Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Government Discrimination

Two stories, one local, one national, seemingly unrelated.

Arizona Governor Brewer just vetoed a bill that would have allowed religious business owners a measure of protection from lawsuits concerning discrimination. So a baker could refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding, for example, without fear of a lawsuit.

In Racine, Mayor Dickert and numerous others are being sued in federal court for racial discrimination against minority bar owners. I don't actually think the city is discriminating against minority bar owners so much as they are discriminating against young black bar patrons. Bar owners are collateral damage.

So what do these stories have in common? The short answer is discrimination. In the AZ case, the government considered granting private sector businesses the right to discriminate if they were adhering to deeply held religious convictions. Full confession - I haven't delved deeply into the AZ issue. The Racine case is a much more egregious case of discrimination that has been perpetrated by government for nearly a decade now. The Racine case should be getting the national attention but it won't because Racine is a heavily Democratic city.

I have observed the liquor license dance now for several years. It goes like this. Prospective liquor license holder is grilled in front of the licensing committee. Prospective license holder (hereafter plh) seeks to assure the committee and ultimately the city council and the mayor that he will not cause them any problems. The plh's are not stupid. They know very well what they have to say to the committee. The city is rightly concerned about huge, unruly crowds which spill out into the street after bar hours or migrate to a parking lot or whatever and continue the revelry. Occasionally really bad stuff happens like when three people were killed several years back in one such gathering. Anyway, the plh's need to assure the city that they will not be attracting large numbers of young black patrons. So they say things in code like "This will be an upscale establishment" or "We will not be playing hip hop music" or "we won't allow tilted hats or baggy pants falling down" etc...

Neither the city or the plh's can truthfully address a very real problem which is frequent and unruly crowds, nearly always entirely black, that do in fact cause problems for the city government and city residents. The plh's react predictably enough. They tell the city, in code, that they will not actively solicit black customers and if necessary actively discourage them.

The bottom line. If you want a liquor license in Racine, you must agree to discriminate. Now that should be a big national story.

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