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UN Review of US on Race Includes Redlining, Foreclosures & Stand Your Ground

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- The crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown was the context of the just-concluded UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination review of the US, along with unfair lending. Report here.

  After the Trayvon Martin case, the UN CERD said it "is concerned at the high number of gun-related deaths and injuries which disproportionately affect members of racial and ethnic minorities, particularly African Americans. It is also concerned at the proliferation of 'Stand Your Ground' laws, which are used to circumvent the limits of legitimate self-defense in violation of the Stateparty’s duty to protect life, and has a disproportionate and discriminatory impact on members of racial and ethnic minorities."

   As to housing and lending discrimination, the UN CERD's "Concluding observations on the combined seventh to ninth periodic reports of United States of America," published on August 29, 2014, said

"the Committee remains concerned at: (a) the persistence of discrimination in access to housing on the basis of race, colour, ethnicity or national origin; (b) the high degree of racial segregation and concentrated poverty in neighborhoods characterized by sub-standard conditions and services, including poor housing conditions, limited employment opportunities, inadequate access to health-care facilities, under-resourced schools and high exposure to crime and violence; and (c) discriminatory mortgage lending practices and the foreclosure crisis which disproportionately affected and continues to affect racial and ethnic minorities (arts. 3 and 5(e))."

  The UN CERD Committee's Concerns and Recommendations included:

The Committee urges the State party to intensify its efforts to eliminate discrimination in access to housing and residential segregation based on race, colour ethnicity or national origin, including by:

(a) Ensuring the availability of affordable and adequate housing for all, including by effectively implementing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing requirement by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and across all agencies administering housing programmes;

(b) Strengthening the implementation of legislation to combat discrimination in housing, such as the Fair Housing Act and Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, including through the provision of adequate resources and increasing the capacity of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; and

(c) Undertaking prompt, independent and thorough investigation into all cases of discriminatory practices by private actors, including in relation to discriminatory mortgage lending practices, steering, and redlining; holding those responsible to account; and providing effective remedies, including appropriate compensation, guarantees of non-repetition and changes in relevant laws and practices.

  Private actors means banks. But why were the bank regulatory agencies and CFPB not included in the US' delegation to the CERD? We'll have more on this.

   On Ferguson, at the UN on August 13 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's lead spokesman about the killing and crackdown. Video here.

  The UN spokesman began by saying that Ban and the UN have "no particular comment," then added that "as in all cases, the right to demonstrate peacefully needs to be respected, and investigations need to be conducted." Okay, then.

There have been reports mentioned the financial institutions in the Ferguson area, including nationwide lenders Bank of America, US Bank and Fifth Third.

  Inner City Press and Fair Finance Watch reviewed the demographics of mortgage lending by these three in the area in the most recent year for which data is publicly available, 2012.

   In the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area in 2012, Bank of America denied the conventional home purchase mortgage applications of African Americans 1.81 times more frequently then those of whites.
  Fair Finance Watch has previously objected to US Bank's stealth branch closings, including in Chicago, here and here. The US Community Reinvestment Act requires banks to lend fairly in all of their communities, but is not sufficiently enforced, FFW and NCRC have shown.

For US Bank, the disparities was 1.6 to 1; for Fifth Third Mortgage, that company's lender, it was a whopping 4.95 to 1: African American applicants were denied 4.95 times more frequently than whites, worse that the aggregate (all lenders).

  Troublingly, for all lenders Latinos were denied 3.1 times more frequently than than whites. So where is the US headed? Watch this site.


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