Public Problems, Your Story or Mine?

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An example of a public problem is the proliferation of crime in housing projects. It is almost impossible to describe the problem without referencing social constructs.

Social Constructs

According to the book, Theories of the Policy Process, social constructs are created by policy makers to cast beneficiaries or recipients in either a positive or negative light. In turn, the distribution of benefits or encumbrances reflects and further defines the perception of the target population. The book further delineates target groups into four classifications: advantaged, contenders, dependents, and deviants (Sabatier, Paul 2007, p 101-103).

In this view, people living in housing projects could easily vacillate between being defined as dependent (mothers, poor) or deviant (welfare mothers, criminals) depending on who is defining them. Unfortunately, the social construct surrounding housing projects is often the deviant construct.

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Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you play a role in advancing workplace equality?” is written by Dennis Yang, CEO of Udemy. There’s been plenty of talk about…

via How Unconscious Bias Is Holding Your Company Back — Fortune

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Religious Freedom > Gay Marriage?

In the words of Manhattan Mini Storage: “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.”

The Civil Rights Act was passed under the interstate commerce clause of the US Constitution. The interstate commerce clause was a federal mandate to ensure that nothing affects free trade. When I think about the Religious Freedom bill I wonder how it is passed? It is clearly designed to allow trade to be restricted like it was back before the 1960s. Except in this case, it is against the LGBT group instead of minorities.

Do we need religious freedom laws? The classic example that we often hear is about the bakery that does not want to make a cake for a gay wedding. Unless the couple asks the baker to make something obscene what really is the problem here? It is perfectly acceptable for a store owner to have policies in place regarding what they will and will not do. For example Walmart has rules in place for what they will put on cakes – they do not allow obscene pics or language.

This law in essence appears to be an unwillingness to “play nicely with others”. And isn’t that against the “christian way”? We don’t all have to see eye to eye but we do have to treat each other with respect and dignity. Not like school yard bullies who turn people away because they don’t fit the group mold. What happened to the Golden Rule??

There are a few stores around town that I will not frequent because of all their christian symbols such as giant crosses outside in the parking lots. It is not because I am anti-christian, but more that I feel that they are anti-other faiths.  As a person of another faith, a giant cross in the parking lot does not exactly make me feel welcome. But thanks to the free market I am welcome to take my business elsewhere where I may feel more welcome. That is an exercise of religious freedom in and of itself don’t you think?

Post update 10/13/2016 Here is a link to a recent survey on the issue by the PEW Research Center:

2. Americans divided over whether wedding-related businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples

 

Let me know your thoughts!

 

“Change your apartment, change the world”, Not. So. Much.

I’m sure by now most of you have seen the commercial that Apartments.com did with Jeff Goldblum around the time of the superbowl.  (in case you missed it) The commercial features a cheeky reference to the sitcom, The Jeffersons with the theme song about their move from a working class neighborhood to an affluent neighborhood.

For those that do not know The Jeffersons, the show was about a working class minority couple that accumulated wealth and moved to the upper east side of Manhattan.  The show was a spinoff of All in the Family, about a white working class patriarch and his family.  The show tackled controversial issues with what John Roleke (2014) refers to as undercurrents of racism that prompted “white flight”  in predominantly white working-class neighborhoods like that of All in the Family.

This is an interesting frame for Apartments.com to debut their new apartment selection tools.  The new tool allows renters to go beyond identifying the neighborhood they want to live in.  It allows them to exclude areas right down to the street, or section of a neighborhood.

The commercial has already caught some heat for endorsing subtle racism, (take a look at this post by Moira Keihm) but I’m going to suggest that it goes much deeper than that.

Lets discuss the new apartment selection tool debuted in the commercial in the frame of disparate impact.  According to the National Fair Housing Alliance disparate impact refers to a practice that could be considered discriminatory if it has a disproportionate “adverse impact” against a protected class.  This means that whether intentional or not, if the housing industry negatively impacts an area by allowing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and/or familial status, they have broken the law.

So what does all this have to do with apartments.com?  It is widely known that planning and zoning practices have built in discriminatory biases.  These are things like where to sit low income housing, reduced access to community assets such as quality schools and grocery stores, and transportation systems that cut off areas perceived as low in  value.  You can read my research paper here.

Because the new selection tools allow you to define your search on more than just zip code or neighborhood, it allows for cutting out areas that may be characterized as “bad parts of town”.  The tool allows people a seemingly innocuous way to narrow down their apartment search.

On its face the tool looks like just another apartment selection tool.  However, given the ability to cut out areas perceived as bad parts of a neighborhood, it becomes a quintessential example of disparate impact.  It can also be compared to subtle steering practices that landlords have used to “guide” people into housing options “appropriate” for their race, gender, handicap,familial status, etc.

This is not about the end user.  Should you want to be discriminatory in your choice of housing that is your right.  This is about apartments.com, an industry endorsed site, that is required to uphold the Fair Housing laws.  They should not facilitate discrimination in any form and allow the continued impact to be felt in depressed neighborhoods.

“Change your apartment, change the world” – I think not.

-Miss B

 

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