I'd like to give a shout-out to Adam Serwer for keeping an eye on this story. Today he tells us that the House government oversight committee issued a report on Mr. Perez's involvement in the city of St. Paul's case about the use of disparate impact as a way of determining violations of the Civil Rights Act.
But missing from the report issued by GOP dominated oversight committee was any evidence that Perez—who consulted with ethics lawyers at the Department of Justice before making a decision—broke any laws or ethics rules. Republicans oppose the use of the disparate impact standard, a legal guideline that says that discrimination doesn't have to be intentional to qualify as discrimination. They were hoping that the St. Paul case would give the conservative-dominated Supreme Court an opportunity to strike down the use of disparate impact in housing as unconstitutional. They're mad at Perez for his role in preventing that from happening...This situation strikes me as one of those instances where our inability to have a conversation about racism as it is manifest today can get in the way of making progress.
The Democrats on the House oversight committee issued their own memo on Monday: "Rather than identifying any inappropriate conduct by Mr. Perez or other Department officials, it appears that the accusations against Mr. Perez are part of a broader political campaign to undermine the legal safeguards against discrimination that Mr. Perez was protecting."
As Serwer pointed out - the idea of disparate impact removes the need to prove intention as an ingredient for making a case of discrimination. Thanks to the Civil Rights movement, we are beyond the stage of simply refusing jobs, housing, or service at a lunch counter based on a person's race. But institutionalized forms of racism still exist. If you have any doubts about that, just go check out the array of evidence complied by Tim Wise here. Proving intent to discriminate in any of these cases would likely be difficult. But the evidence of disparate impact is overwhelming.
That's why the discussion about this hearing is so important. Those claiming that we are now living in a color-blind post-racial society because students can get served at a lunch counter want to stop any further progress towards equality. And Thomas Perez is putting himself on the line to keep us moving forward on that front.