From Ferguson to Flint: In Search of an Antisubordination Principle for Local Government Law
56 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2019
Date Written: 2018
Ferguson, Missouri and Flint, Michigan have both captured national headlines in recent years while dealing with seemingly separate yet intricately connected instances of police brutality and infrastructure collapse. These places — an inner-ring suburb in a large metropolitan region and a mid-size former industrial Midwestern city — provide more than just the backdrop for some of the most sensational episodes of racial conflict and disparities in recent memory. They also model the racial dimensions of local government failure. Specifically, they reveal how the de jure and de facto subordination of black communities constitutes the guiding logic undergirding the social, economic and spatial organization of cities. Federal interventions have produced invaluable data — most notably, the Department of Justice's Ferguson Report and the recent U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report on how municipal fines and fees exploit communities of color. Over several decades, federal, state and local law — intentionally, unintentionally, directly and indirectly — has attempted to address persistent black subordination in cities through interventions such as inclusionary zoning, regionalization, and various federal civil rights laws. While many of these efforts have done some reparative work, they collectively represent the inadequacies of efforts to dismantle, interrupt or mitigate place-based structural racism and inequality. This Article tracks how the chief problems of the modern metropolis are either rooted in or largely shaped by the impacts of black subordination on the design and operation of cities. Through the lens of Ferguson and Flint, this Article presents a comprehensive review of how local government law and policy has traditionally responded to black subordination, the limits of those tools, and the need for an accountability-driven cooperative federalism.
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