December 12, 2012
Charlottesville, VA – The Albemarle–Charlottesville Chapter of the NAACP, the Legal Aid Justice Center, University and Community Action For Racial Equity (UCARE), Virginia Organizing, and Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) urge the Charlottesville City Council to enact an ordinance outlawing discrimination and to establish a Charlottesville Commission on Human Rights.
These organizations join with the endorsement by the Human Rights Task Force supporting the proposal that the City Council should enact a local anti-discrimination law and create the Charlottesville Commission on Human Rights.
Adopting a strong ordinance forbidding discrimination in Charlottesville and an effective enforcement mechanism results from the ten months of work done by the City Council appointed Human Rights Task Force. It also builds upon the work done by hundreds of residents in the Dialogue on Race to improve race relations in Charlottesville. The Spring 2010 Action Plan for the Dialogue on Race identified as a high priority creating an entity to process and resolve race discrimination complaints and to educate residents about racial issues and promote positive community relations.
The City Human Rights Task Force has received complaints, held two community forums, spoken with Human Rights Commissions statewide, heard presentations from groups who now do some anti-discrimination work, and met with the leaders of the Dialogue on Race. The clear message was that race discrimination as well as other types of discrimination are still prevalent in Charlottesville.
Our organizations support a three-pronged approach for the Commission:
1. Anti-Discrimination Enforcement. The anti-discrimination component will focus on providing persons facing discrimination with a local option to resolve their complaints of discrimination in employment, real estate transactions, private education, public accommodations on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, familial status, or disability. In addition to functions described below, the Commission will enforce existing state and federal laws forbidding discrimination as allowed by the Virginia Human Rights Act in a similar fashion as the Prince William County Human Rights Commission. There are many advantages to a local Commission such as: increased privacy for parties to a dispute, reduced time to disposition of cases, easier access to alternative dispute processes (conciliation, mediation), reduced costs to all parties, local employers participation in informal resolution of complaints without the expense of hiring an attorney to represent them in a Richmond proceeding, increased access to justice for low income citizens, among other advantages.
2. Consultation and Advisement. We support the Commission conducting research into human rights issues, including inequities that perpetuate our history of discrimination and ingrained institutional discrimination. This work could lead to issuing reports with recommendations to remedy inequities.
3. Education and prevention. We also agree that it is important to continue the prevention and education work done by the Dialogue on Race by providing outreach to inform citizens about anti-discrimination laws, public and private discussions to reduce tensions among groups and campaigns to eradicate bias and prejudice in our community.
We further support development of a City Ordinance specifically to outlaw discrimination and to set up a Commission as reflected in the Virginia Human Rights Act. We applaud the aspirations reflected in the proposal for Charlottesville to become a national model distinguished for its diversity, positive human rights and race relations, equity, and inclusiveness. If Charlottesville is to remain competitive as one of the best places to live in the nation, we must make significant progress in addressing the problems associated with the City’s history of race relations.
For more information contact:
Legal Aid Justice Center
1000 Preston Avenue, Suite A
Charlottesville, Virginia 22903
434-977-0553, x.102 or 434-882-2675