Things That Matter

Could The Cultivation Of Ethnic And Racial Minority Communities Yield Positive Outcomes For People Within Those Communities?

The human race is no stranger to segregation. In the United States, Jim Crow laws and “separate but equal” doctrine kept people racially separated for decades. In Germany, there were the Nuremberg Laws. In South Africa, Apartheid. Today, segregation in our country takes a different form—no longer supported by law, it is pervasive yet subtle, an intersectional issue rooted in gender, race, and socioeconomic status. While legally dividing people based on their differences is indisputably wrong, a complex question emerges: Could the cultivation of ethnic, religious, and racial minority communities actually yield positive outcomes for the people within those communities? Many signs point to yes.

On college campuses, this question underscores the phenomenon of “affinity housing”—spaces where minority students can live alongside peers who share important aspects of their identities.

credit: vassar.edu

The debate around affinity housing has spanned the past 50 years, beginning with active calls for change from students at numerous institutions in 1969 (Williams College, Vassar College, and Wesleyan University, to name a few). At Williams College, the discussion began when members of the Williams Afro-American Society occupied Hopkins Hall until the school president responded to a series of requests, including the development of a residence hall specifically for Black students. While that demand wasn’t met at the time—leading to a reemergence of the issue last year—students at Vassar and Wesleyan were more successful, resulting in Wesleyan’s “Malcolm X House” and Vassar’s “Kendrick House”—dorms specifically designated to Black students, which still exist today.

Now, in 2019, a wide number of colleges and universities offer affinity housing for a highly diverse spectrum of students, including women of color, Asians and Asian-Americans, Latinx populations, and LGBTQ groups. Proponents of affinity housing argue that these communal residences provide minority students with a sense of safety and security, especially at institutions with largely white student bodies. However, many people believe that affinity housing hearkens back to a darker epoch of American history, reviving segregationist tendencies that are fundamentally harmful to our progress as a society. Without a doubt, our country’s fraught past has definitely made the legal aspects of affinity housing a bit sticky.

According to the federal Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate against tenants based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and family status. 

credit: calstatela.edu

So, if a university offers affinity housing for Black students, it could get in trouble if white or Asian students were explicitly prohibited from living there. To avoid this, colleges provide students with the choice to reside in these spaces, using careful language to define their role on campus—for example, California State University’s website describes its Halisi Scholars Living Learning Community as having been “designed to enhance the residential experience for students who are a part of or interested in issues regarding the Black community.” While it focuses on fostering a sense of community for Black students, the Halisi Scholars LLC is available to any student invested in issues of Black culture. Thus, as long as the option to join an affinity housing residence is inclusive to all, there is nothing illegal about it.

Although it can make affinity housing tricky to navigate, the Fair Housing Act protects folks all over the country. In certain states and cities, the protections expand even further to include factors like age, sexual orientation, marital status, gender, and citizenship status. Given the diversity of the U.S. population, these measures are absolutely essential to maintaining liberty and preserving our rights; yet history reveals that in spite of this legislation, marginalized communities are still most affected by housing discrimination, which perhaps points to affinity housing as a productive response to a long and unsavory trend.

Netflix’s “Dear White People” touches on the topic of affinity housing, illustrating the polemic nature of this issue through its characters’ divergent opinions. 

credit: Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images

While some characters, like Coco Conners—a Black economics student who serves as treasurer for Winchester University’s Coalition of Racial Equality—do not support the new Armstrong-Parker dorm (a residence hall for students of color), several other characters find community there. Yvette Lee Bowser, executive producer of the series, describes this point in the show as a “renaissance” for the predominantly white, fictional Ivy League school.

“Everyone wants to have a sense of community, no matter what their cultural background is,” says Bowser. “That’s really what Armstrong-Parker is about—a built-in sense of community.” As a woman of color, Bowser attended Stanford University, which also offers affinity housing. She reiterates that the housing assignments at Winchester are not meant to segregate, but to do the very opposite: the Amstrong-Parker dorm is designed to maintain connectivity within students’ own, preexistent communities. “You don’t choose to go to a predominantly white institution only to be with black people,” she says. “You want the diverse experience, but you also want to feel those creature comforts and culture comforts.”

George Floyd Begs Police Not To Shoot Him In Recently Leaked Body-Cam Footage

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George Floyd Begs Police Not To Shoot Him In Recently Leaked Body-Cam Footage

Karem Yucel / Getty Images

It’s been more than two months since the tragic death of George Floyd. Since his death, the country has been struggling on how to cope with yet another senseless loss of a Black man at the hands of police officers. Massive protests have taken place in nearly every corner of the country – or globe for that matter.

Yet, two months after his death we continue to learn new heartbreaking details about the circumstances of his last moments. Newly released body-cam footage, obtained by the Daily Mail show in greater detail the moments leading up to the now infamous video of Officer Chauvin’s knee pressed into George Floyd’s neck. In the leaked footage, we see officers approach a man who was no threat with their guns drawn. We see a panicked Floyd beg officers not to shoot him.

New body-cam footage offers amother perspective into Floyd’s arrest and death.

Newly released, partial footage obtained by the Daily Mail from the body cameras worn by two of the now-former Minneapolis police officers involved in the arrest and death of George Floyd, show a panicked man begging for mercy. The footage reveals in greater detail the events surrounding the horrific arrest that led to Floyd’s death.

The eight-minute video starts with the officers approaching Floyd as he sat in his car, and ordering him to put up his hands. Floyd appears nervous and is immediately apologetic, but doesn’t initially follow their instructions to show his hands. In response, Lane pulls out his handgun and aims it at Floyd. Floyd complies, putting his hands on the wheel and tells the officer he’s sorry and asks what he’s done wrong.

Later in the video, following a struggle in the back of a police car, Officer Thomas Lane can be heard asking Officer Derek Chauvin whether Floyd should be rolled on his side. Floyd died May 25 while in custody, and the incident — which was also recorded on cell phone video — set off protests that soon went worldwide. The demonstrations over his killing and the deaths of other African Americans at the hands of police prompted intense discussions on racism in America.

The footage includes officer Thomas Lane, who at one point aims a gun at Floyd’s face – Floyd begs him not to shoot.

Credit: Karem Yucel / Getty Images

In the video, footage shows police first approach Floyd’s car and asks him to put his hands on the steering wheel. Floyd doesn’t comply with the officer’s demands until Officer Lane draws his gun.

Floyd begs the officer not to shoot, “Please don’t shoot me Mr. Officer,” Floyd says. Lane then gets Floyd to come out of the car and puts him in handcuffs. Officer Kueng can be heard telling Floyd “stop resisting.” 

Lane then begins interviewing a man and woman who were with Floyd in the car. “Why is he getting all squirrely and not showing us his hands?” Lane asks the two. “Because he’s been shot before,” a woman, who identifies herself as Floyd’s ex, tells the officer. 

“He’s a good guy,” the male passenger adds. 

The video then cuts to the two officers leading Floyd to their SUV. As they try to get him to sit in the back of the car, Floyd appears to grow desperate.

Floyd’s family has issued a statement about the newly released footage.

Credit: Dawn Shawnee / Getty Images

Ben Crump, an attorney for the Floyd family, issued a statement to CNN in response to the video’s release:

“The police officers approached him with guns drawn, simply because he was a Black man. As this video shows, he never posed any threat. The officers’ contradictions continue to build. If not for the videos, the world might never have known about the wrongs committed against George Floyd.”

All four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were fired from the department the following day, and have all been charged in connection to his death. 

Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, while the three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Behind On Rent, Some Undocumented Residents Are Self-Evicting Rather Than Risking The Legal System

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Behind On Rent, Some Undocumented Residents Are Self-Evicting Rather Than Risking The Legal System

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Eviction is a terrifying prospect. Even more so amid a global pandemic and economic uncertainty. Imagine losing your house – a place you’ve called home with your family for months or even years. Unfortunately, it’s a reality that millions are facing as the Coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the global economy, millions are plunged into unemployment, and millions more struggle to make ends meet – including the most basic necessity of paying the rent.

Several cities and states have enacted temporary rent freezes or holds on evictions but landlords are still threatening their renters with evictions. Some of the most vulnerable communities – such as undocumented residents – are left feeling hopeless and with no where to turn since they may be afraid to seek legal help and have less access to government-funded resources. As a result, many undocumented residents are choosing to self-evict rather than risk going up against a hostile legal system.

A new report details how many undocumented migrants are choosing to self-evict instead of fighting back.

The Texas Tribune published a feature story on a hard-to-track aspect of the coronavirus pandemic: Undocumented immigrants are “self-evicting” from apartments, even while eviction moratoriums are in place, out of fear of retribution. 

“On paper, an undocumented tenant has the same rights as anyone else during the eviction process,” the report says. “But housing attorneys and tenant and immigration advocates say undocumented immigrants are frequently hesitant to exercise those options. Their fear of the legal system and lack of access to government-funded financial help prompt many to self-evict, or prematurely leave the property.”

In some cases, undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for certain government assistance programs that could help them keep up with rent or remain in their homes, the report says. In other cases, some are afraid to seek assistance because they don’t want to attract attention from immigration officials, according to the report.

Because of that, some undocumented immigrants choose to leave their homes even before a formal eviction is filed, turning to family members and community organizations for emergency housing. Immigrants have also lost their jobs at higher rates during the pandemic than other groups.

The legal system is a hostile one towards undocumented residents and help perpetuate fear in the community.

As the Coronavirus pandemic’s economic effects began to be felt across the country, many renters found temporary relief in eviction moratoriums, federal pandemic relief payments, unemployment checks and rental assistance programs. Undocumented migrants, though, either don’t qualify for such aid or are afraid that merely seeking it will alert immigration authorities to their presence in a country whose president has called some immigrants “animals,” makes racist remarks and consistently tries to create barriers for migrants.

Meanwhile, courthouses are intimidating places. And the mere idea that ICE officials are sometimes present in them (and they have indeed arrested undocumented immigrants who have shown up for court hearings that a unrelated to their immigration status) has left many too fearful to even attempt a legal challenge to a potential eviction.

For some, it’s also a language barrier as not all legal systems provide bilingual services.

In the report, Adriana Godines, of Dallas Area Interfaith, says that “When they want to ask for help from a nonprofit, and the staff only speaks English, they feel intimidated and don’t want to go on.” She adds “Even if I tell them that there will be no problem and they won’t ask for your Social Security, they prefer not to [ask for help].”

And even people who go to the justice of the peace courts, where eviction cases are heard, face similar hurdles.

“A lot of JP courts won’t have bilingual speakers,” said Lizbeth Parra-Davila, a housing fellow at the University of Texas School of Law. “Throughout Texas, that has been the case where I’ll call JP courts and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, we don’t have any Spanish speakers. We don’t have any Spanish interpreters.”

However, there are resources out there for undocumented residents facing evictions.

Credit: Bebeto Matthews / Getty Images

States from California to Connecticut have implemented varying degrees of aide to undocumented immigrants within their states. In Connecticut for example, the state has issued a $1 million fund aimed at supporting immigrants with rent payments. In California, the state is working to make unemployment benefits available to undocumented residents, which would go a long way in helping people pay their rent. The state has also launched a fund that provides up to $1,000 in financial assistance to undocumented residents in the state. You can learn more here.

NAKASEC’s Emergency Mutual Aid Fund will provide up to $500 in financial assistance, you can find the application here.

There are many other programs available to the community in states all across the country. Several resources are detailed further at InformedImmigrant.com.