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Attorney General Barr’s Discriminatory Legacy

One of Attorney General William Barr’s last acts was meant to narrow the Department of Justice’s enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and its protections of the American people. Barr’s rule change gets rid of the longstanding “disparate impact” criteria for civil rights violations, limiting the regulation of the civil rights division to “intentional discrimination.”

To explicate its impact, civil rights attorneys have used the notion of “disparate impact” to demonstrate patterns of discrimination in seemingly neutral policies, where “racially motivated intent” may be difficult to prove. “Disparate impact,” has, for example, been very effective in demonstrating differential patterns of discipline in school systems where children of color are more likely to be punished. Although lawyers in Biden’s justice department may challenge Barr’s rule change, it may be hard to reverse it with the current conservative Supreme Court.


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