Over the past twelve days, we have seen expressions of rage over persistent racial injustice evolve into growing agreement that the time for real change has come. This week we saw examples of America’s better angels and worst demons. In some cities, police embraced protesters and marched with them, in others they used military grade equipment and tactics to put down peaceful protests. In a few cities, they did both. Looting and arson by small groups of demonstrators have largely disappeared as the protesters themselves often intervene to keep the focus on justice. It is a seminal moment in our history, long overdue.
Converting this passion to real change, however, will be much harder, and require sustained effort. The failure of the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act to pass the Senate this week is one stark example. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked the bill’s unanimous consent which would have sent it to the White House with a veto-proof margin. While the bill will likely pass this week, it is over a century late. The first anti-lynching bill was introduced in 1918 and was also blocked by the Senate. Repeated attempts to pass similar legislation have failed over the subsequent 102 years.
First and foremost on our national agenda is criminal justice reform. Physical safety is the foundation of a just society. At NHC, our attention has turned to the broader issue of economic justice. How thoroughly our nation has fallen short in this area is well documented and supported by almost every measure.
Today, I call your attention to five areas that demand action and are at the top of NHC’s priority list. Some are seemingly arcane regulatory matters, but all of them will have a profound impact on the real justice and equality we say we want.
- Passage of comprehensive rental assistance in the wake of the COVID-19 economic crisis. With 21 million Americans out of work, and many of the protections from eviction expiring along with enhanced unemployment benefits at the end of July, comprehensive rental assistance is essential to avoiding a human catastrophe this fall.
- Passage of a National Housing Act for the 21st century that includes a major investment in affordable housing construction. Housing has led America out of most of our past recessions. This was not the case in 2009-10, when homebuilders lost thousands of jobs due to a housing-related economic collapse, but as Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke observed in 2011, “the housing sector has been a significant driver of recovery from most recessions in the United States since World War II.” #Housingisjobs
- Repeal the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) final rule on the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The CRA was originally intended to incent banks to lend to underserved communities. The OCC’s rule is a cynical reversal of that design. NHC will work with the Federal Reserve Board and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to develop effective CRA modernization that we hope will ultimately be adopted by future leadership at the OCC.
- Stopping the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) from moving forward with its new capital standards for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The proposed rule is an ideological assault on the housing economy and must be stopped. If implemented, this dangerous regulation will prolong the recession. It will also make it harder to close the black homeownership gap, one of the lingering wounds of the last recession. The proposed rule is an ideological assault on the housing economy and must be stopped.
- Reversing changes by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that gut the disparate impact rule. As we stated in our October 18, 2019 comment letter to Secretary Ben Carson, “HUD has an existential obligation to affirmatively further fair housing through its actions and policy. Yet the proposed rule all but renders the disparate impact standard moot by establishing a near-impossible standard for plaintiffs to make disparate impact claims.”
These are just a few of the issues that demand our attention. We look forward to working with our members for impactful and sustainable change. Expressing our outrage is satisfying and important, but it will not make a difference on its own. The hard work lies ahead.