The Law: New Attacks on Discrimination

"Figures speak, and when they do, courts listen," noted the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The plaintiff was Andrew Hawkins, a black carpenter living in Shaw, Miss. (pop. 2,500). His figures were devastating. Though 60% of Shaw's citizens are black, white areas monopolize the town's sewers, fire hydrants, water mains and street lights. A mere 3% of black homes front on paved streets, compared with 99% of white homes. Are those statistics the result of sheer chance—or a patent violation of the 14th Amendment's equal-protection clause?

The judges had no doubts. They ruled that because Shaw failed to...

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