Eminent Domain as a Civil Rights Issue

take-home.jpgProf. David Beito, chair of the Alabama State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and Prof. Ilya Somin have an article running in a few papers on the adverse impact of minority communities, specifically in southern states. Here’s an excerpt:

Few policies have done more to destroy community and opportunity for minorities than eminent domain. Some 3 million to 4 million Americans, most of them ethnic minorities, have been forcibly displaced from their homes as a result of urban-renewal takings since World War II.The fact is that eminent-domain abuse is a crucial constitutional-rights issue. On Tuesday, the Alabama Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will hold a public forum at Birmingham’s historic 16th Street Baptist church to address ongoing property seizures in the state. The church was not only a center of early civil-rights action, but also, tragically, where four school girls lost their lives in a bombing in 1963.Current eminent-domain horror stories in the South and elsewhere are not hard to find. At this writing, for example, the city of Clarksville, Tenn., is giving itself authority to seize more than 1,000 homes, businesses and churches and then resell much of the land to developers. Many who reside there are black, live on fixed incomes, and own well-maintained Victorian homes. At a City Council meeting earlier this month that overflowed with protesters from the neighborhood, local resident Virginia Hatcher charged that that the threat of forcing “people from their homesteads of many years” through “underhanded political manipulation” was not only “un-Christian” but had created a climate of fear.

For additional data and information on the prevalence of eminent domain in minority communities, check out Eminent Domain & African Americans by Dr. Mindy Fullilove and Victimizing the Vulnerable, both IJ publications.