(c) Greater Baltimore Community Housing Resource Board, Inc. (GBCHRB) - November, 2006 / Vol.12, No. 5

FAIR HOUSING NEWS

A newsletter about fair housing, community development, and neighborhood quality of life


GREETINGS!

Welcome to Fair Housing News!, a newsletter produced by the GBCHRB as a public service. Contact us for a free copy of any article or if you would like this e-mailed to you: 410-453-9500 / 800-895-6302 / mail@gbchrb.org. More info/resources: http://www.gbchrb.org.

IN THE NATIONAL NEWS

Anti-Muslim Bias Incidents Increase 29% in 2004-2005. The report released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) found 1,972 incidents of violence, discrimination, and harassment in 2005, the highest number recorded by the group and a 29.6% increase from 2004. CAIR also reported 153 hate crime complaints. Possible influential factors include the "lingering impact of 9/11 fears, increased awareness of civil rights issues in the Muslim community, and a general increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric in American society." CAIR said that nine states and the District of Columbia had almost 79% of all civil rights complaints in 2005. Maryland is eighth with 4% of the national total. CAIR is the US' largest Islamic civil liberties organization, with 32 regional offices. The report "The Struggle for Equality" may be viewed at http:www.cair.com (CAIR, Press Release, September 18, 2006)

HUD Charges Erie Insurance Group with Race Discrimination. HUD has charged the large insurer plus five related insurance agencies with providing inferior insurance products to homeowners in African American neighborhoods than to white areas with comparable homes. HUD's investigation into New York state found that the more African Americans there were in a neighborhood, the less likely Erie insured homes there. The HUD complaint followed an initial testing by the Fair Housing Council of Central New York in which black and white testers received disparate treatment. (http://www.hud.gov; HUD News Release, October 26, 2006)

A Federal District Court Judge Rules a Retailer May Be Sued If its Website Is Inaccessible to the Blind. The ruling was issued in a case brought by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) against Target Corp. (Northern District of California Case No. C 06-01802 MHP). The suit charges that Target's website is inaccessible to the blind, and therefore violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the California Disabled Persons Act. The Court held that the federal and state civil rights laws do apply to a website. The suit was filed as a class action, with named plaintiffs of the NFB, the NFB of California, and a blind college student, Bruce Sexton. The plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates (Disability Rights Advocates), a Berkeley-based nonprofit law firm that specializes in high-impact cases on behalf of people with disabilities; Brown, Goldstein & Levy (Brown, Goldstein & Levy), a civil rights law firm in Baltimore; and Schneider & Wallace. "This ruling is a great victory for blind people throughout the country," said NFB President Dr. Marc Maurer. "We are pleased that the court recognized that the blind are entitled to equal access to retail web sites." Dr. Maurer said blind persons access web sites by using keyboards and screen-reading software that vocalizes visual information. Target's website contains access barriers stopping blind customers from browsing and purchasing, and finding corporate information (e.g., employment) - not meeting minimum standard of web accessibility. For example, the site lacks compliant alt-text, an invisible code embedded beneath graphic images that allows screen readers to detect and vocalize a description of the image to a blind computer user; has inaccessible image maps and other graphical features, preventing blind users from navigating and making use of all of the functions of the website; and because the website requires the use of a mouse to complete a transaction, blind Target customers are unable to make purchases on target.com. The National Federation of the Blind, the largest membership organization of blind people in the United States, is based in Baltimore (http://www.nfb.org; NFB Press Release, September 7, 2006; New York Times, November 6, 2006:C6).

Use of Nonprime Mortgages Up Sharply for Blacks and Hispanics. Mortgage lending data gathered under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) indicates that more buyers stretched to buy homes at the housing boom's height. For 2005, subprime loans - higher cost - for Blacks were a whopping 54.7% of all home purchase loans, up from 32.4% in 2004. Subprime loans for Hispanics were 46.1% in 2005 and 20.3% in 2004. This compared to 17.2% for 2005 whites and 8.7% in 2004. Blacks also were denied a home purchase mortgage loan 27.5% of the time, compared to 18.0% for Hispanics, 15.8% for Asians, and 12.3% for whites. (New York Times, September 9, 2006).

Groundbreaking Scheduled for November 13th for National Memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Located a half-mile from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the Memorial will be the first to a black on the National Mall. Organizers hope to raise $100 million to build and maintain the 4-acre site, which hopefully will be completed by spring, 2008. $65.5 million has been raised to date, mostly from major corporations. The Memorial's location is flanked by the Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorials. (Baltimore Sun, November 6, 2006:10A)



LOCAL NEWS

League of Women Voters' Lecture Series Continues. Upcoming "Focus on Contemporary Issues" lectures include KAL on political cartoons and the democratic process on November 27th, a New York Times reporter on covering security issues on February 26th, the President of McDaniel College on March 26th, and a changing climate lecture by a policy fellow from the American Meteorological Society on April 30th. For more info, contact: 410-377-8046 or lwvbaltimore@verizon.net.



DID YOU KNOW?

Health & Human Services Hotline Launched by the State of Maryland. Residents can dial 211 for information on public services, including health care, substance abuse help, food pantries, domestic abuse, homeless shelter, etc. The hotline was begun as a one-year test run, and the State still needs funding to make it permanent (Baltimore Examiner, September 28, 2006:15)

Contact the GBCHRB for FREE Fair Housing Info, Brochures, & Posters in English, Spanish, Korean, and Russian. We have informational brochures, Self-Help Guides to Fair Housing for individual counties, curricula for renting & buying housing, and much more! Quantities available for no charge! Contact us at: 410-453-9500 / 800-895-6302 / mail@gbchrb.org.

The GBCHRB's Neighborhood Beat TV Show Is on Cable Stations Throughout Maryland! Hosted by Dr. Bill Kladky, the 30-minute interview show runs in Baltimore City, and the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard, Calvert, St. Mary's, Talbot, Prince George's, and Montgomery, as well as in the City of Takoma Park! Call us at 410-453-9500 or email mail@gbchrb.org for days and times!





INTERESTING BOOKS

Racetalk: Racism Hiding in Plain Sight. by Kristen A. Myers. Rowman & Littlefield, 2005. $26.95. pbk. 312 pp.

This interesting book looks at the negative aspects of "private racism," using over 600 incidents of "racetalk" among whites, blacks, Latinos, and Asians. We see the many ways people - even those who do not consider themselves racist - help to reproduce racism through their common interactions. The author examines racism as beyond just black/white, also adding whiteness, blackness, and brownness. There are ample examples of unflattering and stereotypical views about blacks, whites, and Latinos. Fortunately, the book concludes with some suggestions about how to challenge "racetalk." Let's hope it works.



REST IN PEACE

Victoria Jackson Gray (Adams), Civil Rights Leader, 79. In 1962, Adams became field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and led a boycott against Hattiesburg businesses and ushered in Freedom Summer 1964. Adams helped organize the alternative Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), and attended the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City. Though not seated, her efforts did lead to the Democratic Party integrating its ranks. She was also the first woman to run for national office in Mississippi. Adams received numerous awards and honors, and was in the award-winning documentary Eyes on the Prize. In a 2004 interview, Jackson commented, "We really were the true Democratic Party... and we accomplished the removal of the wall, the curtain of fear in Mississippi for African-Americans demanding their rights." (www.wikipedia.org; Baltimore Sun, September 24, 2006:1B)