black neighborhoods during the construction of the Interstate highway system in the Detroit area.

Of course, since that time, an argument could be made that the Black-skinned politicians who dominate Detroit politics are bidding for first place in the "damage done to the Black community in Detroit" competition.
4.28.2008 10:11am
shawn-non-anonymous:
Seems to me decisions based on economic class are being reported as "race". Would black neighborhoods suffer the same fate if the residents were middle class? Do poor white areas have a similar risk of takings in urban cleanup efforts?

When we bought our home in this sort of area (no takings) in a 1920 urban Tampa neighborhood, we were accused of "driving black people out." The evidence for this was the prior owner was black. He was also homosexual, had a degree in finance, and worked for a bank. The owner before him was a white family. (Did the black guy force out the white family? Or is he now a gay man forcing out a heterosexual family? Ack?!)

City governments have several tools in their magic bag to change the economics in an area. Taking is only one of those tools.
4.28.2008 12:31pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):

You know what is even more ridiculous. Somin never talks about minority issues unless it is to advance some pet cause of his that has nothing to do with race or ethnicity.


You mean, trying to find areas of agreement with the other side of the ideological spectrum? How evil. How partisan. I bet you boo and hiss when Obama claims to work with republicans.
4.28.2008 3:28pm