Structural Racism, Local Authority, and the Harmful Impacts of State Preemption in the South
State interference in local democracy is embedded in a long history of events and actions that have sought to promote the interests of historically privileged property owners and perpetuate the South’s racist past. Across the region, the configuration of government, policies, and practices are rooted in earlier efforts to limit the rights and freedoms of Black people and entrench white supremacy during the dismantling of Reconstruction-era economic and political gains and the concurrent rise of Jim Crow–era state-sanctioned discrimination. Preemption as it is used today works to reinforce these inequalities when it is used to block local policies that promote racial and economic equity.
In fact, a new report documents the use of preemption laws in the South by overwhelmingly white male legislatures to keep Black-majority cities from passing the progressive policies their people need. For example, the Alabama legislature preempted Birmingham’s minimum wage increase; the Tennessee legislature preempted Nashville’s local hire law; and the Georgia legislature preempted Atlanta’s fair scheduling law.
This webinar will discuss the legal history of local government after the Civil War, the extent to which racial animus shaped and continues to shape local institutions and how state legislatures and the misuse of preemption continues to perpetuate inequities in the South. While the session discussion and research focus on the South, the impacts and lessons learned can be applied anywhere preemption and state-local conflicts block policies that promote racial and economic equity.
Speaker: Dan Farbman, Jaimie K. Worker & Julia Wolfe