Weekly News Roundup – 9/26/2016

Grand Opening of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture officially opened on Saturday, September 24, 2016. The President led the opening ceremonies along with other political dignitaries, civil rights leaders, and celebrities. The museum is a culmination of a 100 year dream to have a place to share the story of African-Americans and their contribution to the country.

Dreadlocks are Not Grounds for Discrimination

The 11th Circuit ruled that employees do not have a right to wear dreadlocks at work. A discrimination suit on that basis is not sufficient for discrimination. The court said that a hairstyle, even one commonly related to an ethnic or racial identity, was not immutable and therefore could not be protected under Title VII.

Black Men Can Reasonably Flee from the Police

The reasonable man standard could be changing. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overturned a conviction of gun possession for Jimmy Warren, a black man who was randomly stopped and frisked by Boston Police. The court said that the police had no reasonable or rational reason to stop him, and the reason he ran could have come from not wanting to face the indignity of racial profiling. Relying on ACLU and Boston Police Department reports on racial profiling, a case like this could be the beginning of judicial reform concerning police misconduct.

Ensuring the Right to Vote even with Voter ID Laws

Most of Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID requirements were thrown out by the courts earlier this year, except the one requiring a photo ID. Advocates are working with vulnerable populations, like the homeless, to ensure that they have the criteria needed to participate in this year’s elections.

New Report says EPA is Not Promoting Environmental Justice

The Environmental Protection Agency has a mandate to review and respond to complaints of environmental discrimination. According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the EPA has never found enforced Title VI of the Civil Rights Act against groups or companies that pollute in neighborhoods where the residents are predominantly people of color. This is despite the fact that the EPA has a number of civil rights law suits brought against concerning pollution and environmental justice.

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Esther Agbaje is a 3L at HLS, and she is from Minnesota. She is interested in public interest law focused on infrastructure, energy, housing, and civil rights. She is active in Harvard’s Black Law Student Association, HLS Democrats, and the Harvard African Law Association. She is also a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Before coming to law school, she managed rule of law projects for the U.S. Department of State in the Middle East with a country focus on Egypt. Esther has a Bachelor’s degree from the George Washington University and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

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