Anti-Racism Institutional Changes

At the institutional level there are several approaches to confront racial injustice.  Read below about each approach and their strengths and weaknesses.

Martin Luther King, Jr. on Income Inequality and Redistribution of Wealth + James Baldwin

Table of Contents

Legal Protections

Affirmative Action


Restorative Justice

Campaign Zero Policy Changes to End Police Violence

Affordable Housing Policies

Legal Protections


Civil Rights Find Law: Civil Rights Laws

  • President Abraham Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation” takes effect (1863) proclaiming freedom from slavery for African-Americans.
  • The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is passed (1868), abolishing slavery in the United States.
  • The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is passed (1868), guaranteeing due process and equal protection rights to all citizens.
  • The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is passed (1870), guaranteeing the right to vote for all U.S. citizens.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964 Prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991 (Intentional Employment Discrimination) To amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to strengthen and improve Federal civil rights laws, to provide for damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination, to clarify provisions regarding disparate impact actions, and for other purposes.
  • Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act Protecting persons in institutions (including residents in government-run nursing homes, and prisoners) from unconstitutional conditions.
  • Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act Provides for equitable and impartial relief operations, without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, or economic status.
  • The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) Prohibits creditors from discriminating against credit applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or because an applicant receives income from a public assistance program.
  • Equal Pay Act of 1963 Requires that employers pay all employees equally for equal work, regardless of whether the employees are male or female.
  • Fair Housing Act (FHA) Prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) Prohibits the denial or restriction of the right to vote, and forbids discriminatory voting practices nationwide.

Gutting of Section 5 from the Voting Rights Law (VRA)

In 2013 the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision, gutted the Section 5 in the Voting Rights Law which required lawmakers in states with a history of discriminating against minority voters get federal permission before changing voting rules. At the time 9 states Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia and dozens of counties and municipalities in other states, were currently trying to pass voter restrictions.

After the removal of Section 5 these states all passed variations of voter restrictions. Texas immediately announced after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval. Changes in voting procedures in the places that had been covered by the law, including ones concerning restrictions on early voting, will now be subject only to after-the-fact litigation.

Overall, 20 states have new restrictions in effect since the 2010 midterm election. Since 2010, a total of 10 states have more restrictive voter ID laws in place (and six states have strict photo ID requirements) seven have laws making it harder for citizens to register, six cut back on early voting days and hours, and three made it harder to restore voting rights for people with past criminal convictions.



  • 1948 – Shelley v. Kraemer (1948) This decision held that “racially restrictive covenants” in property deeds are unenforceable. In this case, the “covenants” were terms or obligations in property deeds that limited property rights to Caucasians, excluding members of other races.
  • 1954 – Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (De-Segregation in Education)
    The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas ended legal racial segregation in public schools.
  • 1962 – Bailey v. Patterson (De-Segregation in Transportation)
    The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bailey v. Patterson declares that segregation in transportation facilities is unconstitutional.
  • 1967 – Loving v. Virginia (Inter-Racial Marriage)
    The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia declares that laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage are unconstitutional.
  • 1968 – Jones v. Mayer Co. (1968) The Court held in this case that federal law bars all racial discrimination (private or public) in the sale or rental of property.
  • 1971 – Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971) In this case, the Court decided that certain education requirements and intelligence tests used as conditions of employment acted to exclude African American job applicants, did not relate to job performance, and were prohibited.
  • 1974 – Lau v. Nichols (1974) The Court found that a city school system’s failure to provide English language instruction to students of Chinese ancestry amounted to unlawful discrimination.
  • 1978 – Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (Affirmative Action)
    The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke holds that college admission standards giving preferential consideration to minority applicants are constitutional.
  • Batson v. Kentucky (1986)
    This decision holds that a state denies an African American defendant equal protection when it puts him on trial before a jury from which members of his race have been purposefully excluded.

Affirmative Action

Wikipedia: Affirmative Action: United States

“The concept of affirmative action was introduced in the early 1960s in the United States, as a way to combat racial discrimination in the hiring process, with the concept later expanded to address gender discrimination. Affirmative action was first created from Executive Order 10925, which was signed by President John F. Kennedy on 6 March 1961 and required that government employers “not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin” and “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin”.

On 24 September 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, thereby replacing Executive Order 10925 and affirming Federal Government’s commitment “to promote the full realization of equal employment opportunity through a positive, continuing program in each executive department and agency”. Affirmative action was extended to women by Executive Order 11375 which amended Executive Order 11246 on 13 October 1967, by adding “sex” to the list of protected categories. In the U.S. affirmative action’s original purpose was to pressure institutions into compliance with the nondiscrimination mandate of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Acts do not cover veterans, people with disabilities, or people over 40. These groups are protected from discrimination under different laws.

Affirmative action has been the subject of numerous court cases, and has been questioned upon its constitutional legitimacy. In 2003, a Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action in higher education (Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 US 244 – Supreme Court 2003) permitted educational institutions to consider race as a factor when admitting students. Alternatively, some colleges use financial criteria to attract racial groups that have typically been under-represented and typically have lower living conditions. Some states such as California (California Civil Rights Initiative), Michigan (Michigan Civil Rights Initiative), and Washington (Initiative 200) have passed constitutional amendments banning public institutions, including public schools, from practicing affirmative action within their respective states. Conservative activists have alleged that colleges quietly use illegal quotas to increase the number of minorities and have launched numerous lawsuits to stop them.”

New York Times: History of Affirmative Action

The Atlantic: The Case for Reparations

“The urge to use the moral force of the black struggle to address broader inequalities originates in both compassion and pragmatism. But it makes for ambiguous policy. Affirmative action’s precise aims, for instance, have always proved elusive. Is it meant to make amends for the crimes heaped upon black people? Not according to the Supreme Court. In its 1978 ruling in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Court rejected “societal discrimination” as “an amorphous concept of injury that may be ageless in its reach into the past.” Is affirmative action meant to increase “diversity”? If so, it only tangentially relates to the specific problems of black people—the problem of what America has taken from them over several centuries.

This confusion about affirmative action’s aims, along with our inability to face up to the particular history of white-imposed black disadvantage, dates back to the policy’s origins. “There is no fixed and firm definition of affirmative action,” an appointee in Johnson’s Department of Labor declared. “Affirmative action is anything that you have to do to get results. But this does not necessarily include preferential treatment.”

Yet America was built on the preferential treatment of white people—395 years of it. Vaguely endorsing a cuddly, feel-good diversity does very little to redress this.

Today, progressives are loath to invoke white supremacy as an explanation for anything. On a practical level, the hesitation comes from the dim view the Supreme Court has taken of the reforms of the 1960s. The Voting Rights Act has been gutted. The Fair Housing Act might well be next. Affirmative action is on its last legs. In substituting a broad class struggle for an anti-racist struggle, progressives hope to assemble a coalition by changing the subject.

The politics of racial evasion are seductive. But the record is mixed. Aid to Families With Dependent Children was originally written largely to exclude blacks—yet by the 1990s it was perceived as a giveaway to blacks. The Affordable Care Act makes no mention of race, but this did not keep Rush Limbaugh from denouncing it as reparations. Moreover, the act’s expansion of Medicaid was effectively made optional, meaning that many poor blacks in the former Confederate states do not benefit from it. The Affordable Care Act, like Social Security, will eventually expand its reach to those left out; in the meantime, black people will be injured.

“All that it would take to sink a new WPA program would be some skillfully packaged footage of black men leaning on shovels smoking cigarettes,” the sociologist Douglas S. Massey writes. “Papering over the issue of race makes for bad social theory, bad research, and bad public policy.” To ignore the fact that one of the oldest republics in the world was erected on a foundation of white supremacy, to pretend that the problems of a dual society (black vs white) are the same as the problems of unregulated capitalism, is to cover the sin of national plunder with the sin of national lying. The lie ignores the fact that reducing American poverty and ending white supremacy are not the same. The lie ignores the fact that closing the “achievement gap” will do nothing to close the “injury gap,” in which black college graduates still suffer higher unemployment rates than white college graduates, and black job applicants without criminal records enjoy roughly the same chance of getting hired as white applicants with criminal records.”

NY Times: An End to the Class vs. Race Debate

“A new study rebuts a widely shared view that racial disparities in social mobility are economic inequalities in disguise — the belief that if we address class issues, we can fix racism.

The report, by the Stanford economist Raj Chetty, the Harvard economist Nathaniel Hendren and colleagues at The Equality of Opportunity Project, provides an empirical basis for an economic susceptibility that black parents like me have sensed: Across generations, we are less likely than whites to rise and when we do, are more likely later to fall. We seem unable to grasp or preserve economic gains as other groups do, including Latinos and Asian-Americans.

The study’s findings build on the authors’ prior research that has empirically substantiated two insights about intergenerational economic mobility. One is that a child’s economic position is sticky: Children from affluent families are many times more likely to maintain their privileged status than children from poor families are to attain it.

The other is that while economic mobility may be individual, the conditions that enable or retard it are social. Wealthy neighborhoods with good schools and strong social ties propel even poor children toward a brighter future.

But the reality for black communities is grim.

Black families trace our economic insecurity in part to a gender divide that we see but often don’t discuss. We know that African-American daughters tend to do well. They climb the socioeconomic ladder as high as their white peers, if not higher.

It’s the boys who fail. Whether born to a rich family or a poor one, in an impoverished neighborhood or wealthy one, black boys lag behind their white peers as adults. Black boys who grow up rich are twice as likely as their white counterparts to end up poor. And of those black boys who start life poor, nearly half will remain so in adulthood, while more than 2 in 3 of their white peers will escape the poverty of their youth.

Black women may surpass their white counterparts in individual income, but they lag in household income. The men who would be their husbands are missing — incarcerated, unemployed, unable to be the partners that women want. Or the parents that children need.

And so the failings of one generation fall upon the next, as the trajectories of black boys are shaped by the absence of black fathers. Looking beyond the usual focus on how individual children are affected by the presence of their fathers, Mr. Chetty and his colleagues found that the presence of black fathers in the community powerfully shapes boys’ trajectories. Black fathers are a social resource.

The two-parent families that don’t form perpetuate African-Americans’ disadvantage across generations. The economic predicament of black men, which disconnects them from their children, threatens to ripple across families and generations.

All of which raises the question: How do African-Americans in the 21st century confront the prospect of being indefinitely left behind?

The cycle that the research documents had a beginning and it can have an end. A s black women began to take advantage of the opportunities opened by the civil rights movement, black men were hit first with deindustrialization — the loss of well-paying blue-collar jobs throughout large swaths of our nation — and then with a surge in incarceration unlike anything a democratic nation had ever seen. Black children bore the brunt of their parents’ suffering. Many well-meaning Americans remained oblivious to a national tragedy.

Black men’s disadvantage has shaped not only how they are perceived but the meaning of race as well. Racial disparities — in incarceration, unemployment, school failure — fuel racial bias, which ensnares black boys, rich and poor alike. Boys like my own go from cute and cuddly to strong and manly, and so become a threat in the eyes of many. The bias, subtle yet pervasive, compounds the disparities by undermining the relationships and hope that one needs to get, and stay, ahead. And so the cycle continues.

But it need not. We can disrupt the cycle of black disadvantage. What we’ve lacked is the will to do so. We act as though economic inequality is inevitable, relegating poor children of all races to schools to which most parents would never choose to send their own children, schools often in neighborhoods where most would never choose to live. We segregate ourselves by race and class, and accept the inequality of opportunity that doing so breeds.

So many Americans profess to be blind to race, which ensures only that it will remain salient. So many worry more about appearing to be racist than working to remove the enduring taint of slavery and segregation.

We will find a way to undo intergenerational racial disparities when we find the will. And to find the will, we need to recognize what’s at stake: The conditions that challenge us imperil the future of black boys and black families and the viability of the American dream itself.”

The Atlantic: White racism vs. White resentment

“I understand what Andrew and Publius were getting at when they argued that white racism was less common in the South than people think. This just isn’t 1965. This isn’t even 1985. But I have to differ with Publius on this idea that “white resentment” is somehow a different animal. And I especially have to differ with Andrew that Affirmative Action is responsible. Many of you know where I stand on Affirmative Action–I think it is, how shall we say, problematic. But that feeling does nothing to ameliorate my fundamental distaste for whites who use Affirmative Action as a proxy to “resent” blacks.

Ezra basically nails it:

The end of privilege — though of course, white privilege didn’t end, it was only somewhat reduced — hurts. Ending slavery meant destroying a lot of privilege, and it created a war. Reconstruction disrupted a lot of privilege and it produced countless lynchings and murders. Ending segregation destroyed a hefty amount of privilege, and it spurred societal tumult and vicious violence. By contrast, affirmative action was a relatively modest policy with fairly minimal effects on privilege, and it merely resulted in a potent political issue for conservatives. But to call white resentment the “poisoned fruit” of affirmative action is extremely strange. White resentment has been around a lot longer, and stems from people’s desire to protect the fruits of a gross and grave injustice.

Indeed. I’m going to take this a step further–The idea that Affirmative Action justifies white resentment may be the greatest argument made for Reparations–like ever. Let’s grant that white people have the right to resent black people because of 40 years of race preferences. But black people suffered through 300 years of race preferences which included, but weren’t limited to–slavery, pogroms, wanton rape, land theft, and wealth transfer. Southern whites (the very people who perpetrated much of that sad history) can have their resentment, unashamed and public–right after they give us the deed to the entire Deep South. Sounds fair to me. What’s that you say? Most whites didn’t own slaves? And your grandfather hated the Klan? My sentiments exactly.  Most black people don’t benefit from Affirmative Action either. So what are we saying here?

Racial resentment is just racial grievance—for white people. If it’s absurd to hear Civil Rights era black folks attributing the entire fate of black people to racism, than its just surreal to hear white folks chalking their problems up to Affirmative Action. One doesn’t have to be pro-Affirmative Action to see the hypocrisy in those who say to blacks, heaving under a legacy of hate, “get over it” and then turn to Southern white “resenters,” merely grappling with equality, and say “I understand.”Just to bang on this racial resentment thing a little harder, I think it’s no mistake that Geraldine Ferraro basically used this same phraseology when making her case against Obama. The whole phrase strikes me as a politically correct term for bigots. Frankly, believing that Affirmative Action actively influences your economic prospects as a white person, is only slightly more logical that believing that gay marriage will somehow affect marriage overall. But I suspect that they’re both proxies for folks  who have a long history of resenting blacks and gays which stretches way past the advent of Affirmative Action or gay marriage.One can have a principled case against Affirmative Action. But to resent black people–as a group–because of Affirmative Action is, really, the essence of racial prejudice. It’s a judgment passed on a whole group, based on a minority of that group. We lefties get banged over the head–rightly so–for, at times, being mealy-mouthed and soft-headed. Fair enough. All I’m asking for is some consistency.”

The Atlantic: The Myth of Reverse Racism

“Contrary to initial indications, the civil-rights division of the Department of Justice won’t be dismantling affirmative action after all. At least, that’s the current word from Trump administration officials, after a New York Times article claimed the department would be using the broad powers of justice to take on universities that it decided had discriminated against white people. The DOJ since clarified that it was gearing up to investigate complaints from dozens of organizations alleging that certain universities used quotas—which are illegal—to limit the number of Asian American enrollees.Still, the beacons have been lit, and America’s annual heated argument about affirmative action has begun anew, this time against the background of racial tensions that have helped define the early goings of the Trump presidency. As always, those tensions and long-held beliefs about racial advantages rule the debate.

As my colleague Alia Wong notes, that debate is still hamstrung by a number of misconceptions about affirmative action, including the tendency to flatten issues pertaining to Asian Americans. These misconceptions are often exploited to serve the interests of white resentment that’s surrounded the use of race in job and university-application processes since the 1960s. To quote a 1995 Boston College Third World Law Journal  article: “The deployment of Asian Americans as an exemplary group in race relations is nothing new. The model minority myth of Asian Americans has been used since the Sixties to denigrate other nonwhites.”

The Times article jumped immediately to that white resentment. It identified “affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants” as the key target for the Justice Department. It also cited the former Reagan administration and Bush administration official Roger Clegg, who claimed that “it is frequently the case that not only are whites discriminated against now, but frequently Asian Americans are as well.”While the Times’s focus on “reverse racism” may not have entirely captured the actual policy issue in front of the DOJ, the connection was understandable. White animus against affirmative action is a driving force in the debate over race-conscious admissions.

The usage of “reverse racism” and “reverse discrimination” arose in direct response to affirmative and race-based policies in the 1970s. Even as outright quotas and more open attempts to equalize the numbers of minority enrollees were defeated, the term stuck. A 1979 California Law Review article defines reverse discrimination as a phenomenon where “individual blacks and members of other minority groups began to be given benefits at the expense of whites who, apart from race, would have had a superior claim to enjoy them.”

Reverse racism—or any race-conscious policy—became a common grievance, one that helped shape a certain post-civil-rights-movement view of America where black people were the favored children of the state, and deserving white people were cast aside.

A recent Twitter thread from the Refinery29 writer Ashley Ford illustrates an example of just how common and extreme that grievance has become. She recounted personal anecdotes about acquaintances who assumed that black people could simply attend college for free:

In a follow-up story, Ford describes two prevailing responses to the thread. “There were many people who were shocked to hear anyone could believe Black people got to go to college for free,” she writes, “and others who insisted we actually do.”

It’s difficult to quantify the extent to which this distorted fear of “reverse racism” actually animates opposition to race-conscious admissions, but there are clues as to its ubiquity. Every few years, donors use those kinds of grievances as a rationale for creating white-only scholarships, such as the $250 Caucasian Achievement and Recognition Scholarship offered by Boston University’s chapter of College Republicans. Op-eds and lawsuits from individuals who believe they faced discrimination in admissions processes often rely on claims of reverse racism. The controversial Fisher v. University of Texas lawsuit was one such case that spawned columns alleging extensive reverse racism. (In that case, the Supreme Court upheld UT Austin’s affirmative-action program, which allows the consideration of race for certain applicants, on the condition that the school regularly assess the program’s merits and ensure all other methods fail to produce adequate student diversity.)

Data show that many Americans do perceive reverse racism to be a significant societal problem. A 2016 Public Religion Research Institute poll indicates that half of all Americans, 57 percent of all white people, and 66 percent of the white working-class believe that discrimination against white people is as big a problem in America as discrimination against black people.Other studies take that claim further, suggesting that white belief in reverse racism has steadily increased since the civil-rights movement and in their view has become the dominant racial bias in America. This trend appears to parallel the rise of Donald Trump, as a 2016 HuffPost/YouGov poll found that Trump voters think anti-white discrimination is a much more prevalent problem than is discrimination against any minority group.

With respect to higher education in particular, a 2005 Gallup Poll found that, given a scenario with equally qualified applicants, white people were more likely to believe a black candidate would have a higher chance of getting into a given school than a white candidate of equal caliber. White people are generally much more likely to oppose affirmative action than they were two decades ago, and several polls indicate that the majority of white people do oppose it now.

Fears of reverse racism fly in the face of data. White students still make up almost three-quarters of all private external scholarship recipients in four-year bachelor’s programs, almost two-thirds of all institutional grants and scholarship recipients, and over three-quarters of all merit-based grants and scholarships, although white people only make up about 62 percent of the college student population and about half of all people under 19. White students are more likely than black, Latino, and Asian students to receive scholarships.

Also, existing data suggest that race-conscious admissions policies are the main factors keeping overall enrollment roughly representative of America’s racial demographics. A FiveThirtyEight analysis from 2015 found that colleges in states with affirmative-action bans are less representative of the state’s demographics than colleges that are still allowed to consider race. Other simulations suggest that replacing race-conscious policies with colorblind policies that take into account applicants’ socioeconomic status yields less racial diversity on college campuses.

Still, in today’s political climate, sentiment is probably more important than reality. And that’s why the move by the DOJ matters, even though it’s limited to an investigation on behalf of Asian-American plaintiffs. Asian Americans have often been treated as “a racial wedge to disenfranchise other communities of color.” In short, achievement by Asian Americans is used by people decrying reverse racism as the grounding logic to assail race-based programs. Those attacks are useful to white grievance only insofar as they remedy widespread perceptions of white disadvantage. For example, white support for a perceived “meritocracy” without affirmative action plummets amid overrepresentation of and competition from Asian American students, according to one 2013 study.

A 1993 article in this magazine by Stanley Fish perhaps best describes the paradox of that grievance. “Reverse racism is a cogent description of affirmative action,” Fish wrote, “only if one considers the cancer of racism to be morally and medically indistinguishable from the therapy we apply to it.” The current debate provides a showcase on just how—despite all evidence—the cancer and remedy have converged.


New York Times: Justice Dept. to Take On Affirmative Action in College Admissions

The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.

The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

The announcement suggests that the project will be run out of the division’s front office, where the Trump administration’s political appointees work, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is run by career civil servants and normally handles work involving schools and universities.

Supporters and critics of the project said it was clearly targeting admissions programs that can give members of generally disadvantaged groups, like black and Latino students, an edge over other applicants with comparable or higher test scores.

The project is another sign that the civil rights division is taking on a conservative tilt under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It follows other changes in Justice Department policy on voting rights, gay rights and police reforms.”

NY Times: Racial Justice Demands Affirmative Action


The Atlantic: The Case for Reparations

“Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole…

…the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. Reparations, beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is—the work of fallible humans. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future…

…Scholars have long discussed methods by which America might make reparations to those on whose labor and exclusion the country was built. In the 1970s, the Yale Law professor Boris Bittker argued in The Case for Black Reparations that a rough price tag for reparations could be determined by multiplying the number of African Americans in the population by the difference in white and black per capita income. That number—$34 billion in 1973, when Bittker wrote his book—could be added to a reparations program each year for a decade or two. Today Charles Ogletree, the Harvard Law School professor, argues for something broader: a program of job training and public works that takes racial justice as its mission but includes the poor of all races.” Ta-Nehisi Coates

NY Times: “The Cost of Slavery

“The typical white family enjoys a net worth that is more than eight times that of its black counterpart, according to the economist Edward Wolff. Even at equivalent income levels, gaps remain large. Among families earning less than $15,000 a year, the median African-American family has a net worth of zero, while the corresponding white family has $10,000 in equity. The typical white family earning $40,000 annually has a nest egg of around $80,000. Its black counterpart has about half that amount.

This equity inequity is partly the result of the head start whites enjoy in accumulating and passing on assets. Some economists estimate that up to 80 percent of lifetime wealth accumulation results from gifts from earlier generations, ranging from the down payment on a home to a bequest by a parent.”


Quartz: This is what reparations could actually look like in America

Historical precedent

“While a politically toxic concept today, there is precedent for reparations in the US—if not on this sort of scale. In 1988, US president Ronald Reagan formally apologized for the US government’s internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and, under the provisions of the Civil Liberties Act, paid $20,000 in reparations to over 800,000 victims of internment. Over $1.1 billion was initially allocated and an additional $400,000 was appropriated later to cover claims.

There are also examples of such payout globally. In accordance with a 1952 agreement, Germany has paid over $89 billion in reparations to victims of the Holocaust during World War II. German officials continue to meet with groups of survivors and their advocates to revisit guidelines and ensure that survivors receive the benefits. As recently as 2015, both Greek and Russian parliaments voted to demand that Germany pay them for the damage inflicted by Nazi occupation.

And yet, discussions about reparations in the US tend to stall before they get started. It’s true that questions about the mechanism and source of funds are complicated. Should the focus be on slavery, or should it include the broader manifestations of white supremacy? Who qualifies? Should we allocate direct cash grants or invest in programs that can more broadly work to expand black wealth? How can reparations lead to a broader understanding and healing between collaborators and perpetrators?

While difficult, however, these questions are not insurmountable.

Who pays?

“Many whites with little in the bank to show for their racial advantage will understandably be frustrated by the concept of reparations. If they never owned slaves—and neither did their ancestors—why should they have to pay? By the same token, many first- or second-generation Americans, whose European ancestors fled their own hardships to come to the US, feel miles and centuries apart from slavery.

The key point, however, is the unpaid labor of millions—and the compounding legacy of slavery, Jim Crow laws, discrimination in mortgage lending, and a race-based system of mass incarceration—created uncompensated wealth for individuals and white society as a whole. Immigrants with European heritage directly and indirectly benefited from this system of white supremacy.

It is true, of course, that many people have not shared in the economic gains equally, thanks to four decades of hyper-inequality. Today, the wealthiest 100 billionaires in the US have as much wealth as the entire African-American population combined. For this reason, I propose two concrete mechanisms to fund a national Reparations Trust Fund. The first is a graduated tax on wealth and inherited wealth. Households with wealth in excess of $5 million would pay a 1% tax, but rates would climb for billionaire households.

Secondly, I propose that the fund be capitalized in part by hefty penalties on wealthy individuals and corporations that attempt to move their funds “off-shore” or into complicated trusts to avoid taxation and accountability. There would also be stiff penalties assessed on wealth managers who aid and abet these wealth escapes by creating trusts and off-shore subsidies for the sole purposes of tax dodging.

Part of the austerity that many of our communities now face is the result of the estimated 8% of the world’s wealth that is now hidden off shore. (See Gabriel Zucman’s book Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens for more info.) Both a tax on wealth and stiffer penalties on tax dodging would have beneficial impacts on the larger economy for all workers, not just those who faced racial exclusion.

The road to reparations

The first step, politically speaking, would be for Congress to create a national commission. The work of such a commission would be to wrestle with the particulars of reparations and repair. Since 1989, Congressman John Conyers has repeatedly filed legislation to create this commission—HR40—but it continues to languish in committee. The number 40 in the bill’s name alludes to unfulfilled promises made to formerly enslaved Africans by the Homestead Act of the late 1800s. The act promised former slaves “40 acres and a mule.”

The commission could investigate many different forms of reparations. In his book published, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, Randall Robinson talks about a wide range of ways that reparations could be used, including the funding of cultural institutions, community initiatives, direct cash grants, and targeted wealth-building programs.

The commission could also determine eligibility. Scholars like William Darity will argue that eligibility should be tied to those who can demonstrate they have ancestors who suffered from forced migration and slavery, not those who came to the US voluntarily. For those who do qualify, the money could be paid in a lump sum. But that’s not the only form reparations could take shape. Some options include:

Direct stakeholder funds. These could take the form of direct cash grants without conditions to adults. Additional funds could be targeted for matching savings programs, homeownership, business start-ups, and other wealth building opportunities. Funds could be allocated to optional and free financial literacy training programs to enable people to make the most of their “stake.” (This is not out of paternalism but rather a recognition that along with unequal wealth comes the unequal knowledge of the workings of capital, saving, and investment—and that these tools can be powerful).

First-time homebuyer programs. The government could offer subsidized home mortgages similar to those that built the white middle class after World War II, but targeted to those excluded or preyed upon by predatory lending. Programs should also be available to descendants who were barred opportunities to get on family wealth creation programs.

Tuition-free higher education. Free tuition and financial support at universities and colleges for first-generation college students could be covered under reparations provisions.

Endowments for historical and cultural institutions. Reparations funds could provide one-time capital endowments to create and sustain museums and historical exhibits that teach the history of slavery and its aftermath, such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

National history education programs. Alongside German reparations for Nazi Germany, there has been a national investment in education about the history of the Holocaust. The “Facing History and Ourselves” curriculum is now used in thousands of US high schools. A similar investment should be made to disseminate the history of African Americans to all segments of the society.

Historical monuments and markers. Throughout Germany, there are historical markers informing people about the legacy of the Holocaust. Over 30,000 commemorative bricks have been installed outside homes and apartment buildings where Jews, gays and lesbians, Roma people, and other targets of the Nazi regime lived prior to deportation to death camps. German residents have daily reminders of this history through what are called Stolperstein: “stumbling stones.” In the US, historical markers could mark buildings such as the US Capitol (“Built with Enslaved Labor”), sites of lynchings, and organized pogroms and riots, such as the 1924 attack on a black business district in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This would be particularly important in terms of broader education and reconciliation of those who were privileged by racially discriminatory policies.

Roots journeys to Africa. Tens of thousands of Jewish young people from the US go to Israel each year, part of a “making Aliyah” pilgrimage that helps them deepen their religious and cultural identity. These birthright trips are funded by the Israeli government and private agencies in order to promote resettlement in Israel as well as to facilitate deeper ties between that country and US citizens. A similar initiative could enable people with African heritage to visit Africa, learn more about their historical roots, and deepen friendships and understanding with the African continent.


To ignore the legacy of slavery and discrimination requires a debilitating denial on the part of whites—even those whose ancestors arrived from other lands in more recent times, and especially for those at the top of the wealth pyramid.

Science tells us “there is no such thing as race.” Yet for centuries, economic rewards have been allocated based on the level of melanin in our skin. I do not believe that we will ever be able to truly repair and heal from the material and psychological legacy of grouping people by race without an intensive process of introspection and, yes, material reparations.”

The Movement for Black Lives Matter: Reparations

“We demand reparations for past and continuing harms. The government, responsible corporations and other institutions that have profited off of the harm they have inflicted on Black people — from colonialism to slavery through food and housing redlining, mass incarceration, and surveillance — must repair the harm done. This includes:

  1. Reparations for the systemic denial of access to high quality educational opportunities in the form of full and free access for all Black people (including undocumented and currently and formerly incarcerated people) to lifetime education including: free access and open admissions to public community colleges and universities, technical education (technology, trade and agricultural), educational support programs, retroactive forgiveness of student loans, and support for lifetime learning programs.
  2. Reparations for the continued divestment from, discrimination toward and exploitation of our communities in the form of a guaranteed minimum livable income for all Black people, with clearly articulated corporate regulations.
  3. Reparations for the wealth extracted from our communities through environmental racism, slavery, food apartheid, housing discrimination and racialized capitalism in the form of corporate and government reparations focused on healing ongoing physical and mental trauma, and ensuring our access and control of food sources, housing and land.
  4. Reparations for the cultural and educational exploitation, erasure, and extraction of our communities in the form of mandated public school curriculums that critically examine the political, economic, and social impacts of colonialism and slavery, and funding to support, build, preserve, and restore cultural assets and sacred sites to ensure the recognition and honoring of our collective struggles and triumphs.
  5. Legislation at the federal and state level that requires the United States to acknowledge the lasting impacts of slavery, establish and execute a plan to address those impacts. This includes the immediate passage of H.R.40, the “Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act” or subsequent versions which call for reparations remedies.

What is the problem?

  • Education in the U.S. has always been a subversive act for Black people. During enslavement we were legally barred from the most basic forms of education including literacy. Post-Civil War, and even after the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision, Black people have been locked into segregated institutions that are underfunded, under resourced and often face severe health risk because of the decrepit conditions of their school buildings.
  • The current racial equity gap in education has roots that date back to enslavement. In fact, recent studies suggest that racial educational inequalities may be the most (measurable) enduring legacy of slavery. The same study also verified ongoing income inequality correlated to counties where slavery was prevalent.
  • The cradle-to-college pipeline has been systematically cut off for Black communities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 23 states spend more per pupil in affluent districts than in high-poverty districts that contain a high concentrations of Black students; and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights shows persistent and glaring opportunity gaps and racial inequities for Black students. Black students are less likely to attend schools that offer advanced coursework, less likely to be placed in gifted and talented programs, more likely to attend schools with less qualified educators, and employ law enforcement officers but no counselors.
  • Public universities, colleges, and technical education remain out of reach for most in the United States and policies to help students cover costs continue to shift towards benefiting more affluent families.
  • Funding cuts across the country are forcing individual students’ tuition and fees to cover more operating costs than ever at public colleges and universities. At City University of New York (CUNY), the largest city public university system in the U.S.,tuition and fees cover over 50 percent of the operating budget. Since right before the recession, government funding for higher education has significantly fallen. 47 states spent less in 2014-2015 on per student funding than they did at the start of the recession..
  • Financial aid is not sufficiently covering the basic needs of students attending public universities and colleges, leaving many of them struggling to eat and pay for housing, transportation, daycare and healthcare. A Wisconsin Hope Lab survey showed half of all students surveyed were struggling with food and housing insecurity, 20 percent didn’t have money to eat and 13 percent were homeless.
  • Access to education — from university, to college, to community schools, to continuing adult education, to agricultural training — is essential to ensure that our communities can thrive. In addition to college age students, the ability to access lifelong education is essential to the political, economic and cultural health of our nation.
  • The rising costs of higher education and exploitative and predatory lending practices of private and for-profit institutions make Black students more likely to drop-out, and leave them and their families stuck with debilitating and crippling debt. U.S. student loan debt nearly totals $1.3 trillion, with close to $900 billion in federal student loans, and more than 7 million borrowers in default.
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities continue to play a critical role in offering Black students, especially from low-income communities, access to higher education in an environment where they are supported and able to thrive. However, federal and state funding systematically underfunds Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) compared to Predominantly White Institutions (PWI). Since the recession, deep state funding cuts have disproportionately affected HBCU’s, putting the future of many in jeopardy, and impairing their ability to offer high-quality educational opportunities to their students.

What does this solution do?

  • We seek complete open access for all to free public university, college and technical education programs (including technology, trade and agricultural) as well as full-funding for lifelong learning programs that support communities and families. We also seek the forgiveness of all federal student loans. Policies shall apply to all and should focus on outreach to communities historically denied access to education including undocumented, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people.
  • Cover all living costs, including but not limited to housing, transportation, childcare, healthcare, and food for students attending public universities, colleges, and technical educational programs (including technology, trade, and agricultural).
  • Fully fund and provide open access to K-12, higher education, technical educational programs (including technology, trade, and agricultural), educational support programs and lifelong learning programs to every individual incarcerated in local, state, and federal correctional facilities (juvenile and adult).
  • Provide full access to all undocumented people to state and federal programs that provide aid to cover the full costs, including living costs, to attend public universities, and colleges, technical educational programs, and lifelong learning programs.
  • Increased federal and state investments in all Historically Black Colleges (HBCUs).

Federal Action:

  • Target: Legislative
  • Process: This would require passage of a bill through both houses of Congress and be signed by the President. The Bill would provide $165 billion (in 2014 the DOE provided $30 billion in grant aid, $36 billion in tax cuts and $99 billion in federal student loans) per year to states to eliminate undergraduate tuition and fees at all public universities and colleges, and assist states to cover all related living costs for students. Additionally, the bill would allocate funding to lifelong learning and technical education programs and fund and provide complete open access to K-12, higher education, technical educational programs (including technology, trade, and agriculture), educational support programs and lifelong learning programs to every individual incarcerated in local, state, and federal correctional facilities (juvenile and adult). The bill would also increase work study programs and employment opportunities for students and expand eligibility to undocumented students and incarcerated students.
  • Target: Legislative
  • Process: This would require the passage of a bill through both houses of Congress and be signed by the President. The bill would allow undocumented people access to full state and federal aid to cover all tuition, fees, and living costs to attend public universities and colleges, technical educational programs (including technology, trade, and agriculture), and lifelong learning programs.
  • Target: Legislative
  • Process: This would require passage of a bill through the state legislature that  ensures all HBCU’s receive equitable funding for operational, staffing, infrastructure, and research needs, in order to adequately provide high-quality educational opportunities. In addition, the bill should offer incentives for HBCU’s to attract and secure staff, increase graduate school course offerings, and support graduate schools that train teachers, doctors, lawyers, and social scientist.
  • Target: Executive
  • Process: The President could issue an executive order abolishing all current student debt, Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. The President should expand the Second Chance Pell Grant to include all individuals currently incarcerated in local, state, and federal correctional facilities (juvenile and adult).

State Action:

  • Target: Legislative
  • Process: This would require passage of a bill through the State legislature which provides funds to eliminate undergraduate tuition and fees at all public universities and colleges and cover living costs. Additionally, the bill would allocate funding to lifelong learning and technical education programs and fund K-12, higher education, technical educational programs (including technology, trade, and agriculture), educational support programs and lifelong learning programs in all state correctional facilities.The bill would also increase work study programs and employment opportunities for students and expand eligibility to undocumented students and incarcerated students. The cost of the bill would vary based on jurisdiction.
  • Target: Legislative
  • Process: This would require the passage of a bill through both houses of Congress and be signed by the President. The bill would allow undocumented people access to full state and federal aid to cover all tuition, fees, and living costs to attend public universities and colleges, technical educational programs (including technology, trade, and agriculture), and lifelong learning programs.
  • Target: Legislative
  • Process: This would require passage of a bill through the state legislature that  ensures all HBCU’s receive equitable funding for operational, staffing, infrastructure, and research needs, in order to adequately provide high-quality educational opportunities. In addition, the bill should offer incentives for HBCU’s to attract and secure staff, increase graduate school course offerings, and support graduate schools that train teachers, doctors, lawyers, and social scientist.

Local Action:

  • Increase local investments in public universities, colleges, technical educational programs (technology, trade, and agricultural), educational support programs and lifelong learning programs. Increase local investments and ensure access to education for all adults and youth incarcerated in local correctional facilities.

How does this solution address the specific needs of some of the most marginalized Black people?

  • This policy would directly impact undocumented and incarcerated people by making higher education, technical education (including technology, trade, and agriculture) and lifelong learning programs eligible to them. The policy would also cover necessary living costs so they can pursue educational opportunities.
  • Only 32 states offer some type of college or post-secondary courses to adults who are incarcerated, but 80 percent of the incarcerated population never graduated from high school.
  • In the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 83 percent of Black trans  respondents report not having a college degree.
  • A Center for American Progress report showed that among Black same-sex couples that reported graduating from high school, only 40 percent report completing some college, compared to 67 percent for white same-sex couples

Model Legislation:

  • While, no current legislation provides funding to cover all costs related to higher-education, we can build off of models that cover the costs of tuition and fees and eliminate our current debt-based model.

Restorative Justice

Introduction to Restorative Justice

“Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders. This can lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities.

Practices and programs reflecting restorative purposes will respond to crime by:

  1. identifying and taking steps to repair harm,
  2. involving all stakeholders, and
  3. transforming the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime.

Restorative justice theory and programs have emerged over the past 35 years as an increasingly influential world-wide alternative to criminal justice practice. This tutorial will provide you with an overview of the movement and of the issues that it raises.

Click on this link to understand more about Restorative Justice

CEGV: Transformative Justice and Community Accountability

Community Accountability and Transformative Justice are community-based responses to violence that seek to address immediate needs for justice (e.g. safety, dignity, connection, self-determination, support, healing, accountability, etc) in ways that both address the survivor’s immediate needs (including addressing the behavior of an individual abusive person) and change the root causes of that harm and oppression and ultimately end violence.

Because options within the criminal legal system are very limited for survivors – and most inaccessible for survivors of color (especially Black and Latino survivors), queer and trans people, survivors involved in the sex trade, people with disabilities, poor people, immigrants, survivors who‘s abusive partners are in law enforcement, and many others impacted by state violence – we need solutions that do not rely solely on the state.

INCITE, a national collective of Feminists of Color against violence, defines community accountability as “a process in which a community – a group of friends, a family, a church, a workplace, an apartment complex, a neighborhood, etc – work together to do the following things:

+ Create and affirm values & practices that resist abuse and oppression and encourage safety, support, and accountability.

+ Develop sustainable strategies to address community members’ abusive behavior, creating a process for them to account for their actions and transform their behavior.

+ Commit to ongoing development of all members of the community, and the community itself, to transform the political conditions that reinforce oppression and violence.

+ Provide safety & support to community members who are violently targeted that respects their self-determination.”

Community accountability is often framed as an alternative to punitive justice. There is often confusion around how TJ/CA tangibly works because it is more about a set of values and organizing goals than a one-size-fits-all response. A TJ/CA response could look like educating people in the abuser and survivor’s life about how to support a survivor, communities taking accountability for minimizing or normalizing domestic violence, approaching a person who has caused harm about their behavior, supporting someone to be accountable to their actions, safety plans that leverage community resources (e.g. childcare, respected leaders in community, etc.) and raise awareness to the survivor’s support system about responding to and preventing violence, and full-on community interventions in violent situations.

Why are we looking for options beyond the police and the criminal legal system?

+ Many survivors’ first priority is not punishing or incarcerating their abuser, it’s getting violence to stop.  Many survivors we work with have a complex relationship with their abuser – who might be their family member, a parent to their kids, a financial or emotional support, or interact with them in a myriad of other ways.  Due to this difference in prioritizing, the goals of the criminal legal system might not match the goals of the survivor. Within the legal system, survivors have very little control over what the level of sentencing would be.

+ Many communities experience the police and the prison industrial complex as a source of violence rather than safety, and have strong distrust of the criminal legal system. The recent non-indictments of police officers in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown highlight this understood inequality within the justice system.

+ The majority of survivors do not receive justice even by the criminal legal systems definition’s of justice – RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) estimates that only 3 of every 100 rapists will ever spend a day in prison ( and other research suggests similar rates for domestic violence that only 2% of abusers received any jail time. Many survivors do not report because they do not expect the legal system to support them. To witness survivor’s words about choosing not to report see the hashtags: #JusticeFailsASurvivorWhen #BeenRapedNeverReported #WhyIDidntReport

+ Many ways that abusers maintain power and control may technically be legal (i.e. minimizing, denying, blaming, some forms of intimidation & coercion, using isolation, using male privilege, gas lighting, financial control & economic abuse, threatening to out someone’s immigration status, sexual orientation, involvement in the sex trade, etc). While we know that abuse is about a cycle of power and control, the context of the criminal legal system is about addressing individual offenses.

+ Increased reliance on law-enforcement has led to many victim-defendants being arrested for using self-defense or for surviving abuse. The case of Marissa Alexander – an African-American survivor of domestic violence from Jacksonville, FL who was prosecuted for firing warning shots & defending her life from her abusive husband – highlights the experience of victim defendants and the racial disparities in the criminal legal system. According to a 2012 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, “in nearly 1/3 of the LGBTQ-specific IPV cases reported to the police (28.4%), the survivor was arrested instead of the abusive partner” ( For more on supporting survivors who are incarcerated for surviving, see Survived and Punished (

Want to learn more?

+ Locally, we’re lucky to have a strong foundation around these topics, largely thanks to the work Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA) and the NW Network of BTLG Survivors of Abuse, who have been engaging with these concepts for years. See articles by CARA here: and The Color of Violence: the Incite! Anthology

+ Locally API Chaya, the NW Network, and a few other organizations engage in CA/TJ work.

+ Further reading with The Revolution Starts At HomeArrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation by Beth Richie, and Creative Interventions Toolkit (

+ Survived and Punished toolkit on organizing Defense Campaigns for survivors incarcerated for self-defense (

+ For approaches to addressing child sexual abuse, please see the documentary Hollow Water (, Generation 5, and the National Council on Crime and Deliquency’s Restorative Justice Project

Campaign Zero Policy Changes to End Police Violence

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1. End Broken Windows Policing

A decades-long focus on policing minor crimes and activities – a practice called Broken Windows policing – has led to the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color and excessive force in otherwise harmless situations. In 2014, police killed at least 287 people who were involved in minor offenses and harmless activities like sleeping in parks, possessing drugs, looking “suspicious” or having a mental health crisis. These activities are often symptoms of underlying issues of drug addiction, homelessness, and mental illness which should be treated by healthcare professionals and social workers rather than the police.

Policy Solutions

End Policing of Minor “Broken Windows” Offenses

The following activities do not threaten public safety and are often used to police black bodies. Decriminalize these activities or de-prioritize their enforcement:

  • Consumption of Alcohol on Streets
  • Marijuana Possession
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Trespassing
  • Loitering
  • Disturbing the Peace (including Loud Music)
  • Spitting
  • Jaywalking
  • Bicycling on the Sidewalk

(Example: Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015)

End Profiling and “Stop-and-Frisk”

Establish enforceable protections against profiling to prevent police from intervening in civilian lives for no reason other than the “suspicion” of their blackness or other aspects of their identity. This should include:

  • immigration status, age, housing status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability, HIV status, race, religion and national origin as protected groups
  • the right for people to seek court orders to stop police departments from profiling
  • bans on both intentional profiling and practices that have a disparate impact on protected groups
  • ban stops for “furtive” movements such as a reaching for waistband or acting nervous
  • ban stops for being in a high-crime area
  • ban stops for matching a generalized description of a suspect (i.e. black male ages 15-25)
  • require officers to establish objective justification for making a stop and to report every stop including location, race, gender, whether force was used and whether a firearm was found.
  • end the use of predictive policing technology, which uses systematically biased data to enhance police profiling of black people and communities
  • prohibit police departments from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, report, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.
  • prohibit police departments from transferring an individual to federal immigration authorities for purposes of immigration enforcement.
  • prohibit officers from being placed under the supervision of federal agencies or deputized as special federal officers or special federal deputies.

(Examples: End Racial Profiling Act of 2015NYC Community Safety Act; NYC Stop-and-Frisk Reforms; California Senate Bill 54)

Establish Alternative Approaches to Mental Health Crises

Mental health crises should not be excuses for heavy-handed police interventions and are best handled by mental health professionals. Establish and fund Mental Health Response Teams to respond to crisis situations. These approaches have been proven to reduce police use of force in these situations by nearly 40 percent and should include:

  • a multidisciplinary co-responder team that includes mental health professionals, social workers and crisis counselors as well as specially trained police officers
  • involvement of this multidisciplinary team in planning, implementation and response to crises
  • at least 40 hours of crisis intervention training for police officers (Ex: LAPD Mental Evaluation Team)

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2.  Community Oversight

Police usually investigate and decide what, if any, consequences their fellow officers should face in cases of police misconduct. Under this system, fewer than 1 in every 12 complaints of police misconduct nationwide results in some kind of disciplinary action against the officer(s) responsible. Communities need an urgent way to ensure police officers are held accountable for police violence.

Policy Solutions

Establish effective civilian oversight structures

Establish an all-civilian oversight structure with discipline power that includes a Police Commission and Civilian Complaints Office with the following powers:

The Police Commission should:

  • determine policy for the police department based on community input and expertise
  • share policy and policy changes in publicly accessible formats
  • discipline and dismiss police officers
  • hold public disciplinary hearings
  • select the candidates for Police Chief, to be hired by the Mayor
  • evaluate and fire the Police Chief, if needed
  • receive full-time, competitive salaries for all members
  • receive regular training on policing and civil rights
  • not have current, former or family of police officers as members
  • select its members from candidates offered by community organizations

The Civilian Complaints Office should:

  • receive, investigate and resolve all civilian complaints against police in 120 days
  • establish multiple in-person and online ways to submit, view and discuss complaints
  • be immediately notified and required to send an investigator to the scene of a police shooting or in-custody death
  • be allowed to interrogate officers less than 48 hours after an incident where deadly force is used
  • access crime scenes, subpoena witnesses and files with penalties for non-compliance
  • make disciplinary and policy recommendations to the Police Chief
  • compel the Police Chief to explain why he/she has not followed a recommendation
  • have the Police Commission decide cases where the Police Chief does not follow recommendations
  • issue public quarterly reports analyzing complaints, demographics of complainants, status and findings of investigations and actions taken as a result
  • be housed in a separate location from the police department
  • be funded at an amount no less than 5% of the total police department budget
  • have at least 1 investigator for every 70 police officers or 4 investigators at all times,whichever is greater
  • have its Director selected from candidates offered by community organizations
  • not have current, former or family of police officers on staff, including the Director

(Ex: San Francisco Charter Policies on Police Commission and Office of Citizen Complaints)

Remove barriers to reporting police misconduct

For all stops by a police officer, require officers to give civilians their name, badge number, reason for the stop and a card with instructions for filing a complaint to the civilian oversight structure.

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3.  Limit Use of Force

Police should have the skills and cultural competence to protect and serve our communities without killing people – just as police do in England, Germany, Japan and other developed countries. In 2014, police killed at least 253 unarmed people and 91 people who were stopped for mere traffic violations. The following policy solutions can restrict the police from using excessive force in everyday interactions with civilians.

Policy Solutions

Establish standards and reporting of police use of deadly force

A. Authorize deadly force only when there is an imminent threat to an officer’s life or the life of another person and such force is strictly unavoidable to protect life as required under International Law. Deadly force should only be authorized after all other reasonable means have been exhausted. (Ex: International Deadly Force Standard; Tennessee Deadly Force Law)

B. Require that an officer’s tactical conduct and decisions leading up to using deadly force be considered in judgements of whether such force was reasonable. (Ex: LAPD Use of Force Policy)

C. Require officers give a verbal warning, when possible, before using deadly force and give subjects a reasonable amount of time to comply with the warning (Ex: Las Vegas Metro PD Policy)

D.  Require reporting of police killings or serious injuries of civilians (Ex: The PRIDE Act; Colorado law)

E. Require the names of both the officer(s) involved and victim(s) to be released within 72 hours of a deadly force incident (Ex: Philadelphia PD Policy)

Revise and strengthen local police department use of force policies

Revised police use of force policies should protect human life and rights. Policies should include guidance on reporting, investigation, discipline, and accountability and increase transparency by making the policies available online. This use of force policy should require officers to:

  • restrict officers from using deadly force unless all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted (Ex: Philadelphia PD Policy)
  • use minimum amount of force to apprehend a subject, with specific guidelines for the types of force and tools authorized for a given level of resistance (Ex: Seattle PD Policy)
  • de-escalate first (Ex: Seattle PD Policy)
  • carry a less-lethal weapon (Ex: Seattle PD Policy)
  • ban using force on a person for talking back or as punishment for running away (Ex: Cleveland PD Policy)
  • ban chokeholds, strangleholds (i.e. carotid restraints), hog-tying and transporting people face down in a vehicle (Ex: NYPD Policy)
  • intervene to stop other officers who are using excessive force and report them to a supervisor (Ex: Las Vegas Metro PD Policy)
  • have first aid kits and immediately render medical assistance to anyone in police custody who is injured or who complains of an injury (Ex: New Baltimore PD Policy)

End traffic-related police killings and dangerous high-speed police chases

Prohibit police officers from:

Monitor how police use force and proactively hold officers accountable for excessive force

A. Report all uses of force to a database with information on related injuries and demographics of the victims. (Ex: Seattle PD Policy; Indianapolis Metropolitan PD reporting website)

B. Establish an early intervention system to correct officers who use excessive force. These systems have been shown to reduce the average number of complaints against officers in a police department by more than 50%. This system should:

  • report officers who receive two or more complaints in the past month
  • report officers who have two or more use of force incidents or complaints in the past quarter
  • require officers to attend re-training and be monitored by an immediate supervisor after their first quarterly report and terminate an officer following multiple reports

C. Require police departments to notify the state when an officer is found to have willfully violated department policy or the law, committed official misconduct, or resigned while under investigation for these offenses. Maintain this information in a database accessible to the public (Ex: Illinois Law) and prohibit these officers from serving as police officers, teachers or other governmental employees.

Campaign Zero reviewed police department use of force policies in 91 of the largest U.S. cities. Eight use of force policies were found to be associated with fewer police-involved killings and killings of police officers. Learn more at

4. Independently Investigate & Prosecute

Local prosecutors rely on local police departments to gather the evidence and testimony they need to successfully prosecute criminals. This makes it hard for them to investigate and prosecute the same police officers in cases of police violence. These cases should not rely on the police to investigate themselves and should not be prosecuted by someone who has an incentive to protect the police officers involved.

Policy Solutions

Lower the standard of proof for Department of Justice civil rights investigations of police officers

Allow federal prosecutors to successfully prosecute police officers for misconduct by passing legislation to eliminate the requirement that an officer must “willfully” deprive another’s rights in order to violate Section 242.

Use federal funds to encourage independent investigations and prosecutions

Pass legislation such as the Police Training and Independent Review Act of 2015 or use of existing federal funds to encourage external, independent investigations and prosecution of police killings (see Action Items 2.2.2 and 2.2.3 of the President’s Task Force Report).

Establish a permanent Special Prosecutor’s Office at the State level for cases of police violence

The Special Prosecutor’s Office should be:

  • required and authorized to prosecute all cases of where police kill or seriously injure a civilian, in-custody deaths and cases where a civilian alleges criminal misconduct against a police officer
  • equipped with an office and resources to conduct thorough investigations
  • required to have its Chief Prosecutor chosen from a list of candidates offered by community organizations

Require independent investigations of all cases where police kill or seriously injure civilians

The independent investigators should be:

  • required and authorized to prosecute all cases of where police kill or seriously injure a civilian, in-custody deaths and cases where a civilian alleges criminal misconduct against a police officer
  • required to investigate all cases where police kill chosen at random from a list of the largest ten agencies in the state
  • required to report their findings to the public

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5.  Community Representation

While white men represent less than one third of the U.S. population, they comprise about two thirds of U.S. police officers. The police should reflect and be responsive to the cultural, racial and gender diversity of the communities they are supposed to serve. Moreover, research shows police departments with more black officers are less likely to kill black people.

Policy Solutions

Increase the number of police officers who reflect the communities they serve

Require police departments to develop and publicly report a strategy and timeline for achieving a representative proportion of police officers who are women and people of color through outreach, recruitment and changes to departmental practices (Ex: Connecticut Law)

Use community feedback to inform police department policies and practices

Require a regular survey (Ex: Milwaukee survey) to be fielded to the community to gauge their experiences and perceptions of the police and use this information to inform:

  • police department policies and practices
  • police officer evaluations
  • police officer pay incentives

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6.  Body Cams/Film the Police

While they are not a cure-all, body cameras and cell phone video have illuminated cases of police violence and have shown to be important tools for holding officers accountable. Nearly every case where a police officer was charged with a crime for killing a civilian in 2015 relied on video evidence showing the officer’s actions.

Policy Solutions

Body cameras

Require the use of body cameras – in addition to dashboard cameras – and establish policies governing their use to:

  • record all interactions with subjects who have not requested to be kept anonymous
  • notify subjects that they have the option to remain anonymous and stop recording/storing footage if they choose this option
  • allow civilians to review footage of themselves or their relatives and request this be released to the public and stored for at least two years
  • require body and dash cam footage to be stored externally and ensure district attorneys and civilian oversight structures have access to the footage
  • require police departments, whenever they want to deny a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for body or dash cam footage, to prove in court that the footage constitutes a legitimate FOIA exemption (Ex: Illinois House Bill 4355)
  • permanently delete footage after 6 months if this footage hasn’t been specifically requested to be stored
  • include a disciplinary matrix clearly defining consequences for officers who fail to adhere to the agency’s body camera policy.
  • consider whether cameras or mandated footage are tampered with or unavailable as a negative evidentiary factor in administrative and criminal proceedings
  • prevent officers from reviewing footage of an incident before completing initial reports, statements or interviews about an incident
  • prohibit footage from being used in tandem with facial recognition software, as fillers in photo arrays, or to create a database or pool of mugshots. (Ex: Baltimore PD Body Cam Policy)
  • update privacy laws to protect civilians from having video or audio recordings released publicly that do not contain potential evidence in a use-of-force incident, discharge of a weapon or death.

(Ex: ACLU Model Policy)

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7.  Training

The current training regime for police officers fails to effectively teach them how to interact with our communities in a way that protects and preserves life. For example, police recruits spend 58 hours learning how to shoot firearms and only 8 hours learning how to de-escalate situations. An intensive training regime is needed to help police officers learn the behaviors and skills to interact appropriately with communities.

Policy Solutions

Invest in Rigorous and Sustained Training

Require officers to undergo training – including scenario-based training – on the following topics on at least a quarterly basis and involve the community – including youth of color – in their design and implementation:

  • Implicit bias
  • Procedural justice
  • Relationship-based policing
  • Community interaction
  • Crisis intervention, mediation, conflict resolution, and rumor control
  • Appropriate engagement with youth
  • Appropriate engagement with LGBTQ, transgender and gender nonconforming individuals
  • Appropriate engagement with individuals who are english language learners
  • Appropriate engagement with individuals from different religious affiliations
  • Appropriate engagement with individuals who are differently abled
  • De-escalation and minimizing the use of force

Intentionally consider ‘unconscious’ or ‘implicit’ racial bias

Require current and prospective police officers to undergo mandatory implicit racial bias testing, including testing for bias in shoot/don’t shoot decision-making, and develop a clear policy for considering an officer’s level of racial bias in:

  • law enforcement certification
  • the hiring process
  • performance evaluations
  • decisions about whether an officer should be deployed to communities of color

Learn More About This Issue

8.  End For-Profit Policing

Police should be working to keep people safe, not contributing to a system that profits from stopping, searching, ticketing, arresting and incarcerating people.

Policy Solutions

End police department quotas for tickets and arrests

Ban police departments from using ticket or arrest quotas to evaluate the performance of police officers

(Ex: Illinois law)

Limit fines and fees for low-income people

Pass policies requiring local governments to:

  • ban issuing fines or arrest warrants for civilians who fail to appear in court for a traffic citation (Ex: Ferguson Policy)
  • ban generating more than 10% of total municipal revenue from fines and fees (Ex: Missouri law)
  • allow judges discretion to waive fines and fees for low-income people or initiate payment plans (Ex: Pennsylvania law)
  • prohibit courts from ordering individuals on parole or probation to pay supervision fees and other correctional fees

Prevent police from taking the money or property of innocent people

Prohibit police from:

  • seizing property of civilians (i.e. civil forfeiture) unless they are convicted of a crime and the state establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture
  • keeping any property that has legally been forfeited (instead, this property should go to a general fund)
  • participating in the federal Equitable Sharing program that allows police to engage in civil asset forfeiture

(Ex: New Mexico law)

Require police departments to bear the cost of misconduct

  • Require the cost of misconduct settlements to be paid out of the police department budget instead of the City’s general fund
  • Restrict police departments from receiving more money from the general fund when they go over-budget on lawsuit payments

Learn More About This Issue

9. Demilitarization

The events in Ferguson have introduced the nation to the ways that local police departments can misuse military weaponry to intimidate and repress communities. In 2014, militarized SWAT teams killed at least 38 people and studies show that more militarized police departments are significantly more likely to kill civilians. The following policies limit police departments from obtaining or using these weapons on our streets.

Policy Solutions

End the Federal Government’s 1033 Program Providing Military Weaponry to Local Police Departments

End the supply of federal military weaponry to local police departments under the 1033 program. (Ex: Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act)

Establish Local Restrictions to Prevent Police Departments from Purchasing or Using Military Weaponry

Restrict police departments from:

  • using federal grant money to purchase military equipment (Ex: Montana law)
  • deploying armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, drones, Stingray surveillance equipment, camouflage uniforms, and grenade launchers
  • using SWAT teams unless there is an emergency situation or imminent threat to life and high-ranking officers have given approval (Ex: Cincinnati PD Policy)
  • conducting no-knock raids without probable cause to believe someone inside the home is an imminent threat (Ex: Cincinnati PD Policy)
  • accessing federal grant money or purchasing military equipment if the department has been recently found to demonstrate a “pattern or practice” of discriminatory policing
  • in addition to these restrictions, wherever possible agencies should seek to return to the federal government the military equipment that has already been received (Ex: San Jose)

See What Your Local Agency Received from the Department of Defense

Learn More About This Issue

10. Fair Police Union Contracts

Police unions have used their influence to establish unfair protections for police officers in their contracts with local, state and federal government and in statewide Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights. These provisions create one set of rules for police and another for civilians, and make it difficult for Police Chiefs or civilian oversight structures to punish police officers who are unfit to serve. Learn more about how police union contracts help officers avoid accountability here.

Policy Solutions

Remove barriers to effective misconduct investigations and civilian oversight

Remove contract provisions, local policies, and provisions in state Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights laws that:

  • allow officers to wait 48 hours or more before being interrogated after an incident
  • prevent investigators from pursuing other cases of misconduct revealed during an investigation
  • prevent an officer’s name or picture from being released to the public
  • prohibit civilians from having the power to discipline, subpoena or interrogate police officers
  • state that the Police Chief has the sole authority to discipline police officers
  • enable officers to appeal a disciplinary decision to a hearing board of other police officers
  • enable officers to use the contract grievance process to have an outside arbitrator reverse disciplinary decisions and reinstate officers who have committed misconduct
  • prevent an officer from being investigated for an incident that happened 100 or more days prior
  • allow an officer to choose not to take a lie detector test without being punished, require the civilian who is accusing that officer of misconduct to pass a lie detector first, or prevent the officer’s test results from being considered as evidence of misconduct

Keep officers’ disciplinary history accessible to police departments and the public

Remove contract provisions, local and state policies, and provisions in state Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights laws that allow police officers to:

  • expunge or destroy records of past misconduct (both sustained and unsustained) from their disciplinary file
  • prevent their disciplinary records from being released to the public via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request

Ensure financial accountability for officers and police departments that kill or seriously injure civilians

Remove contract provisions, local policies, and provisions in state Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights laws that:

  • require officers to be given paid administrative leave or paid desk-duty during an investigation following a police shooting or other use of deadly force
  • prevent officers from receiving unpaid suspensions as discipline for misconduct or allow officers to use vacation or discretionary time to pay themselves while on suspension
  • allow officers to receive paid leave or paid desk-duty after being charged with a felony offense

Campaign Zero reviewed the police union contracts in 81 of the largest U.S. cities. 72 of the 81 cities’ contracts imposed at least one barrier to holding police accountable. Learn more at

Use of Force Policies

Police Use of Force Project: How police use of force policies can help to end police violence


These policies often fail to include common-sense limits on police use of force, including:

  1. Failing to make life preservation the primary principle shaping police decisions about using force
  2. Failing to require officers to de-escalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance, and otherwise eliminating the need to use force
  3. Allowing officers to choke or strangle civilians, in many cases where less lethal force could be used instead, resulting in the unnecessary death or serious injury of civilians
  4. Failing to require officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor
  5. Failing to develop a Force Continuum that limits the types of force and/or weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance.
  6. Failing to require officers to exhaust all other reasonable means before resorting to deadly force.
  7. Failing to require officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before shooting at a civilian.
  8. Failing to require officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against civilians

We (Use of Force Project) reviewed the use of force policies of 91 of America’s 100 largest city police departments* to determine whether they include meaningful protections against police violence.

Click here for full report and highlights

34 of the 91 police departments reviewed require officers to de-escalate situations, when possible, before using force.

                    Philadelphia Police Department Use Of Force Continuum

77 of the 91 police departments reviewed have a Force Continuum or Matrix included in their use of force policy, defining the types of force/weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance.


21 of the 91 police departments reviewed explicitly prohibit chokeholds and strangleholds (including carotid restraints) or limit these tactics to situations where deadly force is authorized.

56 of the 91 police departments reviewed require officer to give a verbal warning, when possible, before using deadly force.

19 of the 91 police departments
 reviewed prohibit officers from shooting at people in moving vehicles unless the person poses a deadly threat by means other than the vehicle (for example, shooting at people from the vehicle).

31 of the 91 police departments reviewed require officers to exhaust all other reasonable alternatives before resorting to using deadly force.

30 of the 91 police departments reviewed require officers to intervene to stop another officer from using excessive force.


We ( Use of Force Project) compared police department use of force policies with police killings data for 91 of the 100 largest police departments to see if there was a relationship between the two. We found that police departments with policies that place clear restrictions on when and how officers use force had significantly fewer killings than those that did not have these restrictions in place.



For each of the 8 policies examinedpolice departments that had implemented the policy were less likely to kill people than police departments that had not.

Police departments with four or more of these restrictive use of force policies had the fewest killings per population and per arrest. After taking into account other factors, each additional use of force policy was associated with a 15% reduction in killings by police. According to our analysis, the average police department would have 54% fewer killings and a police department with none of these policies currently in place would have 72% fewer killings by implementing all eight of these policies.



These results indicate that while the chances of killing a civilian increases the more arrests a police department makes, that likelihood is shaped by the department’s policies governing how and when police can use force during those encounters. This suggests that advocacy efforts pushing police department to adopt more restrictive use of force policies – and the accountability structures to enforce them – can substantially reduce the number of people killed by police in America. And while this analysis was limited to examining rates of deadly force, these policies may also be associated with reductions in other forms of police violence as well.

Despite their potential impact, efforts to push for these changes have often been opposed by police organizations that claim more restrictive use of force policies “endanger officers” (See herehere, and here). We find that these assumptions are not supported by the data. Officers in police departments with more restrictive policies in place are actually less likely to be killed in the line of duty, less likely to be assaulted, and have similar likelihood of sustaining an injury during an assault.

In short, a commitment to protect and preserve life necessitates the immediate adoption of more restrictive policies governing when and how officers use force in our communities.

Affordable Housing Policies

There are a lot of actions to advocate for to reduce gentrification and increase affordable housing such as:

Learn More at the following pages

Gentrification and the Affordable Housing Crisis

Discriminatory Housing Policies, Spatial Racism and Modern Segregation

What about Housing? A Policy Toolkit for Inclusive Growth

Grounded Solutions Network created this toolkit to help communities understand their housing policy options and the approach that will work best for them. Community leaders and policymakers can start with local dynamics—their community’s housing situation and the outcomes they want to achieve—and determine which policy tools best suit their needs.

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Right of Return Programs

The Guardian: Un-gentrifying Portland: scheme helps displaced residents come home

“Two years ago, Dianne Causey’s landlord died and her rental house in Portland, Oregon, went up for sale. She was forced to move from the city’s historically black neighborhood where she’d lived since 1978, into an apartment further east, nearly an hour away by public transit. “The apartment was way out in the boondocks. I was miserable,” she said.

But in December, Causey, 66, was able to return to north Portland, when she bought her first home through the Portland housing bureau’s preference policy, or “Right to Return” as it’s been called, the first of its kind in the US.

The program gives down payment assistance to first-time homeowners who were displaced, or at risk of displacement, from the city’s north and north-east neighborhoods because of urban renewal; it falls under a city plan that delegates how $20m will be spent on affordable housing, in an effort to atone for the sins of gentrification.

Last fall, the housing bureau received some 1,100 applications for the policy. With enough funds to subsidize 65 households, the bureau has so far succeeded in moving five families, including Causey, into their new homes. Forty-eight applications are in the pipeline to becoming mortgage-ready. And in February, under the preference policy, hundreds applied for rent-subsidized apartments in two buildings in north-east Portland, slated to open this year.

“I love it, because it’s mine,” said Causey, who purchased her house with her son with support from the African American Alliance of Homeownership. “I feel like I’ve come back home.”

In order to qualify for “preference”, applicants score points through their previous or current address. The greater the urban renewal activity in your area, the higher the points. Top priority is given to those whose property was snatched by the city through eminent domain. Applicants can add additional points if they can prove that their parent, guardian or grandparent lived in these affected neighborhoods.

Sue Popkin, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, says policies like these are an attempt to retain, or bring back, communities of color that the city once marginalized. “There’s a lot of concern about what’s happening to [Portland] in a way that is similar to San Francisco,” said Popkin. “And a grave concern is losing the historic minority populations altogether.”

In Portland, redlining and other discriminatory housing policies restricted African Americans to the Albina district, in north-east Portland, such that by 1960, 80% of the city’s black community called the area home. Yet the years to follow would herald a storm of urban renewal projects, including a new highway and a hospital expansion, which razed the homes of nearly 200 families, predominantly black.

By the 2000s, both public and private-driven investment made the north and north-east regions of Portland desirable to people with means. White folks moved in, gentrification spread, and long-term residents – namely low-income and communities of color – moved out, according to Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI), a low-income housing program. Between 2000 and 2010, about 10,000 African Americans were displaced in north-east Portland, sinking its black population to 15% of the neighborhood. Citywide, only 6% of Portland’s population is black, based on census numbers.

“There’s no doubt that there was a significant number of communities of color who have historically lived in that area and who have been impacted by city actions over time,” said Martha Calhoon, the communications director of the Portland housing bureau. Over time, she added, those neighborhoods were some of the most diverse – meaning white, black, Latino and Asian households would all score high points of preference.

But not everyone is singing the policy’s praises. The application doesn’t include a box to identify race, a decision critics are calling cowardly. “The discrimination did not happen in a race-neutral way,” said Jo Ann Hardesty, the president of the NAACP’s Portland branch. “So if you’re going to correct it, I don’t understand how you’d develop a policy that isn’t race-specific.”

“I’d like to see them pay reparations to the families who had suffered generations because of corrupt policy,” she said. “If you really are committed to undoing the damage, that’s the direct approach,” adding that affordable housing means little in an unaffordable neighborhood. Ultimately, she said, the policy is ineffective.

“We recognize it doesn’t make up for what was lost,” said Calhoon, adding that no one funding policy is going to rectify the past. Nevertheless, she said, “it’s a starting point for those who want to come back, and an opportunity for those to remain in their neighborhood.””

Community Land Trusts (CLT)

ILSR: Protecting Communities from Gentrification

“About 15 years ago, the half-century flight from America’s cities came to an end. A growing number of cities began see a growing in-migration, often of people with higher incomes. Rising real estate prices spurred land speculation and new developments, threatening existing neighborhoods with displacement and reducing affordable housing.

Some cities have tried to do right by their long-term residents. But the strategies they’ve embraced look to bribe developers with tax breaks or higher densities than the zoning code allows in return for the developer including in their high rise condos a portion with a sales price set to households with less than the area’s median income. On the whole, these bribes have only marginally increased affordable housing, done little if anything to preserve existing neighborhoods and in the long run, are unsustainable.

In the 1960s activists proposed a new strategy: Community Land Trusts (CLT) The first incorporated land trust was established in 1969. New Communities was a 5,700-acre land trust and farm collective in southwestern Georgia owned and operated by approximately a dozen black farm farmers from 1969 to 1985.

In 1972 Robert Swann, one of the creators of New Communities, wrote Community Land Trust: A Guide to a New Model of Land Tenure in America, which among others things, explained in detail how a land trust differs from conventional ownership.  A trust separates the ownership of the land from the ownership of the building.  A nonprofit organization, with a board usually composted of representatives from tenants and the surrounding neighborhood, owns the land and leases it to the homeowner for a designated period, often 99 years.  The homeowner has the right to sell the land at any time, but the return to the homeowner is limited.

Keeping the land out of the real estate market holds down housing prices, as does limiting the equity gains that accrue to the homeowner. The objective of the land trust is not to maximize profit, but to maximize community and diversity…

…Evaluations have demonstrated the viability and effectiveness of land trusts.  They stabilize neighborhoods, revitalize communities, and keep housing costs affordable.

And they build equity for low-income households. The Urban Institute, found that 90 percent of low-income households remained homeowners five years after buying a shared equity, CLT home, far exceeding the 50 percent average home ownership retention rate among conventional market, low-income homeowners, as reported by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.   Reviewing the resale of 205 housing units in land trusts between l988 and 2008, analysts found that, on average, a CHT homeowner who resold her home after five and one half years, recovered her $2,300 down payment and earned an additional $12,000 net gain in equity…

…Despite the overwhelming evidence of their success, community land trusts are still on the margins of urban policy, a result of at least four factors.

First, banks continue to be wary of financing units where ownership is divided. Blumgart reports that the North Camden (New Jersey) Community Land Trust collapsed in 2007 because local banks would not allow it to refinance its loans after the Great Recession.

Second, many cities tax CLT property the same as conventional property, despite the fact that its unusual ownership structure results in a lower market value for the property.  A few states have adopted legislation requiring that CLT property be assessed at a lower value than unrestricted property. (e.g. Florida, North Carolina, Vermont).  Otherwise it is a city-by-city proposition

Third, new land trusts are confronting rapidly escalating real estate prices that outpace their ability to finance expansion.  When the Dudley Street Initiative was born, land in that part of Boston could be had for a song.  Now its price is rising rapidly. In 2015, the nascent Chinatown Community Land Trust was thwarted in its first attempt at acquisition when it came short in a bidding war with a developer. (Undaunted, this past March, an a dozen local neighborhood groups formed the Metro Boston Community Land Trust.)

Fourth, cities remain lukewarm, at best, to the concept despite the evidence that the city as well as its low-income residents may benefit.  Foreclosed properties significantly diminish nearby housing values, leaving the remaining homeowners vulnerable to foreclosure and the neighborhood to increased crime. Foreclosures also impose costs on municipalities.  The cumulative costs of administrative fees attendant to foreclosure, demolition of vacant properties, and declining property taxes can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per house.

One reason cities are reticent about supporting land trusts is the very reason land trusts have been created.  A significant percentage of municipal revenues come from property taxes, giving the city financial interest in maximizing the market/assessed value of real estate.   The land trust slows the increased price of real estate.”

The Nation: Can Neighborhoods Be Revitalized Without Gentrifying Them?

Last year, the death of Freddie Gray in police custody placed his neighborhood in a tragic spotlight, highlighting an all-too common urban misery: epidemic poverty, blighted lots, and shattered homes. Gray’s Baltimore has become notorious as the site of failed “urban renewal” projects, rife with liberal talking points but showing precious little progress in alleviating poverty and joblessness. There’s now a plan to generate change from the inside out, creating community housing as a source of collective healing.

Facing a change in administration in pending elections, activists are pushing a plan before the City Council to devote about $40 million to housing development, not just to fix up vacancies or construct commercial towers but to overhaul neighborhoods through developing Community Land Trusts. As we’ve reported before, the idea would be to establish communally owned property under a democratic governance structure, which allows residents and the surrounding neighborhood to cooperatively manage land and property use.

Baltimore struggles with both massive abandoned vacancies and pockets of gentrification. Residents face tracts of sky-high rents alongside chronically neglected housing stock, dividing wealthy and impoverished areas. Now the Baltimore Housing Roundtable, a coalition of grassroots groups, envisions a plan to curb displacement and rationalize the twisted housing market. It sees joint ownership as a path to revitalizing community oriented housing…

…Through years of gentrification and deindustrialization, the housing market has polarized. Millions of low-income units have vanished, often swallowed by predatory developers. Meanwhile, more than 66,500 households are constantly at risk of eviction due to non-payment. According to the Roundtable’s research published in January, “approximately one-third of Baltimore households were homeless or at risk of homelessness.” Amid eroding tax bases and impoverished schools, political malaise exacerbates urban depression, the Roundtable reports: “Baltimore City officials have offered no housing plan or community development plan that is responsive to those most in need, the poor working class or fixed income families” in the lowest income bracket, particularly in recession-battered black communities.

Under the CLT’s cooperative ownership structure, the resident owns the property, while the community retains the land. The resident pays an annual leasing fee, plus other mortgage and maintenance expenses. When the property is sold, price is controlled through a prearranged agreement with a community authority, with representation from neighbors and “public stakeholders” such as local officials or community-development organizations. The homeowner can share in any appreciation of the sales value.

When these community controls are leveraged against market forces, neighborhoods can ensure a communally managed recycling of ownership, and avoid the frenzied churn of renters and developers commonly associated with boom-bust speculation and gentrification…

…Chris Lafferty of the community development organization North East Housing Initiative, discusses the CLT framework in the Roundtable’s report from a racial justice angle, as a strategy of “arresting decline and enabling the creation and maintenance of communities that are sustainable, as well as ethnically, racially, and economically diverse…The CLT may be an unprecedented citywide effort to turn residents, often seen as victims of structural inequality, into community planners.”

Anti-Speculation Policies

CNHED: The Ones That Failed: Housing Policy Flops

In 1978, City Council passed a temporary anti-speculation tax after debating various versions in legislative hearings. The Residential Real Property Transfer Excise Tax was written in response to concern about widespread flipping and speculation in the residential property market.

Speculation is, roughly, an investment in a property that carries very little risk but offers the possibility of large gains. It can drive up the cost of housing and property taxes to the point where the residents of the area can no longer afford to live there. Speculation can also be predatory. In D.C. in the 1970s speculators took advantage of the wave of first time black homeowners who didn’t have “the expertise to go through land records to find out what the slum speculator paid, and when.” The new homeowners often paid exorbitant rates for houses that just weeks earlier were listed at a fraction of the price. A Council study found the following: “Between October 1972 and September 1974…one out of every five sales of homes in the District involved two or more sales of the same property, 80% within 10 months of each other.”

Inspired by the politics of SNCC and the just-passed D.C. Human Rights Act, which protected against discrimination in housing, the law levied a steep tax (near 100%) on short-term buying and selling of residential properties without improvements. It also required an inventory of all transfers of residential property and the disclosure of the seller’s purchase price and costs to buyers of residential property. All three of these measures were the first of their kind in the country. (Caveat: Vermont at the time had a tax to stop speculation of rural land.)

The law expired in 1981 with the City Council’s blessing. By December 1979, the Washington Post had already deemed the law an utter failure. By that time, the law had only been implemented three times, thanks in large part to easy-to-find loopholes.

Some blamed the failure on the City Council and Mayor, specifically the way its progress on civil rights was not met with progressive stances on economic justice. Mayor Walter Washington once asked, “But what’s wrong with speculation?”

Others cited the influence of the real estate industry.  They first became politically organized through the debates on the tax and actively opposed it. In addition, there was the racial politics of speculation. With the new win of home rule, many black leaders thought it was finally their turn to turn a profit—and the development industry was the place to do it. Speculation sounded to many like a form of economic power that was owed to black city residents. As a result, one observer wrote that it was difficult for “activists to invoke the same degree of outrage at black profit seekers as they do when the perpetrators are white.”

“…the reality of the 1970s and 1980s housing crisis in Washington, DC, which forced
city residents to contend with a deteriorating housing stock from years of disinvestment; an increase in evictions connected to speculation; demands for housing by a
new population of white professionals; and the possibility that much of the city
would no longer be a place where working-class residents like the Harveys could
live. In 1975, when Harvey testified at the City Council, housing options were dire
for poor and working-class residents, the majority of whom were black. Abandoned, run-down, and foreclosed shells stood next to unaffordable, renovated
homes on the same street. This landscape of uneven development was one of
extremes. An estimated 22,000 vacant structures littered overcrowded neighbor-
hoods while roughly 260,000 families could not afford or access decent places to
live (Diner and Young 1983). Incomes remained steady but housing prices
skyrocketed; gentrification seemed imminent, and the city’s small supply of hous-
ing for low- and moderate-income residents began to disappear (Goldfield 1980)…
…one of the Council’s most radical responses to the housing crisis of the
1970s: a speculation tax. The Council passed the tax in 1978 as a means to deter
residential property flipping, which involved quick sales of a purchased property at
dramatically increased prices. This tax cut to the core of the principles that undergirded
the housing market, and it was for this reason that the policy spurred the creation of
the city’s first realty lobby. The policy also raised serious questions for tax supporters

about the purposes and effects of capitalist housing markets. I argue that these questions, which were left unanswered,ultimately undermined the efficacy of the country’s first and only urban speculation tax. At the end of 1981, the Council let the tax expire…

…For political economists, the answer to Friedrich Engels’ housing question—the question of why decent, clean places to live continue to be out of reach for many—is the profit-oriented nature of the housing industry and market (Bratt et al. 1986, 2006). Though exacerbated by racism and sexism, the root of housing problems is the commodification of residential space. Geographic research has explored at length regulatory mechanisms, sophisticated credit systems, labor-market restructurings, “free” market ideologies, and practices like speculation that produce housing as a commodity. This work has helped scholars like David Harvey (1976), Manuel Castells (1979) and Chester Hartman (1983) to see speculation as a predatory practice and one that differs from traditional development. Neil Smith (1979:25), too, has argued that there is “a vital distinction between the speculator proper who buys a house to sell it unaltered, at a profit, and the developer who buys a house to rehabilitate it before selling”. The only thing a real estate speculator hopes to produce is a rising land value…

…In 1970 the city’s (DC) population was 72% black and 28% white. As the decade went on, the number of black residents living in the city shrank for the first time in history and a demographic dichotomy emerged. The city’s population became increasingly either white and wealthy or poor and black. There was a rush of condominium conversions, a surge of gentrification, and a larger number of white residents moving into the city than out (Gale 1987). A cardboard sign taped to the window of a house, and captured in a newspaper photograph, described some of the racial politics of these changes:

Black families who have
paid to live on this st. for 30 years
have been given 30 days
to leave by whites who seek status
of an in-town address: their status
our homes.
I hate you white vultures and
spend all my waking hours
thinking how best to drive you
away. You will get exactly
what you deserve.
At the moment that the city’s long-term population of black renters became
eligible for federally backed mortgages and won protections against discrimination
in leasing, housing construction shrank, credit for the housing industry dried up,
funding for public housing was diverted, and affordability in the housing markets
disappeared (Diner and Young 1983).
“The Wild West”
Across the city, tenants, the majority of whom were black, were kicked and priced
out of their homes. In Adams Morgan, a row of houses that were in use as rentals
sold one week for $26,000 and a few weeks later with no remodeling for $65,000.
On Capitol Hill an entire block of six-bedroom townhouses that were in use as
rooming houses was converted to single-family dwellings and sold to 19 new
homeowners in a single summer (Zeitz 1979).
A white realtor who was active at this time, Brian Logan, described the fervor in an interview with me:
“It was sort of like the Wild West back then. Oh…they would do flipping where you
would get a contract on a shell, you know, for $4,000 and that person would flip it
to another one for $5,000 and it might change, the contract might change hands
two, or three, four times before you actually got to settle it for $10,000. I mean,
prices were going up high then, I mean, quickly. People were just flipping. There
was a bunch of guys who made enough money that they moved to Costa Rica and
bought a big farm and are now doing something in Costa Rica, I don’t know. Any-
way, there was a whole lot of people, little developers, and contractors that would
buy these things and actually fix them up a little bit and then sell them and other
people would just buy them and sell them without fixing up. It was great. It was a
lot of fun.”
Another white realtor of the early 1970s said in an interview with me:
[t]here were so many people making so much money…There were people from California coming here because they heard about money. A little man from Iran came with a suitcase full of cash because D.C. was the most under-priced capital city in the world.
Between 1970 and 1974, the median sales price of a home increased in Washington, DC roughly the same amount as it did in the preceding 10 years: 80%.  Property tax assessments sometimes increased as much as 10% from the previous year.
“Little old ladies” were “badgered to death” to sell their homes, according to
a City Council member. More than 30 real estate agents told a newspaper
reporter that they had pressured “elderly, black homeowners in gentrifying
areas” to sell their homes (quoted in Gale 1987:163). If residents were unwilling
to sell, realtors sent housing inspectors. Then, if homeowners lacked the means
to repair the identified infractions, they would be forced to sell, which often
meant selling to the speculator whom they had refused in the first place.
Citywide Tenant Revolt
In the 1970s a citywide tenant revolt erupted. Residents demanded new kinds of
neighborhood planning, demonstrated at City Council, and organized the city’s first rent strikes against landlords for inadequate maintenance (Reed 1981). If the metropolitan region had indeed become the wealthiest in the USA, for whom had benefits accrued?
The moment for answers arrived in 1974 when the city finally achieved limited
self-governance after a hundred years of Congressional control. That year, Congress’ Home Rule Act went into effect. City residents elected their own mayor and
a 13-member City Council, all but two of whom were black and more than half
of whom had some kind of alliance with the radical Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. In its first year, the City Council considered 35 bills to address the
housing problem. They passed eviction moratoriums, condominium conversion
restrictions, and limited-equity cooperative provisions. The speculation tax, which
had gained popularity at a “reverse blockbusting” forum, was one of the most radical and, of those passed, one of the shortest-lived.
After much lobbying by the Anti-Speculation Task Force, the bill was introduced to the City Council by the council members representing the gentrifying Adams Morgan and Capitol Hill neighborhoods. A member of the Task Force, a new group of community leaders from the areas of Adams Morgan, Capital Hill, and Shaw, and a local lawyer from Ralph Nader’s tax reform group drafted the original speculation tax bill. They proposed levying a tax of up to 70% on the profits made by quick sales of row houses.
A speculation tax, in theory, discourages flipping by penalizing the offender. If it is successful, such a tax can discourage speculation by taxing away short-term gains. If the tax does not deter speculation, it can still serve a useful purpose by capturing a portion of the windfall profits when properties change hands and funneling those revenues into housing resources for low- and moderate-income residents. But, in the latter case, price escalation could nevertheless result (Bratt et al. 2006)…
…renovation,restoration, and redevelopment of housing were not described as problematic. The city badly needed physical repair. And who if not the real estate industry would repair it? The problem was the flipping without the repairing and the inflation without the The US Urban Speculation Tax improvements. Such a standpoint that vilified speculation while endorsing the private property market proved a complicated and ultimately damaging position.
Realtors and other opponents of the tax latched onto this claim about a difference
between speculation and restoration. Opponents presented a naturalized view of
speculation as no different from any other kind of conventional capitalist practice
and suggested that few distinctions existed between speculators and other real es-

tate actors…Opponents to the tax went further with this point. They repeatedly alleged that any regulation on speculation would “virtually end” all private investments in housing…

…A false choice emerged in the debates: housing development through an unregulated housing market or no housing development at all. A representative of the Office and Apartment Building Association was explicit: “It’s not a choice between houses for poor people and houses for rich people. It’s a choice between houses for rich people or no houses at all.”…

…The final tax included a loophole to exempt renovated properties if a seller offered a one-year warranty on infrastructure like heating, plumbing, and electrical systems. A council member explained, “homesellers and speculators who have done nothing more than put up a new coat of paint will ‘warranty’ that all parts of the house are in good condition”. During its three years on the books, only seven people paid the tax, and, of that group, one was refunded.

After intense lobbying by real estate executives and housing developers to make sure the flawed law was not repaired or extended, the City Council ended the short-lived affair with the speculation tax and let the tax expire in 1981. The tax, designed to counteract the racialized pressures of the property market, became a signal of the market’s hegemony. The defeat of the speculation tax became a signal of an urban landscape where material property existed as a lucrative space for investment, property rights were based on ideologies of exclusion, and traditional private ownership was treated as an empowerment vehicle in the civil right struggles of working-class black residents.
By exploring some of the racialized political discourses through which hegemonic
property rights were made to endure in Washington, DC in the late 1970s, this pa-
per shows how property rights can function as narrative barriers to housing justice
in unexpected ways. Speculation tax supporters held tight to a vision of a city in
which residential space was largely distributed by the market, primarily developed
by the real estate industry, and heavily controlled through home ownership. Home
ownership was seen as a way to provide low- and moderate-income black residents
forms of social and spatial security and the possibility of economic mobility that no
other social relation could. For the project of racial justice in Washington, DC, the
housing market was portrayed, despite all the talk of detrimental speculation, as
essential. Neighborhood change may be “something that’s happened since the dawn of time ”, as one developer I interviewed said. But the key question, according to Mandi Jackson (2008:223), “is not whether cities should be revitalized or redesigned…The question is who [or what] controls the strategy, process, and model for such a transformation.” In the case of the speculation tax, supporters and opponents contributed to a narrow ontology of neighborhood change where control of neighborhood transformation largely sat with the market. Their discursive treatment of the real estate industry, housing profits, economic wealth, and tenure security contributed to a conservative view of urban development. The quick death of the speculation tax was the quiet death of alternate narratives about housing justice and urban futures.”

Rent Control Policies

Wikipedia: Rent Control

Rent control is considered necessary by the state of New York to protect the public and to prevent landlords from imposing rent increases that cause key workers or vulnerable people to leave an area. Maintaining a supply of affordable housing is believed to be essential to sustaining the local society. Homeowners who support rent control point to the neighborhood instability caused by high or frequent rent increases and the effect on schools, youth groups, and community organizations when tenants move more frequently.

In certain instances the term “rent stabilization” is used instead of rent “control,” for example, in some cities in California, such as San Francisco. With rent stabilization and vacancy de-control landlords are free to set prices of vacant units at market prices, but once rented to a tenant, subsequent increases are capped based on the rate of inflation or a regulated percentage. This is considered a basic form of consumer protection: once tenants move into a vacant unit at market rents they can afford and establish lives in these homes, they won’t have to renegotiate. Without rent regulation, landlords can demand any amount and tenants must either pay or move. Thus, tenants can become vulnerable to arbitrary and extortionate increases above market value. For example, elderly or disabled tenants may be unable to move, and families risk disrupting children’s educations by moving in the middle of a school year. Advocates insist that finding a new home is not a trivial matter, and tenants should have some assurance that they can maintain some stability in their housing situation.

Some property tax measures also promote the societal goals of community stability and allowing people to remain in their homes even in times of inflation. In California, Proposition 13 generally caps real estate tax increases at 2% per year. Leading the campaign to enact Proposition 13, California politician Howard Jarvis claimed that landlords would pass tax savings along to tenants; when most failed to do so, it became an argument for rent control, to allow tenants to share in the benefit of the property tax control.”