It’s nationally known as one of the most liberal cities in the country, blacks make up a majority of the city board, and the official policy that favored blacks over whites and Hispanics was the subject of a Supreme Court case.
So what’s the NAACP say about New Haven, Conn.?
It practices apartheid.
That’s according to the New Haven NAACP chapter, which likens the city’s practices to the South African system that maintained official policies of racial segregation that included political, legal and economic discrimination against blacks.
The NAACP in New Haven, which was ranked 15th most liberal city in the nation in a report by the Bay Area Center for Voting Research, has released a report making the accusation.
It alleges that “low-income people of color” in New Haven “continue to be separated from the country’s social and economic mainstream in part as a direct result of current local, regional, state, and national policies.”
It cites the differences in circumstances between those with low incomes and those with higher incomes. It points out that 58 percent of blacks live in low-income neighborhoods, while only 21 percent of whites live there. And 63 percent of Hispanics live there.
The report also points out that only 10 percent of families in low-income neighborhoods make more than $100,000 while 43 percent of those in high-income neighborhoods make more than $100,000 a year.
The report also says cases of asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure are higher in low-income neighborhoods.
It recommends that more affordable housing units be allowed, health conditions be improved, voter registration needs to be improved, politicians must be accountable to “minority communities,” pipelines should be created to put “young black and Latino residents” in civic leadership roles, and the barriers to employment need to be removed for those “formerly incarcerated residents.”
Ilana Mercer, a WND columnist and author of “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa,” left South Africa in 1995. She is highly critical of the NAACP’s “promiscuous use of the apartheid pejorative,” telling WND, “It is as ignorant as it is glib.”
“Like antibiotics that lose their potency through over dosage – yelling ‘apartheid’ at people just because they are richer and more educated than you makes you look ridiculous,” Mercer added.
Besides its ranking as the nation’s 15th-most liberal city, the city also voted for a liberal Barack Obama over a more conservative Mitt Romney by a 9-1 margin in 2012. Also, it’s home to Yale.
Many features of New Haven’s legal and political system don’t seem to fit the definition of apartheid. Under apartheid, “racism and segregation became thoroughly rigid and institutionalized; they permeated all aspects of life, and government repression became more ruthless,” according to a Michigan State University study.
The South African government purposefully separated students by race, and blacks did not have the right to vote or hold political office under apartheid.
In contrast, blacks in New Haven have a disproportionate share of seats in the city’s government. New Haven is 35 percent black, 27 percent Hispanic, and 32 percent white. Of 30 aldermen, 16 are black, 7 are Hispanic, and seven are white. Only one of these alderman responded to a WND request for comment on the city’s “apartheid.”
That alderman, Justin Elicker, described himself to WND as a ‘progressive Democrat.”
Elicker, who is white, says, “I would not choose the word ‘apartheid’ to describe what is happening in New Haven.”
He noted that “[t]he word apartheid indicates that individuals are intentionally targeted and suppressed.
“I don’t believe most members of our society are intentionally keeping others down,” he says.
Elicker, however, did criticize “the structure that has been created to limit opportunities for those individuals who find themselves in poverty,” including such perceived problems as “a public transportation system that is inefficient making it time consuming and difficult to get to work.”
Despite the accusation of “apartheid,” the most prominent instance of race-based politics in recent New Haven history was the city’s official discrimination against white and Hispanic firefighters in favor of blacks. That discrimination was the subject of the important Ricci v. DeStefano Supreme Court case.
Since 1976, the city has had an official affirmative action plan. Today, the affirmative action plan states: “The City of New Haven continues to be firmly and aggressively committed to a program of affirmative action designed to assist members of protected classes in gaining employment opportunity in all aspects of employment with the city.”
New Haven is 35 percent black, and 25 percent of all government jobs are held by blacks. The city is 27 percent Hispanic and Hispanics hold 14 percent of government jobs. Whites are 32 percent of the city, and they hold 57 percent of government jobs.
The city’s corporate counsel, city clerk, director of the commission on equal opportunities, and community services administrator are black. These officials declined to respond to repeated requests to comment on their leadership roles in the city with “apartheid.”
Other major cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Chicago do not publicly provide the racial breakdown of government jobs. New Haven publicly posts a chart showing its government
workforce racial representation, another policy which doesn’t fit the traditional definition of apartheid.
200 Year-old Issues?
The New Haven NAACP did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the accusation of apartheid.
But the organization states in the report, “We chose the term ‘Urban Apartheid’ as the title of this report because low-income people of color in America’s urban areas, including the Greater New Haven metropolitan area, continue to be separated from the country’s social and economic mainstream in part as a direct result of current local, regional, state, and national policies.”
The report points to various inequalities in housing, health, and education, mostly based on economics.
Mercer rejects the notion that these inequalities constitute some form of injustice.
“If one assumes (as only an ass would) that aptitudes and abilities never vary by culture or ethnicity, as well as from one individual to another, one will indeed blame the absence of a perfect state of equality on the endemic racism of The Hated Other, whites for the NAACP,” Mercer says.
As the NAACP report noted, “Apartheid is any policy or practice of separating or segregating groups. It was an official policy formerly practiced in South Africa against non-whites.”
However, the NAACP report does not explain how health issues or affordable housing constitute a regime of “apartheid.”
Jim Rawlings, head of the local NAACP, said he knew there would be resistance to the report.
“These are the same issues we’ve been going through for the last 200 years,” he claimed.