Things That Matter

Latino Couple Looking To Buy A Home Found A Clause That Said They Needed To Be “Wholly Of The White Caucasian Race”

Amid recent conversations about the benefits of affinity housing, the topic of housing discrimination remains relevant as ever. The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination against tenants based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and family status—and while this legislation aims to protect people all over the country, it doesn’t keep discrimination completely at bay. For a Latinx couple seeking to buy a home in Stockton, California, this reality became uncomfortably clear when they saw their Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, & Restrictions (CC&R), a document that outlines the necessary requirements to inhabit a property.

The CC&R for Yolanda Romero and Esai Manzo’s new home claimed that “no persons other than those wholly of the white Caucasian race shall use, occupy or reside upon any part of or within any building located on the above described real property, except servants or domestics of another race employed by or domiciled with a white Caucasian owner or tenant.” Additionally, according to the document, no person who was not “wholly of the white Caucasian” race could purchase the house. So, naturally, the couple second-guessed whether they should move forward with the contract—not because they don’t identify as “Caucasian,” but because they were concerned that their neighbors willingly signed documents with comparable clauses.

It made us second guess our offer,” said Romero. “We were concerned that people in the neighborhood might have signed documents with similar statements.”

credit: NBCNews.com

Before signing the document, the couple consulted their agent to determine whether this stipulation was actually legal. It turns out that the clause dated back to 1947, and racially restrictive housing covenants were outlawed in 1948 as a result of that year’s Shelley vs. Kraemer Supreme Court case. “People worry that it’s still enforceable, and even though it’s not, covenants like these hold symbolic meaning,” Dean of the Cornell University Law School, Eduardo Peñalver, told NBC News. “They can indicate whether someone feels like they’re welcome in a community and serve as a reminder of how pervasive housing discrimination was.”

And according to Peñalver, the Fair Housing Act technically outlaws covenants like the one the couple encountered in their CC&R. So why hadn’t this racially restrictive language been omitted from the document long before Romero and Manzo came into the picture?

We’ve inherited a segregated residential landscape that’s the result of explicit racial discrimination,” Peñalver said. “Though racial discrimination in housing has been outlawed, it manifests itself in more subtle forms and perpetuates the wealth gap and economic inequality.”

A 2012 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development study revealed that Latinx folks seeking to rent learned about 13 percent fewer homes than equally qualified whites; black people learned about 11 percent fewer homes than equally qualified whites; and Asians learned about 10 percent fewer homes than equally qualified whites. When purchasing property, there was no distinguishable difference between Latinx and white buyers, though this was not the case for black and Asian populations, who were shown nearly 18 percent fewer properties than potential white buyers. And the Latinx home ownership numbers have grown immensely in the past several years.

The 2017 State of Hispanic Ownership report confirms that more than 7 million people of Hispanic/Latinx descent owned houses that year—a number 44 times greater than 2016’s metric.

 

credit: Getty Images

The report cites expansion into areas with high Latinx populations as a source of this extreme growth, though it also highlights certain challenges to Latinx home ownership, from lack of affordable housing to “extreme uncertainty over immigration.” 51% percent of Hispanics believe the economy is on the wrong track, and 56% think it would be difficult to get a home mortgage today, but 88% indicate that they are more likely to own a home in the future than to rent—all of which are statistics that support further growth in the realm of Latinx home ownership.

Yet the issue of subversive housing discrimination remains. Many states use CC&Rs, which are officially recorded and filed with the state, and these documents often include outdated and questionable language. Because these covenants are part of the property records, it can be legally challenging to eliminate them entirely—but Peñalver encourages prospective buyers to file a statement with a county recorder or homeowners association (HOA) if they encounter similar clauses in their paperwork. However, this can prove unnecessarily difficult; in the case of Romero and Manzo’s property, the home does not belong to an HOA, so they would have to obtain “unanimous consent of homeowners in the community signing off on a new set of CC&Rs omitting the offensive language.” Even then, the “wholly of the white Caucasian race” clauses would remain in their property records, though the language would be removed from the revised CC&R document.

In the end, the couple proceeded with the purchase of this property, adding to the ever-growing numbers of Latinx homeowners across the U.S. Yet they remain a bit shocked by the whole process, and remind new homebuyers to always read the fine print.

After More Than 70 Years, The Cannes Film Festival Will Finally Have A Black President And It’s Going To Be Spike Lee

Entertainment

After More Than 70 Years, The Cannes Film Festival Will Finally Have A Black President And It’s Going To Be Spike Lee

James Gourley / Flickr

Spike Lee is returning to the 73rd Cannes Film Festival a couple of years after BlacKkKlansman debuted there, this time as the jury president. In over seven decades, the prestigious film festival has never had a black president overseeing the artists who decide which films will win an award. 

“In this life I have lived, my biggest blessings have been when they arrived unexpected, when they happened out of nowhere. When I got the call that I was offered the opportunity to be president of Cannes jury for 2020, I was shocked, happy, surprised and proud all at the same time,” Lee said in a statement.

The 62-year-old director won Cannes’ Grand Prix for BlacKkKlansman which also earned Lee his first Academy Award. Prior to his recent release, Lee hadn’t participated in Cannes in 22 years despite having seven of his most beloved films like, She’s Gotta Have ItDo The Right Thing and Summer Of Sam, playing there. 

Lee releases a heartfelt statement about becoming the jury president.

Lee said this particular film festival is the most important in the world and that it significantly impacted his career.

“It started way back in 1986 – my first feature film She’s Gotta Have It, which won the Prix de la Jeunesse in the Director’s Fortnight. The next joint was in 1989 – Do The Right Thing, an Official Selection in Competition. And I don’t have the time nor space to write about the cinematic explosion that jumped off, still relative to this, 30 years later,” Lee said in a statement. 

Do The Right Thing might be Lee’s most well-known project. The film which uses building racial tensions in a Brooklyn neighborhood as an exploration of violence as activism was solidified as a part of history when it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry and Libray of Congress. 

“Then Jungle Fever 1991 – Official Selection in Competition, Girl 6 1996 – Official Selection out of Competition, Summer Of Sam1999 – Director’s Fortnight, Ten Minutes Older 2002 – Official Selection in Un Certain Regard and then BlacKkKlansman 2018 – Official Selection in Competition where it won the Grand Prix, which became the launching pad for the world theatrical release which led to my Academy Award for screenplay,” he continued. 

Many have felt that Lee has not gotten the respect he deserves as a filmmaker — at least not until fairly recently.

Despite being nominated four times across three decades, Lee wasn’t awarded an Academy Award until 2019 for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

“Spike Lee’s perspective is more valuable than ever. Cannes is a natural homeland and a global sounding board for those who (re)awaken minds and question our stances and fixed ideas. Lee’s flamboyant personality is sure to shake things up. What kind of president of the jury will he be? Find out in Cannes!” Cannes President Pierre Lescure and festival head Thierry Frémaux said in a statement.

In the New York Times profile leading up to his Oscar win, the paper examined the ways in which Lee has been relegated to the fringes of prestigious filmmaking: throughout his career, he has earned less money and received less funding than his white counterparts, and has had difficulty getting projects off the ground. 

Lee’s inclusion might be Cannes’ first big step in correcting its diversity issues.

“That’s the dilemma of a talented black artist in any field,” collaborator and author James McBride told the NY Times. “You have to recreate the genre, otherwise you don’t survive. Stevie Wonder is not a pop musician; Stevie Wonder is a genre. Michael Jackson is a genre to himself. Spike Lee has moved into that territory. Spike Lee is not short on talent. What Spike Lee is short on is friends in the industry, and the kind of space to fail. He has no room to fail.” 

While Cannes has struggled with diversity around black and women directors, Lee as a jury president could be a healthy step in allowing other perspectives in. 

“I’m honored to be the first person of the African diaspora (USA) to be named president of the Cannes jury and of a main film festival. The Lee family sincerely thanks the Festival de Cannes, Pierre Lescure and Thierry Frémaux and the great people of France who have supported my film career throughout four decades. I will always treasure this special relationship,” Lee said.

Florida Republicans Just Introduced Four Anti-LGBTQ Bills On The Last Day Possible And People Are Asking Why Now?

Things That Matter

Florida Republicans Just Introduced Four Anti-LGBTQ Bills On The Last Day Possible And People Are Asking Why Now?

Ben Wassenhatch / Flickr

Seven Republican lawmakers in Florida filed four anti-LGBTQ bills hours before the deadline for the upcoming legislative session this week. The bills undo many of the protections that exist for LGBTQ Florida residents. The four bills would repeal county and municipal ordinances for LGBTQ workers, legalize gay conversion therapy, and ban transgender healthcare for children, according to NBC News. 

The homophobic and transphobic legislation was introduced by representatives Anthony Sabatini, Bob Rommel, Michael Grant, and Byron Donalds, along with Senators Joe Gruters and Keith Perry. Florida Rep. Shevrin Jones, who is a member of the LGBTQ community, and other advocates are now fighting against the bills’ passing. 

Advocates respond to the bill calling it “discrimination and hate.”

“Clearly they’ve decided that discrimination and hate are central to their election-year platform despite our state’s incredible diversity,” Jones said in a statement. “Just as I’ve done since I was elected in 2012, I will continue to fight any legislation that marginalizes or threatens any Floridian’s shot at a secure, safe, and bright quality of life.”

Jones also accused Florida Republicans of, “wasting tax dollars attacking Florida’s most vulnerable communities rather than prioritizing the issues that impact everyday people’s lives.” 

Equality Florida released a statement highlighting many of the consequences such a bill would have. 

“This is the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida Legislature in recent memory,” Jon Harris Maurer, the group’s public policy director, said. “It runs the gamut from openly hostile legislation that would arrest and imprison doctors for providing medically necessary care, to legislation that would carelessly erase critical local LGBTQ protections.”

Senator Gruters defends the bill, claiming it “includes protections.”

“The bill certainly does not authorize an employer to discriminate against employees who are members of protected classes, whether protected by federal or state law or local ordinance,” Gruters told NBC News via email.  “While I do not believe the bill has any impact on local anti-discrimination ordinances, in an abundance of caution, I included language in the bill’s preamble to make clear that the preemption would not affect local anti-discrimination laws, and any court would interpret the preemption consistent with that preamble.” 

While Gruters claims it would include protections, Joe Saunders, senior political director at Equality Florida, claims that these so-called protections are merely a part of the bill’s preamble and would carry no weight should the bills become law. 

“We appreciate that Sen. Gruters put that in,” Saunders said. “It’s not policy; it’s not considered part of the bill.”

Democratic senator Lori Berman suggested the bill was nothing more than a political stunt to garner votes from homophobic and transphobic constituents. 

“I’m disappointed to see some of my colleagues proposing this regressive and discriminatory anti-LGBT agenda,” Berman wrote on Twitter. “What benefit to the public does this legislation actually serve, apart from tossing red meat to a political base in an election season?” 

Trans children are particularly vulnerable to the policies. 

“Transgender youth are some of the most at risk in our community,” Gina Duncan, Equality Florida’s director of transgender equality, told NBC News. “It is outrageous that conservative legislators would threaten their health and safety. Medical professionals, not politicians, should decide what medical care is in the best interest of a patient. Forcing a doctor to deny best practice medical care and deny support to transgender youth can be life-threatening.”

Making it illegal for doctors to provide necessary care to trans children certainly goes against the Hippocratic oath, but if you think something so dystopian can’t happen just look at how Republicans have slowly chipped away at abortion rights – another form of necessary care that can be life-saving. 

Just yesterday South Dakora Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would also ban doctors from performing gender-affirming surgeries or treatments on children. Similar bills have been filed in Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky. 

According to the Associated Press, “The Endocrine Society, which is the leading professional organization for doctors who specialize in hormones, does not recommend gender-transition medical treatment before puberty for children who do not identify with their biological gender. For youths experiencing puberty and older adolescents, the Endocrine Society recommends that a team composed of expert medical professionals and mental health professionals manages treatment.”

Opponents of these anti-trans bills believe the laws interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and contradict the widely accepted practices of the medical community. 

“Sadly, the medical care of transgender youth has been sensationalized and politicized,” Jack Turban, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, told NBC News. “Gender-affirming medical care for transgender adolescents is endorsed by major medical organizations, including the Endocrine Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. It should go without saying, but providing standard medical care should not be a felony.”